Reuters is reporting that the British government has rejected a proposal to extend music recording copyrights from 50 to 95 years. Virtually all music is out of print in at 50 years, and extending copyright for another 45 years would only ensure that the vast majority of British recordings were long vanished and forgotten before they returned to the public domain. Economists calculated the net present value of the 95th year of copyright at less than the net present worth of a lottery ticket — so the government would do more for the average recording artist if they bought her a lotto ticket than if they gave her 45 years more copyright.
This is the first time that I know of, in the history of the world, that any country has given up on extended copyright terms. In the US, the Supreme Court found that 98 percent of the works in copyright were "orphans" with no visible owner and no way to clear them and bring them back into the world. Extending copyright dooms nearly every author's life's work to obscurity and disappearance, in order to make a few more pennies for the tiny minority of millionaire artists like Cliff Richard (and billionaires like Paul McCartney).
(via Michael Geist)