I'm posting this in full because it's important.
Another way to look at this is to look at the marketing cost of promoting some piece of content. It is nearly impossible for someone to sustain a marketing campaign for most content for the lifetime of the copyright. In the past, it is likely that old content would get lost in the archives or disappear all together. With digital technology and remix culture, new creators can discover old music and bring it back. This is what Disney has done with many of their stories. When Disney takes an ancient myth or story and spends money to animate it, it's building on the past, but involved a great deal of creativity. In the same way, many of the people who dig into the tail and discover lost songs and books and are tuning them or putting them in context often add a great deal of creativity in the process. The notion that there is an "origin" of an idea or work and that the creativity stops there is silly. Most creative work is a process of people passing ideas and inspirations from the past into the future and adding their own creativity along the way.Cory @ Boing Boing BlogDoes "the Long Tail" mean we need longer copyrights?
Chris Anderson's brilliant Wired article, The Long Tail, talks about how indie, obscure and midlist/backlist material is more valuable, in aggregate, than all the glitzy, mainstream top-forty stuff is.
However, when Lawrence Lessig argues for shorter copyright terms, he bases his stuff, in part, on the fact that old stuff is all out of print and can't be brought back into print because of the cost of clearing the copyright to the work.
Are Lessig and the Long Tail irreconcilable? Anderson says no:Many of those extracting new value from old content are not the original creators or rights-holders. Some of them are repurposing older material, and others are aggregators who have found ways to find new markets for material that's fallen beneath the commercial radar. Either way, they typically aren't the original record label, film studio, publishing house, TV production company or any of the other names that might be on the copyright declaration. They are someone else, probably someone entirely unexpected. This is, after all, the dawn of Remix Culture.Link
What's changed is the presumption that the primary rights-holder is the best at extracting the commercial potential of creative material. Instead, anyone can do it: the advertising company that remixes an old movie to sell a car; the Linux t-shirt done Warhol-style, or just plain old DJ magic. What you need to encourage this multiplicity of commercialization potential is tiered alternatives to one-size-fits-all copyright, from allowing derivative works (good marketing!) to shorter terms for the sake of the remix-culture social good. I can't think of a better example of that than Lessig's own Creative Commons, which has already become the license of choice for the right side of the Tail, where the commercial imperative is less all-consuming.
Also, I'm not against businesses making money. I just believe that the cost of marketing is going to increase and the cost of delivery is going to decrease as the Net gets stronger and mass media gets weaker. In a world where discovery is more important than delivery, it's the people who find, remix and direct attention to old stuff that should be rewarded, not the people who deliver it or sit on it waiting for someone to show up.