In an article on Google’s efforts to scan books USA Today highlights part of what’s wrong with the US copyright law:
Richard Hull, executive director of the Text and Academic Authors Association, called Google’s approach backwards. Publishers shouldn’t have to bear the burden of record-keeping, agreed Sanfilippo, the Penn State press’s marketing and sales director.
“We’re not aware of everything we’ve published,” Sanfilippo said. “Back in the 50s, 60s and 70s, there were no electronic files for those books.”
Memo to Richard Hull: Google is forwards, you are backwards. Why do you care if Google makes a few sentences from books you’ve never heard of available? If you’re really all that concerned with keeping control of those books, you would have kept track of them. In a sane system you have to actually know what work you’re protecting the copyright of. You can’t just say “well, I don’t remember my copyright work and can’t show any infringement, but dammit they better stop because they might infringe on my copyright!”
Our current copyright law gives a monopoly to people who don’t even want one thanks to the US Copyright Act of 1976. Why are we giving monopolies of human knowledge to absentee landlords who can’t be bothered to keep track of their work, but who freak out at the possibility that their long-forgotten work might be used without their permission?