Change the Law to Fit the Business Model
…something that’s probably obvious to anyone who lobbies against this sort of thing (extending copyright of works to prevent them from entering the public domain), but came like a doodah out of the whatsit to me…
The companies that are lobbying for copyright extension built their business models around the idea that “our artists’ work is in copyright, so we can exploit it like this and this and that.”
But as these companies are now getting on a bit, that’s not true any more. They need a business model built around the idea that “we are purveyors of in and out-of-copyright material”.
[As prompted by a clarification request from @mweller: the industry's business model is broken in other ways, of course, not least the changing costs of reproduction and distribution. My "insight" was limited to a realisation (that works for me;-) that lobbying for copyright extension is the industry's attempt to protect a revenue stream built on an incorrect assumption - i.e. the existence of a never-ending revenue stream from an ever-growing in-copyright back catalogue, or maybe the assumption that growth in new release sales would make up for loss of copyright based revenues from older stock? That's probably not right though, is it? It's probably more a blend of complacency - living off the fat of Beatles and Cliff Richard early-recording revenues, not being able to develop the desired level of new artist revenues, and the dreadful realisation that large amounts of moneymaking product is about to go out-of-copyright, whereas you might once have expected the longterm sales value of that product to dwindle over time? Like it did with Shakespeare... Err...?]
[Cf. also software companies, where the value generating life of a piece of software only extends as far as the current, and maybe previous, version, rather than version 1.0a of a product that's now at version 10? Though thinking through something Alma H said to me yesterday, in a slightly different content, I guess if the media companies followed the lead of the software industry, they'd just delete/remix/re-release the same old songs and keep refreshing the copyright with every new "release"!]
But that’s too hard to imagine – so it’s easier to lobby to changes in the law and keep the same business model ticking over.
Cf. also academia and library sectors, which were built around the idea that access to high quality information and knowledge was scarce. Oops…