This started as a comment elsewhere, but grew large enough I decided to make it a post.
I think a large part of the problem with copyright law today is that much of the law is pre-Internet and the powers that be (both government and in the major corporate publishers) are reluctant to change the law in anything but a "Squeeze tighter" direction. Ever increasing copyright lengths (really, are you really going to be encouraged to do more work because your great-great-grandchildren instead of just your great-grandchildren will have possession of the copyright?). I think of it in some ways as being like the 13 Colonies and Britain. Declaring independence was not inevitable. Had parliament and the crown been willing to look for a compromise position then the Commonwealth Realms might well include us as well as Canada, Australia, Jamaica, etc.
But currently you have things like Adobe initially saying that, "Yes, reading an ebook to your child is a license violation," music companies suing students and initially saying "We'll make this go away if you let us tell you what degrees you may and may not work towards" (and only backing off when the college said, "Whoa, what? We may have to rethink whether or not we will cooperate with your information requests"), DVDs that use 'copy protection' that doesn't actually prevent commercial pirating operations (or even give them a moments headache) but does help them prevent you from fast forwarding through ads like you could on VHS and does make it illegal for you to attempt to make use of fair use rights, and a Congress that happily puts in another extension to copyright length whenever the earliest Mickey Mouse works are about to expire. And the more they do this the more average people start to see copyright as something illegitimate, something akin to their city using eminent domain to seize the land homes are one and hand it over to developers who just happened to make campaign donations. And that is a bad thing because copyright *IS* worthwhile and worth keeping. Useful things like open source licenses are only enforceable because of copyright law. Get right of that and they aren't even worth they paper they aren't printed on.
Keep in mind another word for a copyright violator is 'potential voter' (I really wish I could remember who I first heard saying this). If the various concerned groups on all sides of the issue don't sit down and look for a reasonable compromise then some politicians might start looking at some of the more extreme push-back positions as a way to increase popularity. And I've heard of some extreme positions. Not merely banning software patents but software copyright as well. Or putting software in a separate category with a much shorter length (heard as little as six years suggested) due to the speed at which things computer related change. There is the Founders Copyright movement which suggests rolling back copyright terms to 14 years, with only the first term automatic and the one allowed renewal requiring registration (the argument being that if something is viewed as holding value then the owner will take the time to renew it, and if they can't be bothered to fill out the paperwork then why not let it fall into the public domain).
Or, possibly even more likely than drastic reductions in copyright length is the dreaded "T" word. I've heard people ponder a number of times, "If Intellectual Property is property, then perhaps there should be a property tax on it. If Mickey Mouse is going to be copyrighted forever then shouldn't the Disney Corporation pay the public for that privilege and not just congressional campaign funds?" And won't those moves to strike back at the major corporations be oh so fun for small businesses and individuals who get caught up in it? "We see that you have a blog. You will need to fill out form SE-IP-EZ, the worksheet is only two pages long, that's easy isn't it? Oh, you have two blogs? Well then you'll need to fill out one for each, plus another for your Flickr account. What? No, of course this isn't already taken care of by your having paid income taxes on your salary. Next you'll claim you shouldn't have to pay taxes on your house just because you already pay income taxes."
Now, this is the point where one would commonly point to the Japanese and their hands off attitude towards Dojinshi (fan comic books, and related works including written fiction, visual novels
, etc). And the Japanese have found a compromise position that works for them. The people making fan comics, etc, do in fact sell them for cold hard cash (a position that would have even many American fan fiction supporters frothing at the mouth) but in return voluntarily restrict the number of copies made. The various publishers turn a blind eye to the fact that this whole market is in violation of Japanese Intellectual Property laws, and in return the next generation of comic book writers, artists, programmers, etc, come to them already having learned to fit their work into standard lengths and write/draw on a deadline. One could say that the Dojinshi market it like the media version of minor league sports, where people learn the basics and the majors go to recruit new talent.
But there is that pesky bit above, "turn a blind eye to the fact that this whole market is in violation of Japanese Intellectual Property laws". Get new management in one of the companies and there could be a team of lawyers walking the isles of the next Comiket handing out preprinted cease and desist letters left and right. I've heard this is unlikely because the companies would fear turning their fans against them, that if say (for the sake of argument) Sunrise was to start going after Gundam dojinshi, you'd see otaku burning their model collections and emailing the TV stations saying, "Take Gundam XYZ off and put something else, something NOT by Sunrise in its place or we'll boycott the whole station and all your advertisers". Maybe that does keep it in check. But as for me, I'd prefer more than just an unwritten gentlemen's agreement when you consider the potentially hefty penalties for IP violations.