So, here’s a moral dilemma. I mean, it’s not a dilemma. It is more like a little bit of moral tension.
I have some very strong views on copyright. Or, to put it differently: I have very strong views on the strength of copyright. I think, among other things, that the term of copyright granted in our society is way too long. I think, among other things, that fan fiction should be unambiguously allowed. If I had my way, I’d set the term of copyright to the term of patents, or at most twice that: twenty to forty years, max. Possibly twenty years with an additional twenty year automatic extension, which must be applied for with a tiny (say $10) processing fee.
That is never, ever going to happen, so I think that the second-best thing is to contract around onerous copyright rules, e.g., through a Creative Commons license.
But I did just happen to sign a contract that gives HQN the rights to my copyright so long as my book remains in print, for the natural length of copyright. I feel . . . very ambiguous about this. I feel that it would be wrong–really wrong, and because I feel so strongly about copyright length, for me, downright morally hazardous–if one of my descendants were still making royalties off my book in a century. And however much I still want my book to be on sale then (I know, dream on), it bothers me.
Ultimately, I had no problem signing the contract simply because I don’t think my book will be in print in 100 years, and my rights will revert to me, and I’ll probably release it into the public domain long before then, either by bequest or during my life–because once my book has lived out its time of commercial viability, I feel I have an obligation to release it into the public domain, even if technically the copyright has many decades to go.
What do you think of all this? If you’re an author, do you feel like you have any interest at all in what happens to your books 100 years from now? Does it bother you to think you can hold on to a piece of culture for a full century?