I've just finished reading Pam Samuelson's initial thoughts on overhauling copyright law, linked from Boing Boing, Boing Boing: Proposal to reboot and de-cruft US Copyright Law. This is a very good framework document, easy to read (sort of like the law she's suggesting we need), and very thoughtful. If anyone could pull together the kind of massive project she's talking about, Pam could.
Still, she is very realistic about the likelihood that actual legislative reform would result from the effort. She knows it's highly unlikely at least for 10 years out and that, once started, it would take another couple of decades to complete. She sees a lot of other advantages to her effort though, even if we still are stuck with our bloated 1976 Act, but I'm not so sure how realistic they are.
What she doesn't give voice to is the pessimism I sometimes feel about the likelihood of the law's becoming so irrelevant that perhaps sooner than the next 2 decades, neither copyright owners nor users will be paying much attention to it. We will all have opted out of it to a large degree -- users by ignoring it; owners by licensing and or drm'ing around it. Those directions don't sound so good, but even a best case scenario could see people having opted out by turning to other ways to make a living off creative works (sort of what John Perry Barlow predicted almost 14 years ago). The signs that this strategy is increasingly employed are popping up here and there. Still, it's like the "innovator's dilemma." Only small potatoes at first, then gradually, the alternative business models begin to improve, pick up steam, and one day, they overtake the old ways of doing things, those industry giants who couldn't see the magic in the new ideas because there wasn't enough money in them, or their current best customers weren't interested. But for the existence of the state-granted monopoly that is copyright, in fact, the tide for the creative industries would have turned long ago. Copyright has worked to make creative industries innovation-proof to a much larger degree than other industries. Perhaps to their detriment ultimately. More certainly to the detriment of the public generally.