Lawrence Lessig writes in the recent issue of Wired about the silliness of continuing to extend copyright protection to every word published or note of music…and how in the EU, on New Year’s Day, copyrights on music and tv recordings will expire.

“Now the public will get its justly earned free access to an extraordinary range of both famous and forgotten creativity….songs from 1953 the seniors across Europe wooed their first loves to can be streamed across the Net for free.”

But in the US, this won’t happen because Congress keeps extending the term of existing copyrights. The last one was titled “The Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act,” in 1998. Lessig makes a bold and not-likely-to-happen suggestion that would benefit many more people in general:

“It would be easy for governments to narrow term extension to those who want it by requiring holders to pay a small fee. Even a very small fee would filter out the vast majority of works from automatic term extension….but there’s no reason to extend terms when no one–not even record companies–could possibly benefit.”