Another afterthought... Where have all the good times gone by Louis Barfe, and Playback are a couple of excellent books in this territory (including the dreadfully sloppy archiving and care of master recordings in general - perhaps because they have no value after 50 years?).
Actually, I attended a conference on media (audio and film) archiving a couple of years ago. All the (music and film) studios were represented, as well as organizations as diverse as LucasFilm and the U.S. Library of Congress.
The biggest impediment to the archiving and care of master recordings was DRM. And the biggest impediment to DRM was the fact that no one really bothered to reference and/or keep track of who owns what. And as the US is the most litigious country in the world (Fact: There are more lawyers in Washington, D.C. than in the entire country of Japan), nobody wants to chance releasing a film, or recording without clear ownership of the rights. Therefore, if there is no clear ROI, why bother?
Don't get me wrong, everyone there recognized the value of whatever's in their vaults, but, notwithstanding the issue of DRM, these departments are only allocated small budgets, and even if the restorators knew for certain which reels to salvage (in priority), there simply aren't enough of them (trained) to bake and save all those tapes (in some instances, after baking, they get ONE pass, before the tape desintegrates - and that's assuming there still exists a player which will play the format in which the master was recorded).
I think the copyright laws are out of step with modern times, and not because of piracy or file sharing; simply because music has become a commodity and mass consumption product. I don't think anyone will care about the music of artist X or Y or Z in 50 years; the public loses interest already after 3-4 years (take the Boy bands, for example, starting with New Edition and New Kids On The Block).
With a few RARE exceptions (specific songs perhaps, rather than the entire catalog of an artist), all the pop-rock repertoire we've grown up hearing (or tuning out) on the radio is going to fall into oblivion. The vast majority of the copyrights we are discussing will be worthless, even before they are due to expire.
I could keep writing all night here (an insomniac, moi?), but before I sign off, and to counter-illustrate my point above (about the pop-rock repertoire), I'd like to share an interesting fact, about Copyright, that I picked up in France a few years ago:
To this day, the performances of Maurice Ravel's works (worldwide) amount for the highest royalty check the SACEM has (and has had) to cut, to ANYONE.
Maurice Ravel (1875) died in 1937.