Rusty Russell has this brilliant piece on how copyright is a penalty system, not a reward system:
The first poorly understood point is that copyright on my work does not give me the right to copy it. It prevents everyone else from copying: a so-called “negative right”. As an example, if you own the last copy of my autobiography, I don’t have the right to make a copy: it’s your property. You don’t either: it’s my copyright. If you destroy that last copy, my copyright still exists, but is useless. This illuminates something noone ever spelt out for me: that copyright is a weakening of property law. Normally when you buy something, you get all the rights the previous owner had: if you buy apples off me and sell apple juice in competition with me, I have no legal recourse. Copyright weakens property law by not transferring the “right to copy” with sale: that sliver of rights is removed from every copy and remains in the hands of the copyright holder.
Even if copyright disappears, property rights don’t:
The traditional focus on copyright, without considering the property which is its source, skews the copyright debate quite badly. Works which are no longer copyrighted are often said to “fall into the public domain”. This is a terrible phrase, which implies that property rights are being destroyed. We don’t say that apples, which were never copyrighted, are “in the public domain”. Or consider UK singer Cliff Richard’s accusation that, as copyright expires, “every three months from the beginning of 2008, I will lose a song”, as if the songs will no longer exist.