Do you think "intellectual property" has gotten out of control vs. "fair use"?

Copyright for books and music were once 20 years. After that, it was in the public domain and anybody could play a Steven Foster song or add it to their saloon’s player piano without paying more royalties. And if you’d bought the sheet music you could resell it, or share it or hand copy it as part of fair use.
Now the copyrights are extended to absurd lengths. Instead of rewarding talent they now are heaping money on conglomerates and near monopolies like the iPod sites. I also have the suspicion that except for a few like the Beatles that bought their own label, most of the actual songwriters get nothing out of the extended time limit, the proceeds all going to distributors and intermediaries and music brokers.

I think you’re getting your terminology mixed up.
I believe fair use refers to uses for copyrighted material while they’re still in copyright.
After the copyright has lapsed the term is no longer applicable because any use is fair use.

I agree that copyright has been expanded too much. The point is to make sure people have a reasonable incentive to be creative and to publicize their ideas. There is no moral property right in an idea that you choose to publicize. 20 years is plenty.

Correct. The debate/conflict is really about whether the Public Domain is being virtually legislated out of existence – which IMO began becoming a major issue with the rise of the modern age of corporate media, in the form of movie studios, record labels, large publishing houses, etc., wherein there arose ever-larger expenses for overhead in publicity, promotions, distribution, etc. beyond what an individual creator could handle independently, and the need to provide a greater return-on-investment for it.

Lawrence Lessig has written extensively about the subject. You can read his book Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity here . His blog has alot of material on the same subject too.
I don’t know if there’s much to debate here. I don’t think there are many people who think that copyright should be extended further, and there are probably plenty on here who would be for curtailing it somewhat.

I believe you might be surprised (unless the makeup of the board has changed drastically), although the debate is often spurred by the OP phrasing. In support of my assertion, see the thread When is Copyright Infringement OK? from last year.

Disclaimer: I was a participant in that thread; if you care, my view on copyright is best summarized in post #144, with post #107 being just as lengthy, but inadequate for the discussion at the time.

In my opinion, copyright holding corporations are being short-sighted in their current wave of attempting to defend their copyrights against any theoretical infringement and extend the limits of those copyrights as far as possible. They will win the battles in the short run - they’re big corporations and have money to spend in Washington. But I think they’re going to lose the war. Public opinion does mean something and they’re turning it against them. (It doesn’t help that the perception is that these copyright protections are helping the corporations not the creators.) In the first case, there will never be a perfect defense against copyright violaters who will always figure out ways to get around copyright protections. So copyright holders have to depend on some degree of self-enforcement - the general public has to feel that copyright violation is wrong and something they shouldn’t do or condone. In the second case, if enough people believe that copyright laws are unjust eventually elected officials will be moved to follow those beliefs. A backlash against copyright holders will hurt them worse than having done nothing would have.

Thanks for the link, Digital Stimulus and the correction.