Automatic copyright makes everything a lot easier.
No it doesn't: it makes some things easier. In particular it makes things easier for the person who wishes to retain copyright at the cost of making things more difficult for the person who wants to put their work in the public domain. Is that really the trade-off you want to make?
In any case I think you are overstating the practical difficulties, the creative commons has been quite successful and people seem to manage asserting their creative commons copyrights without too much difficulty.
The reason that Creative Commons has been successful is because when you license something CC, you are adding permissions
, rather than restrictions
Consider seeing a photo on a blog post. Although the author of the image wishes to assert copyright, the blog post author has not stated this fact anywhere on the page. You wish to include this photo in a newspaper report.Under an automatic copyright system
Because I cannot use the image without a license, I contact the blog post author and ask him about it. He directs me to the image's copyright holder, who says, "Fine, go ahead."Under an asserted-copyright system
There's nothing on the image or the blog post to say that the image's owner wishes to assert copyright, so I just use it. The image's copyright holder sees the newspaper and sues me. ... What happens? Who's liable for the infringement?
From the point of view of someone who wishes to use creative material commercially
, whether as producer or consumer, the nice thing about either an automatic copyright or a copyright registry is that it makes everything nice and clear. Either it's public domain because the copyright has expired, or I have an explicit license and I can use it, or I don't and I can't.
This topic is important to me because I write GPL'd software, which requires a reasonably strong copyright to remain Free. I'm totally happy with the idea of a drastically reduced copyright period. And relaxing the restrictions on non-commercial distribution is fine by me, too. But I can't support the idea of a vague "copyright assertion" requirement.