The Rohter article (http://itp.nyu.edu/~mp51/commlab/nytimes-springsteeneligible.pdf) is an example of the crumbling of an industry, long overdue. The recording and publishing industry has acted absurdly for the last 35 years, it is time to let GO. The work that they did was to facilitate, to find, to encourage – but 35 years is plenty of time to profit off that. The work itself could never have been created without the artists. Music, like writing, relies on taking the same old ideas and twisting them into something new and original. Without that there is nothing – the record producers may have “hired” artists to produce a record but they couldn’t ever have specified what the songs should sound like. Sure, anyone who had a hand in changing the sound (audio editing, session artists, etc) deserves a piece of the pie. But after the initial promotion period, the MPAA are just curating. Why should they keep those rights in perpetuity? They have no hand in the work anymore.
The Garnett/Meiselas argument should be resolvable with simple fair use laws, I don’t understand what Meiselas is arguing for other than just restoring context to an image. It’s not the same image, it’s inspired by it. It’s not a perfect replica. It’s not telling the same story. It’s like saying the Obama “Hope” poster can’t be reproduced without permission from whoever took a photo of Obama at that particular angle.
The Lethem article is a long way of saying “We stand upon the shoulders of giants”. Or to put it differently, there is no original sin. Ideas spread, it can’t be stopped, once they are released to the public. You can’t stamp an idea and say “The specifics and the artistic tone and unique turns of phrases and the totality that makes my piece special may not be in YOUR piece, but the abstracted tiny germ of it is mine and now you owe me!” An idea is nothing without production, without someone actually realizing it and polishing it. If I make a white picture with a big red circle in it, am I stealing my idea from the Japanese flag? If I write about a guy obsessed with a pre-teen girl, am I stealing from Nabokov? These are not unique things. It is possible to encounter them in daily life or through playing with basic shapes or plot lines.
Copyright and patent law drive me crazy. Patent squatters are as bad as domain squatters, in my opinion. If your only reason to patent something which you neither use nor are capable of producing is so that some potential future user will owe you? You don’t deserve that patent. Especially if it’s something someone could have derived mathematically, entirely separately. Yes, you thought of it first, good for you. If you’re not actually doing anything with it, then what good is that thought?
In short: Focus on the final product, or at least the first functional prototype. And be more generous.