I am a believer in author's rights — that authors are the best long-term stewards of their copyrights, even if they do delegate out much of the work of exploiting their own works.
For that reason, as an author as well as a student of copyright, I've been thinking we need better ways, as a group, to make our rights inalienable. Let me explain.
Typically, when you agree to publish, you deal first with a non-legal person — and then later are asked to assign your rights, sometimes after publication. As everyone knows, you're in a tough position in which an author typically has no bargaining power. And you face the greatest argument of all — the boilerplate. “This is our standard agreement,” they always say.
What authors, or at least many authors, need is a better way to say, “sorry, I'd love to sign the agreement, but I cannot legally assign you those rights,” or even a way to say “I can sign this form, but it won't be a valid assignment.”
There are groups working on ways to do this — some believe that pre-publication with a creative commons license might do the trick. But I think we need a simple way for authors to make their rights inalienable, if they want.
Of course, not all authors will want to or be able to make their rights inalienable. But some will.