Originally Posted by Hellmark
The problem is, how can you reward someone who is dead? Traditionally you reward someone with money, but if the person is dead, you cannot pay them. If you give it to their family, you're rewarding the family and not the creator. (What if we started giving your paychecks to your brother or sister, instead of you, that's still cool, right?) The idea for copyright after death, is to allow for respect of the creator's wishes for a period after death, to allow the estate to get things in order (generate capital to pay outstanding debt, etc.), and to prevent a mad dash to get at people's things as soon as they die. For instance, Stieg Larsson wrote three hugely popular books, but he died shortly after the very first one was published. At the time of his death, he was largely unknown. Had no post death protection been in place, the publisher would have kept 100% of the profits, and his family would be left with all his bills, a decent chunk of it presumably incurred while writing those books.
What actually happened after Larsson's death was that his intended beneficiary received nothing; his long-time partner received nothing and had to pay their joint debts; the publisher continued receiving its share of profits; and his estranged father and brother received a massive continuing windfall without paying any of his debts.