Authors in the Information Age
Understanding authorship is critical to understanding intellectual property laws. Without a clear owner, it is difficult to control the exchange of information. Copyright was originally designed so the English Crown could keep track of who was saying seditious things. Today, it plays the function of policing the proprietary boundaries of cultural production. We cannot talk about copyright law without also talking about authorship. However, authorship is not the stable unidimensional concept the law would have it be. Authorship is complex and fraught with tension. Many types of people can assume the identity of author. Authors can be writing the most profound literary novel of the century or they can be writing pulp fiction by recycling story lines in order to produce more books. Authors, in a modern sense, have been defined as those who make a living from their creative work. How authorship is intertwined with intellectual property is an important relationship to uncover.
As the print-dominated age wanes, digitized information requires new perspectives and new rules. The proprietary framework that has dominated intellectual property law has not been capable of dealing with the new relationships between the author, the reader, and the text that emerge with the introduction of computer technology. More importantly, there is a fundamental clash between the legal discourse of copyright, which is interested in preserving the economic aspects of intellectual products, and the theoretical discourse of authorship with its emphasis on exchange and creativity. Exciting work is being done in literary and cultural theory on the function of authorship, yet copyright law, which governs the use and exchange of intellectual property, is failing to address these possibilities. Instead, copyright law has served to preserve