Authorship, CopyLeft, and Wikis

Upon reading the article entitled, “Choosing the Best License for Wiki Content” by Hope R. Botterbusch and Preston Parker, the ideas about authorship brought up by Michael Foucault come to mind. Foucault’s ideas become especially apparent when the idea of the CopyLeft becomes a factor.

In the article by Botterbusch and Parker, the idea of CopyLeft is explained as a derivative of the CopyRight. It is a law that allows material on the internet, or more specifically, Wikis, to have any part of the site copied and reused elsewhere, in a different context, as long as the piece that is copied is re-established under the same license as the original. This opens up several questions about what authorship entails that Foucault asks and answers in his essay “What is an Author?”

In Foucault’s essay, he says that writing is not an act of trying to “pin a subject within language” but that it is, instead, a “space into which the writing subject constantly disappears” (206). In the case of Wiki’s and CopyLeft laws, the author’s work is open to being taken apart, then having only fragments of the work reused somewhere else. The CopyLeft laws make room for a far more liberal way of dealing with authorship that has been stigmatized by the literary world over the years; instead of authorship acting as a way to “ward off death” (206) and to immortalize the author, it is looked at in a way that does not credit the author entirely for his or her ideas. The ideas that have been put on paper, or in this case, on the internet, belong to everybody and it is in this reusing of the information given by the original author that the “subject” of the work “constantly disappears” (206). If excerpts of writing are used in a different context, the original subject vanishes and a new one is established. Even though they may be the same words written down in the same way, the context surrounding those words has changed, so inevitably, the subject of the work has as well.

In Foucault’s essay, the liberal idea of CopyLeft is supported entirely. Where, in the recent past, the idea of the author was one of superiority and a kind of godliness, today, it is becoming much less so in the world of literary theory; the author has been descending down a ladder towards mortality where he or she is more prone to “die” with every work that is published. This death happens instead of immortality or allowing their name to live on forever. Foucault says, “The author function is therefore characteristic of the mode of existence, circulation, and functioning of certain discourses within a society” (211). With the CopyLeft laws being created and used, the author must prepare him or herself for a future that may subject him or her to complete anonymity, and in this anonymity, they will not find their immortality, they will instead, find their death.

This entry was posted in Branding your business and products and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.