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There is a serious debate about whether authorship is dead now that we are living in an increasingly swift communication technology, where people share information through the Internet and they have access to unlimited sources of knowledge. Does the true authorship exist, or is it a by-product of what we have read and heard other people saying and then alter it through our own perspective and linguistic capabilities. In this paper I will focus on Foucault's reflections of authorship and will link his views to 21th century technological development giving example with Creative Commons licenses.
"The writing of our day has freed itself from the necessity of "expression"; it refers only to itself, yet is not restricted to the confines of interiority. On the contrary, we recognize it in its exterior deployment" (Foucault, 1977, p.124). Foucault's point is that today it is easy to write, because society has been liberated from the need to "explain" itself. It seems for Foucault that everything has been said, written and commented and that the necessity to express oneself is not internally stimulated, but rather externally - we are required by society to deliver in a verbal way what we feel, believe, support or disagree with. Therefore, writing is transformed into an interaction of symbols, signs governed less by the content it indicates than by the nature of the writer (Foucault, 1977).
In "What is an Author" Foucault (1977) questions the modern process of writing and illustrates the value of reading. "The author - or what I have called the author-function - is undoubtedly only one of the possible specifications of the subject" (Foucault, 1977, p.138). The author here is described as author-fiction. We may say that this is a methodologically employed term to unite the writer with his literary creation. More particularly, Foucault (1977) outlines that in the future researches there should be a "typology of discourse" (p.137). Foucault (1977) notes that this typology can not be understood solely in regards to its formal structures, objects of narrative or grammatical features. There are logical properties that can not be reduced to the rules of grammar or other laws that rule language and objects.
The methodological point here is that various arrangements of author-function should assist to describe the different kinds of discourse. For example, it might be proposed that the author is more than a physical performer, or a signifier, or an element of the speech. The author possesses characteristics whose discursive qualities demonstrate a certain kind of discourse. Within a broader context of the functions of society Foucault (1977) delineates four characteristics of discourse in which the author-function acts:
First as a form of property. The author is identified and controlled, through the means of his name, which is associated with law regulating his legal rights as author and authorship, acceptability of the content, categories, publications and legitimacy for a period of time. In case of transgression, the author is legally protected, as his writing is perceived as property.
The second feature pointed out by Foucault is that author-function has contrasting meanings in different disciplinary discourses - it is one in natural science, but another in literature or technology.
The third characteristic of author-function is that it is not shaped "spontaneously through the simple attribution of a discourse to an individual" but "results from a complex operation whose purpose is to construct the rational entity we call an author" (Foucault, 1977, p. 127). This feature is designed in order to better understand the text through analysis. Otherwise it might be considered that his is a fictional collection of ideas and characters, therefore we the readers have to examine the text for consistency and quality as well as authenticity.
Finally, Foucault recognizes the author-function as "source of expression" (ibid, p.128). What is more Foucault problematizes this through the existence of "plurality of egos", diverse personalities within the author took different forms and speak separately.
Williamson (1988) provides a useful interpretation of the ideas of authorship and criticism and the issues generated around these notions. He undertakes a intriguing critique about both authorship and criticism referring to Foucault and his stand in this debate. For Foucault the author is perceived as "a privileged moment of individualization in the history of ideas, knowledge and literature" (Foucault, 1977, p.1). The author is put into a pedestal, to the figure of innovator, pioneers, creator and artist. This romanticized idea of authorship Williamson (1988) is attempting to critique, because its concept enhances the theory that "authors are often accorded the authority to speak on matters other than purely artistic ones" (Williamson, 1988, p.16). He tries to differentiate between the theoretical paradigm of authorial to the artistic one and set a clear distinction between art and everything else which has been produced by the figure of the author.
In "What is an Author" Foucault (1977) does not criticize the author-centered perspective, like most post-structuralists do. For Foucault the idea of "the author" is an "ideological fiction" (p.34). Foucault ignored stricturalist theories of ideology as a real, lived connection which is not illusory, on the contrary. The author is depicted as "ideological product" - the proliferation of meaning is delivered by the author - he is the means used to construct sense. In his work of 1989 "The order of things: An archaeology of the human sciences" Foucault opens again the concerns and problems in his book of 1977 and reframes questions such as "how the author was individualizedâ€¦ the status we have given the author" (Foucault, 1977, p.115).
Foucault also considered the perpetual changes in the roles of the narrative in connection with death and writing. This is best manifested in mythical narrations and stories where the hero dies, however it continues to live, immortalized by the story, or in the delay of death, as it is in Arabic stories. A reversal is noticed on later stage, where the text exercises the power to kill its author, or there are instances when the author is incompatible with the text or even victimized by it (Foucault, 1977). An author's name is "situated in the breach, among the discontinuities, which gives rise to new groups of discourse.." (ibid, p.123). This is the key element in comprehending the functions of the author and within what kind of discourses their embedded.
Foucault (1977) also argues that the problem with the disappearance or the death of the author is not extensively elaborated on and in order to construct further theories clarifications on what constitutes "the work of the author" should be proposed. There are many controversies so as to the nature of the "written work" or "product" and the identification of its author. The vital question which Foucault poses is "whether a written piece of language is a 'work'" (p.118). In addition Foucault addresses the limitation of "ecriture" derived from Derrida (1983). The issue with "ecriture" is that it modifies the absence of the author into a "transcendental anonymity".
In the 21th century when people have access to online and e-libraries, where all information circulates and is virtually accessible in every corner of the globe, authorship is of primary importance. A progressing and original ways emerge to protect the authorship and its legal rights. Creative Commons licenses are a modern form in which authors can share their knowledge with other, though exercising different ways of their authorship. The Creative Commons license is conceptualized as a copyright now. This applies to all works regardless whether they are written, composed, filmed, or performed and they are protected by copyright law. Under a Creative Commons license the author decides upon how others will use his work (Creative Commons, 2010). There are options such as to make derivative works or adaptation, or distribute your work and earn money from it. An important thing to note to Creative Commons licensing is that it only affects your rights under copyright. Consequently, you do not turn our work into a trademark or patent right when you decide to utilize this license.
In comparison with the copyright, Creative Commons licenses do not provide you with the opportunity to restrict anything that concerns your work - from the use of your original product, to the fear dealings or fear use. Under Creative Commons licenses the author does not have the ability to regulate anything that is not protected by copyright law - for example facts or ideas (Creative Commons, 2010). This new type of copyright protection considerably varies from the established legal one in that it both gives the right of the author to share his work with others and provides them with the favourable advantage to adapt it, make derivations and distribute it and eventually make money from your idea or product. In other works this is a more simplified and flexible copyright model, which replaces the "all rights reserved" slogan with "some rights reserved". Creative Commons explicate my point that authorship in 21th century is definitely not dead. It is very alive and people are more creative, because they are allowed to use and transform unlimited number of ideas and products.
The thesis supporting the "death of the author" here fails, because Creative Commons indicates that the author is present and more than ever he is ultimately free to use his imagination and take advantage of other people's ideas with no fear of prosecution. Author's express their individuality differently, and something ideas merge and coincide. Foucault (1977) also very prophetically reasons that in some forms and circumstances the identity of the author is not of great significance, for example if the scope of the author's work changes or when the features of the author seen as collective and unified individual have changed. The authorship still exists, but it has evolved over time like most of the thing. And the course of evolution proves this.