Open Source and Copyleft: Authorship Reconsidered?

Columbia Journal of Law & Arts, 2003, vol. 26, pp. 281-296

16 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2012

Date Written: March 6, 2003


Copyleft, open source, and other forms of freely available art have at times been announced as the death of copyright. Short of resorting to such extremes, however, one may question the major transformations that this alternative legal model of creation poses to copyright. This paper aims principally to consider authorship in the open source movement. Its hypothesis is that the copyleft licenses espouses and put in practice the new form of authorship that was announced by Foucault in his seminal paper ‘What is an author’. The author is not anymore the unique source of meaning but is a founder of discursivity. As the initiator of an open discourse, of an ever-evolving work, the author of an element of a collective creation in copyleft finds her particular contribution diluted by the whole of successive contributions. The “work” in the copyleft regime is software in constant (re)-formation; it is the production of meaning from different convergent or successive artistic practices. This exercise of copyright in open access licenses is a first attempt to experiment authorship in a way closer to distributive and contemporary artistic practices, and not in the more rigid meaning conferred by copyright to that notion.

Keywords: copyright, authorship, open source software, open access, copyleft, Foucault

Suggested Citation

Dusollier, Severine, Open Source and Copyleft: Authorship Reconsidered? (March 6, 2003). Columbia Journal of Law & Arts, 2003, vol. 26, pp. 281-296, Available at SSRN:

Severine Dusollier (Contact Author)

SciencesPo ( email )

Rue de l'Université 13

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