Reconstructing the Author-Self: Some Feminist Lessons for Copyright Law
62 Pages Posted: 6 Jun 2007
Copyright law currently forces all intellectual production into a doctrinal model shaped by individualistic assumptions about the authorial ideal. To the extent that the truly original author-owner is conceptualized as an individual (and not a function or fiction), he depends upon Enlightenment ideals of individuation, detachment, and unity. A competing view of the author sees her as necessarily engaged in a process of adaptation, translation and recombination. This version of authorship coheres with a view of the individual as socially constituted: her expression is the result of the complex variety of texts and discourses that she encounters (and by which her subjectivity is shaped). The tension between competing constructions of authorship thus mirrors a larger tension between competing constructions of the self. Feminists have struggled to find a conception of the self that acknowledges social embeddedness without precluding individual autonomy or creative capacity. The process of authorship encapsulates the tension between the autonomous self and the society in which she exists, because the materials of authorship are both given and created. Employing the tools of feminist dialogism and relational theory, I hope to show that we can re-imagine the author not as source, origin, or authority, but as participant, citizen. These ideas illuminate the nature of authorship as a social and formative process, but they also offer the foundation for a coherent justification of copyright: copyright law, which aims to encourage creativity and exchange, should thereby encourage participation in cultural dialogue and facilitate the relations of communication that are central to this conception of selfhood and society.
Keywords: copyright, authorship, literary theory, feminist theory
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