Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law


Alina Ng

First Page



This Article explores what authorship and creative production mean in the digital age. Notions of the author as the creator of the work have, since the passage of the Statute of Anne in 1710, provided a point of reference for recognizing ownership rights in literary and artistic works in conventional copyright jurisprudence. The role of the author as both the creator and the producer of a work has been seen as distinct and separate from that of the publisher and user. Copyright laws and customary norms protect the author's rights in his creation, and provide the incentive to create. They also allow him to appropriate the social value that his creativity generates as recognition of his contribution towards society. By initially protecting the rights of authors in literary and artistic works as a property right, copyright laws have facilitated market transfers of private rights and directed use of these works toward the most socially beneficial uses. This Article proposes that in the digital age, when users of literary and artistic works are increasingly becoming authors themselves, the notion of authorship provides a mark of identification to connect the original author with the work in a market characterized by an abundance of derivative works and remixes of original content. The notion of authorship in the digital age attributes individual and collaborative contributions to the collective pool of information back to their respective authors. This Article proposes that the networked economy may be sustained in a world where digital technologies facilitate the free flow of information if good works of authorship are rewarded by attributing the original author, and authentic works of authorship by responsible authors become an expected norm. Recognizing authorship and protecting ownership rights in the digital age, where open platform technologies and peer production create a plethora, rather than a paucity, of literary and artistic works, are simple and cost-effective ways for the law to address this question of sustainability. The notion of authorship as a right of ownership in literary and artistic works acknowledges the moral and ethical components of communal and collaborative production. This Article suggests that recognizing authorship and protecting ownership rights in literary and artistic works in the digital age promotes, rather than restrains, creative activity.