Friday 26 December 2014

Undeath of the author and some re-anchored FOSS: an article

"A regime of droit moral detached from software copyright?—the undeath of the ‘author’ in free and open source software licensing" is the curious title of an article published in the Winter 2014 issue of the International Journal of Law and Information Technology (IJLIT).  The author is Chen Wei Zhu, a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH), University of Edinburgh. If the title doesn't appeal to you, here's the abstract:
"This article seeks to understand the authorial personas of free and open source software (FOSS) programmers as shaped by their licensing schemes. It argues that neither the Romantic author-vision nor the postmodern authorless creativity is suitable for defining FOSS programmers’ authorial consciousness. Instead, it finds that the sociologist Richard Sennett’s ‘craftsmanship’ theory—which explains craftsmen’s intrinsic motive to do a job well for its own sake—is more adequate for addressing these programmers’ authorial personas. The craftsmanship persona is also reflected in the prevalent ‘attribution’ clause in FOSS licensing, which enables the peer assessment of the quality of programmers’ work associated with their reputation. It is proposed that FOSS authors’ attributional interests should depart from their copyright ownership and be re-anchored in their stewardship of the relevant projects, which are taken care of under FOSS programmer-craftsmen’s authorial responsibility".
An interesting proposition, this blogger thinks, but how comfortably would this lie with what are regarded as the traditional obligations of nations to protect attributional interests under Article 6bis of the Berne Convention and, if the right of attribution were re-anchored in a FOSS-determined licence arrangement or any comparable scheme, what might be the effect of detaching it from the other moral rights enjoyed by the author? In countries such as the United Kingdom, where software programmers' moral rights are excluded by statute, these questions are of no relevance but, where moral rights attach to all acts of authorship, these issues may be of significance.

Readers: what do you think?

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