Authors of the Future

Materials and references for a studyday re-imagining Copyleft.

Free Culture Licensing as a starting point for speculating authorship into the future.

Conventional intellectual property law binds authors and their hybrid contemporary practices in a framework of assumed ownership and individualism. It conceives creations as original works, making collective, networked practices difficult to fit. Within that legal and ideological framework, Copyleft, Open Content Licenses or Free Culture Licensing introduced a different view of authorship, opening up the possibility for a re-imagining of authorship as a collective, feminist, webbed practice. But over time, some of the initial spark and potentiality of Free Culture licensing has been normalized and its problems and omissions have become increasingly apparent.

Since 20001, Constant’s practice orients itself on the intersection of feminisms, collective practice and Free, Libre and Open Source software. Therefore to say that we are not anymore convinced that the feminist potential of Free Culture is being realised, is a statement we do not make lightly. As a consequence, we feel it is necessary and urgent to start a process of re-imagining or complementing this proposal with possible and impossible, desirable and absurd, experimental and utopian (extra-)legal models for the future of authorship.

Free Culture licensing relies on an existing legal framework that in a way is being re-confirmed through the hole that it dug itself. It means it continues to perceive authors as individualised humans that have the right to re-license an original work. In this way, copyleft licenses perversely re-affirm the author as a romantic, solitary genius. The way authorship can be understood as inherently collaborative and collective is constrained; it can be at best thought of as a negotiation between separate individuals but it ultimately resists more fluid understandings of authorial becoming. Existing licenses do not help in any way the organisation of collaborative creation, nor does it provide a solution to acknowledge different kinds of contributors, beyond authors having made an original contribution. The issues entailed by this individually centered licensing are increasingly difficult to ignore in Constant’s practice which includes algorithmic and machinic practice and tries to challenge anthropocentric assumptions. Instead of recognizing the entangled relations with other actors, existing free licensing schemes induces us to endorse a form of licensing that seems to leave no other option than anthropomorphizing nonhuman agents.

A second cluster of problems is related to the way Free Culture Licences are based on the principles of exclusive property. In this way, authorship maintains a link to the Modern project and ultimately to coloniality and does not even begin to resolve the difficulties of cultural appropriation. We need to come to terms with the privilege that allows the exciting gesture of letting go of the boundaries of authorship and simultaneously we need to find a way to deal with the fact that the extractivist practices of plaftform capitalism seems to thrive on that same gesture.

Acknowledging more than 20 years of copyleft-activism, it is time to think again. With Authors of the future we are looking for concepts and ideas that help to rearticulate the conditions for authors of the future. Our aim is not to revert to convential modes of authorship, nor to give up on legal frameworks for authorship altogether, even if we have come to embrace extra-legal action and civil disobedience. Our gamble is to formulate an affirmative critique in order to be able to take Free Culture Licensing as a starting point for speculating authorship practices onwards, into the future.

Can we invent licences that are based on collective creative practices, in which cooperation between machine and biological authors, need not be an exception? How could attribution be a form of situated genealogy, rather than accounting for heritage through listing names of contributing individuals? In what way can we limit predatory practices without blocking the generative potential of Free Culture? What would a decolonial and feminist license look like, and in what way could we propose entangled notions of authorship? Or perhaps we should think of very different strategies?


Severine Dusollier

SciencesPo, Paris
Inclusive Copyright

Aymeric Mansoux

XPUB, Rotterdam
Free Only-if

Eva Weinmayr

Pirate Library/And-And Publishing, London
Situated collective authorship

Daniel Blanga Gubbay

KFDA, Brussels
Potential authorship


09:30 Doors open
10:00 Introduction and welcome
10:30 Severine Dusollier
10:50 Daniel Blanga Gubbay
11:10 Eva Weinmayr
11:30 Aymeric Mansoux
11:50 Discussion
12:30 Lunch
14:00 Speculative license writing (4 groups)
17:00 Feedback
18:00 end


Revisited Open Content Licenses

Licenses selected for the way they render the problems with and omissions of Free Licensing legible:


Further reading