It has already been suggested on this blog that the development in the 18th Century of our notions of authorship may be inextricably intertwined with the development of copyright law as it existed before the digital revolution. And despite the fact law school seems to valorize judges as the "creators" of the common law through the opinions they "author," I myself have suggested that
[J]udicial writing as a quintessential example of collaborative writing, a view corroborated by the ways experienced lawyers use and interpret judicial opinions in practice. The judicial opinion is . . . a piece cobbled together from a number of other sources that include established law, the lawyers' written and spoken legal arguments, secondary legal sources, and earlier opinions that were themselves built up from the bits and pieces floating through the legal discourse community.I've also always emphasized to my students that lawyers, not judges, are the most important component of the never-ending collaborative legal writing project.
And now, from JR Enterprises Incorporated, here's a suggestion that we're fooling ourselves about whom we consider authors in another genre, scientific writing:
Coturnix writes: "But seriously now, the question of authorship on scientific papers is an important question. For centuries, every paper was a single-author paper. Moreover, each was thousands of pages long and leather-bound. But now, when science has become such a collaborative enterprise and single-author papers are becoming a rarity, when a 12-author paper turns no heads and 100-author papers are showing up more and more, it has become necessary to put some order in the question of authorship."
Maybe it's time instead to rethink the whole concept of authorship. Creation is almost always a collaborative process. I suppose rethinking the whole concept may in fact be what Coturnix has in mind inasmuch as he proposes a list of "credits" for scientific articles to detail the various contributions collaborators make to those articles.