The "Death of the Author" Debate in Anglo-Saxon Scholarship and Its Unwelcome Side Effects

Dr. Andreas Rahmatian

In Germany’s author’s rights system, emphasis is still on the author, a human being who is the ultimate reason for the existence of the author’s right protection (Schöpferprinzip) as well as its first and principal beneficiary. Against the backdrop of current debates, starting from Barthes (‘The Death of the Author’) and Foucault, to “Romantic Authorship,” the talk will show that the cultural history on which this “Romantic Authorship” claim is based is itself a highly artificial construction and does not stand up to scrutiny if one looks at the underlying intellectual history of authorship in the arts in more detail. This includes a quite controversial interpretation of “Romantic” and “authorship”. Moreover, the theory also reveals an insufficiently clear understanding of the legal meaning and purpose of “authorship” in copyright law. Furthermore, the “death of the author” ideology effectively favours ownership, especially of the entertainment industries, over authorship, and in connection, ownership of individual authors. Whether or not the critics intended that, they would be able to provide a theoretical justification of this process if their argument were followed.