Publishers have often used the word “release” to describe what they are doing when they begin selling copies of a work to the public.
But I don’t think that publishers, authors, musicians or other content industry players treat this event as a release; as intellectual property owners or licensees, it’s more like an exercise of control. Within their assumptions of intellectual property and their licenses, they treat publishing as an act of ownership, rather than an act of relinquishment of ownership.
Why isn’t a record release or a book release the moment when it is turned loose to the public, to spread, to absorb, to percolate, and to foster expression in response?
What changes when a piece is released?
Before –> after:
- unavailable to the public –> available to buy
- unknown –> known and talked about
What do we know about releasing other things besides published content?
- Release involves a relinquishment of control.
- A synonym is “liberation,” which involves releasing one to oneself, out of captivity. When an author releases a book, he could think of it as releasing the book to itself, not to himself or to readers.
Here’s one account of the change that occurs on release day: “Before publication day, every new book – novel, biography, poems, history – was invisible. After the magic moment of its release into the world it could be praised or damned at will.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/feb/27/writers-publishing-exploit-social-media
Here, the work is relased to a “marketplace of ideas” sort of space where critical activity may take place. The response generated is academic rather than artistic. This is considered just use. One of the main questions in the conversation about a work is “is it good?” This space tacitly takes the “liberation” sense of release for granted. It is assumed that a book is judged on its own merits and succeeds or fails independently of its creator.
Why is the critical realm a special case of creative response to a release? What makes us treat artistic responses differently? This assumption about the difference in where “release” is taken seriously would lead a piece’s derivative work in the same genre be considered a ripoff. A book’s author does not traditionally “release” the book into a space where artistic followup reactions are permitted. Yet we know it is a fact of human nature that art provokes response, critical and artistic. But artistic utilization of work to create a new one is a ripoff of another’s intellectual property that has been relinquished. Authors don’t release books for that. Their lawyers attack those who don’t respect the copyright.
I think that’s a result of how the author thinks about the piece. As I go try to write a novel I am also trying to decide how to conceive of how it will be released. To whom am I releasing? As the story comes to me, I feel like I will eventually be releasing it into itself, performing an act which some people may choose to pay me for.