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An author is the person credited with:

  • Writing a book or piece of journalism.
  • Creating an electronic document or section thereof (e.g. a website, blog, or wiki article).
  • Originating a theory (Charles Darwin is the author of the theory of evolution.)

Note that the person recognised as the author is not invariably solely responsible for the work:

  • Most published books and articles are edited, sometimes this editing is very heavy-handed.
  • Celebrity "autobiographies" are often ghostwritten by more proficient writers.
  • Electronic documents, by their very nature, are likely to be modified (sometimes beyond all recognition) by third parties.
  • Theories rarely emerge wholly from one source. Darwin was merely the first to clearly state an idea which was being discussed by several scientists at the time.

In the legalistic sense of the word, an author need not be a writer — or even a human being. For instance, Ansel Adams was the "author" of many fine photographs, and a movie studio is often credited as the legal "author" of a film it produces.

The United States Copyright Office defines copyright as "a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U.S. Code) to authors of "original works of authorship".

Some people credit God as the ultimate author — of the universe, and of religion's holy books.

Unauthorised publication of an author's work is plagiarism.