What Are Moral Rights in a Copyright Work?

what are moral rights

In the United Kingdom, moral rights are statutory rights conferred by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 allowing the creative author or artist to retain certain rights in relation to a copyright work, even after it has been sold to somebody else.

What are moral rights?

Moral rights are inalienable rights, meaning that they cannot be transferred to somebody else. However, some rights can be waived and some can only be claimed where they have been asserted.

They consist of the following:

  • Right of attribution: to be identified as the author of the work when a work is copied or communicated. This applies only if the right has been asserted by way of a legal document by the author.
  • Right to object to derogatory treatment. For example, an author might object if his novel were abridged in a way that compromised its artistic integrity.
  • Right against false attribution of a work. Essentially, being named as the author of a work when you are not the author. A novel use of this right was in a case concerning the London Evening Standard, which was then running a spoof political column called ‘Alan Clark’s Secret Election Diary’. Mr Clark succeeded on the basis that some people might believe that the views expressed in the column were his.
  • Right to privacy in private photographs and films.

Do moral rights apply to all works?

Moral rights apply only to literary, dramatic, musical and artistic copyright works, and also to films (where the director enjoys such rights).

The most important exceptions to be aware of are computer programs and employees. In most situations, employees do not enjoy moral rights.

Most rights will last for the duration of the copyright work itself, although there are some exceptions to this general rule.

Please note the contents of this blog is given for information only and must not be relied upon. Legal advice should always be sought in relation to specific circumstances. 

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