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Moral rights

Moral rights give the authors of literary, dramatic, musical, artistic works and film directors the right:

  • to be identified as the author of the work or director of the film in certain circumstances, e.g. when copies are issued to the public.
  • to object to derogatory treatment of the work or film which amounts to a distortion or mutilation or is otherwise prejudicial to the honour or reputation of the author or director.

In contrast to the economic rights under copyright, moral rights are concerned with protecting the personality and reputation of authors.

The right to be identified cannot be exercised unless it has been asserted, that is, the author or director has indicated their wish to exercise the right by giving notice to this effect (which generally has to be in writing and signed) to those seeking to use or exploit the work or film.

Moreover, the author or director can waive both the right to be identified and the right to object to derogatory treatment.

There are a number of situations within which these rights do not apply including:

  • where the work is a computer program
  • where ownership of a work originally vested in an author's employer
  • where the material is being used in newspapers or magazines
  • reference works such as encyclopaedias or dictionaries

Authors of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works and film directors are also granted the moral right not to have a work or film falsely attributed to them.

Performers also have Moral rights which include the right:

  • to be identified as the performer and
  • to object to derogatory treatment of performance.

Moral rights last for as long as copyright lasts in the work although the creator may waive, that is choose not to exercise, his or her moral rights. Unlike copyright they cannot be sold or assigned to another person.

Fast Facts

  • Moral rights are discussed in Chapter IV sections 77-89 of the Act
  • Please see Part II sections 205C-205N of the Act for Performers' Moral Rights