What are moral rights?

The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 protects a number of rights, which are collectively known as “moral rights”. They are as follows:
  • The right to be identified as the author or director of the work (also known as “the right of paternity”);

  • The right to object to derogatory treatment of work (also known as “the right of integrity”);

  • The right not to be falsely attributed to work (also known as “the false attribution right”);

  • The right to privacy of certain photographs and films.

The right to be identified as the author

This right gives an author of a copyright literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work the right to be identified as the author of the work in certain circumstances.

Authors of literary work (other than words intended to be sung or spoken with music)

An author of a literary work (other than words intended to be sung or spoken with music) or a dramatic work has the right to be identified as the author of the work in the following situations:

  • Whenever the work is published commercially, performed in public or communicated to the public; or

  • Copies of a film or sound recording which includes the work are issued to the public.

The right to be indentified as the author of the work also applies in relation to adaptations of the work.

Authors of musical work and literary work consisting of words intended to be sung or spoken with music

An author of a musical work or a literary work consisting of words intended to be sung or spoken with music has the right to be identified as the author of the work in the following situations:

  • Whenever the work is published commercially;

  • Whenever copies of a sound recording of the work are issued to the public; or

  • In the case of films, which include a sound-track, whenever the film is shown in public or copies of the film are issued to the public.

The right to be indentified as the author of the work also applies in relation to adaptations of the work.

Authors of artistic work

An author of an artistic work has the right to be identified as the author of the work in the following situations:

  • Whenever the work is published commercially or exhibited in public or a visual image of it is communicated to the public;

  • Whenever a film including a visual image of the work is shown in public or copies of such a film are issued to the public; or

  • In the case of a work of architecture in the form of a building or a model for a building, a sculpture or a work of artistic craftsmanship, whenever copies of a graphic work representing it, or a photograph of it, are issued to the public.

The author of a work of architecture in the form of a building also has the right to be identified on the building itself or on the first building constructed, where more than one building is constructed to the design.

The right to be identified as the director

A director of a copyright film has the right to be identified as the director of the film whenever the film is shown in public or communicated to the public or copies of the film are issued to the public.

In what manner does an author or director have the right to be identified?

In all cases the identification of the author or director must be clear and reasonably prominent.

In relation to commercial publications or the issue to the public of copies of a film or sound recording the author or director has the right to be identified in or on each copy or, if that is not appropriate, in some other manner likely to bring the author’s or director’s identity to the notice of a person acquiring a copy.

In relation to the right of architects to be identified on a building, the architect has the right to be identified by appropriate means visible to persons entering or approaching the building.

In other cases the author or director has the right to be identified in a manner likely to bring his identity to the attention of a person seeing or hearing the performance, exhibition, show or communication to the public in question.

Where an author or director wishes to be identified by a pseudonym, initials or another form of identification, that form of identification should be used. Otherwise any reasonable form of identification can be used.

Does the right to be identified as the author or director of the work apply in every case?

If an author or director wishes to be identified as the author or director of work they must “assert” their right to be so identified, i.e. make it clear that they wish to be identified as the author or director of the work.

There are also certain exceptions to the right to be identified as the author or director of work. For example, the right does not apply to computer programs, the design of a typeface or to any computer-generated work or in relation to work made for the purpose of reporting current events.

Furthermore in certain circumstances the right will not be infringed, for example, where the defence of “fair dealing” arises or where the work is incidentally included in an artistic work, sound recording, film or broadcast.

The right to object to derogatory treatment of work

The author of a copyright literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, and the director of a copyright film, has the right in certain circumstances not to have his work subjected to derogatory treatment.

The treatment of work is derogatory if the work is distorted or mutilated or altered or adapted in such a way that would be prejudicial to the honour or reputation of the author or director.

There are certain exceptions to the right to object to derogatory treatment. For example, the right does not apply to computer programs or to any computer-generated work or in relation to work made for the purpose of reporting current events.

Furthermore in certain circumstances the right will not be infringed, for example by an act which has the purpose of avoiding the commission of a criminal offence as long there is a sufficient disclaimer where the author or director is identified.

False attribution of work

A person has the right not to have a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work falsely attributed to him as author. Similarly, a person has the right not to have a film falsely attributed to him as director.

The right to privacy of certain photographs and films

Where a person commissions a photograph or a film for private and domestic purposes they have the right not to have copies of the work issued to the public and the right not to have the work exhibited or shown in public or communicated to the public.

There are certain exceptions to this right, for example where the work is incidentally included in another artistic work or film or in a broadcast.