Moral Rights – An Overview

By George Burton

Principal Associate

Moral rights are personal rights which are designed and targeted at recognising the author’s interest in any use of works they have created. They are personal rights and not proprietary rights.

Under English law, moral rights are set out more particularly in the Copyright, Designs & Patent Act 1988 (the ‘CDPA 1988’). The most important moral rights are as follows:

  1. The right to be identified as the author or director of a copyright work. This is known as the ‘right of paternity’ and is set out at section 77 to 79 of the CDPA 1988.
  2. The right to object to derogatory treatment of a copyright work (known as the ‘right of integrity’) and which is detailed at section 80 to 83 of the CDPA 1988.
  3. The right not to suffer false attribution of a copyright work, which is set out at section 84 of the CDPA 1988.
  4. The right of privacy in respect of certain films and photographs, which is derived from section 85 of the CDPA 1988.

Moral rights only apply to literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works. They will not apply to sound recordings, broadcasts or typographical arrangements, which is also specified in the CDPA 1988.  The rights of paternity, integrity and privacy will last for the normal term of copyright, which is usually the life of the author, plus 70 years.

It is important to note that moral rights will not apply in all circumstances and will sometimes only apply in limited circumstances.

Crucially, moral rights are personal to the author. They can, therefore, be waived but not assigned. As such, it is not uncommon for waiver clauses to appear in certain contractual documents such as contracts of employment.

Please contact our Dispute Resolution Team on 0345 646 0406 or fill in our online enquiry form for more information and a member of our Team will be very happy to assist.