What are Moral Rights?

There are legal obligations to recognise creators and treat their work with respect. These are called moral rights.

Moral rights are personal rights of the creator of a work, so that they are properly credited (or attributed) for their work. They also protect the integrity of the creator’s work and are an automatic right under the Copyright Act.

There are three moral rights:

  • Right of attribution: the right of a creator to be credited or named as the creator of their work;
  • Right against false attribution: the right of a creator to stop someone else being credited as the creator of their work; and
  • Right of integrity: the right of a creator to ensure that their work is not treated in a harmful or disrespectful way. For example, from being distorted, destroyed, altered or publicly displayed in a way that harms the creator’s reputation.

Creators still have moral rights even if they no longer own (eg they have sold) the copyright in their work. Unlike other forms of IP rights, moral rights cannot be bought, sold or given away. However, a creator can consent to someone doing something, like reproducing their work without being credited.

Moral rights may only be afforded to individuals.  Companies and other entities do not have the benefit of moral rights available to them.

Generally, all three of an author’s moral rights continue until such time that copyright ceases to subsist in the works.

Defending your moral rights

If you believe that your moral rights have been infringed, you should seek legal advice. Generally, the first step is a letter of demand requiring the infringer to cease the infringing conduct and, if appropriate, to pay damages.

You may be able to make an application to a court for a remedy. Remedies for infringement are based on the nature of the infringement and the damage suffered.

Some of the remedies that may be available to you are: 

  • a court order for immediate action to stop the infringement;
  • a court order that the infringement is reversed or removed;
  • compensation for loss suffered;
  • a public apology for the infringement.