Moral rights refer to rights under copyright laws that protect the rights of the creators of the work. The moral rights fall within the scope of civil law and include rights such as the right to have a work published under a specific name or anonymous, and the right to have the integrity of the work protected.

Copyright awards two types of rights – that of economic and moral rights. An author for instance, has the right to gain an income from the work created while a moral right will include the right to be recognized as the author of the work. Transferring of the rights to a work doesn’t include the transfer of moral rights. The creators of original and copyright protected work thus retain their moral rights to the works.

Moral rights are protected under the Berne Convention of 1928. The USA though doesn’t recognize all the moral rights as set out in the Berne Convention. One of the most important moral rights is the right to prevent misattribution of a work. Another important moral right is the right to keep a work from being distorted or modified in such a manner that it harms the creator’s reputation.

Visual artists have moral rights in the USA under VARA, which stands for Visual Artists Rights Act giving them the right to authorship and the prevention of the use of the artist’s name on work not created by the artist, right to prevent the mutilation or changing of the work that would harm the artist’s reputation, and the right to prevent any form of destruction of an art work.

It is important to note that not all countries recognize the same moral rights in copyright. If you are an artist or author who wants to know your moral rights to a work, contact us at Smit & Van Wyk for an appointment.