Works often mean more than just the economic value they can generate from their exploitation. They can be very special to the person who creates them as they have invested a lot in the work, emotionally and/or intellectually. As a result, copyright works need to be protected in ways that are different to traditional forms of property. Moral rights protect those non-economic interests.
Moral rights are only available for literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works and film, as well as some performances. Unlike economic rights, moral rights cannot be sold or otherwise transferred. However, the rights holder can choose to waive these rights.
There are four moral rights recognised in the UK:
- The right to attribution
This is the right to be recognised as the author of a work. This right needs to be asserted before it applies. For example, in a contract with a publisher, an author may state that they assert their right to be identified as the author of their work.
- The right to object to derogatory treatment of a work
Derogatory treatment is defined as any addition, deletion, alteration to or adaptation of a work that amounts to a distortion or mutilation of the work, or is otherwise prejudicial to the honour or reputation of the author.
- The right to object to false attribution
This is the right not to be named as the author of a work you did not create. This would prevent, for example, a well-known author being named as the author of a story they did not write.
- The right to privacy of certain photographs and films
This right enables someone who has commissioned a photograph or film for private and domestic purposes to prevent it from being made available or exhibited to the public. For example, this would allow you to prevent a photographer from putting your wedding photographs on their website without your permission.