Moral Rights

Part of copyright is the ability to stipulate how a work can be used, along with the right to be attributed to the Author, regardless of copyright ownership. In UK Law, these are known as Moral Rights and cover how work can be treated, derogatory usage and a right to privacy (Great Britain 1988 para.77-85). US law §106A refers to these rights as Attribution and Integrity.

Moral rights cannot be transmitted to another person but can be waived in writing as part of a contract. This can be seen as giving another bargaining chip to an Author. In the UK, creators are routinely required to waive their moral rights in contracts. (Kretschmer et al. 2009 p.9). An example of non-uniformity across the E.U.; under German law they cannot be waived, meaning German authors will always have some control over their creations.

In the UK, Moral Rights are weak. In 2009 several artists, including Billy Bragg and Blur, discovered their songs were being used as part of a Musical Compilation raising money for the BNP. However, under UK law they could not withdraw the rights to the distribution of these songs. The compilation had neither misidentified the original artist nor was it being derogatory about the work, therefore it did not contravene moral rights. The association of the artist name on a fund raising CD had an implication of support for the cause, but that is not foundation for a case (Coyle 2009; Glendinning 2009; BBC 2009).

Contract is used to define what is to be allowed by law, especially in the U.S. After previously having a run in with Levi’s over the use of his songs in commercials (Tom Waits Library 2010a), Tom Waits amended his contracts to state that his music was not to be used for Commercials. When his songs were licensed out to a number of companies in 1993, he went to court and not only had the tracks pulled, but won substantial damages. (Tom Waits Library 2010b).

If copyright law were truly about protecting the rights of the Author, it would not allow for the waiving of ‘Moral Rights’ (Kretschmer et al. 2009 p.14). This would give a stronger right under the law for authors to maintain control over their own work and how it is exploited, conferring more bargaining power in contract negotiation.

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