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Moral rights and Artists Resale Right

Moral Rights

The creator of a work enjoys a suite of moral rights. Moral rights originated in civil law jurisdictions like France and Germany, where the notion of an artist’s individual creative spirit is much more prevalent that in common law countries like the UK or USA, where economic concerns usually predominate. Moral rights help protect a creator’s honour and reputation, as well as the integrity of a work. They last for the same time as copyright, except the false attribution right, which expires 20 years after a creator’s death.

1. Paternity right. This right gives a creator the right to be named or acknowledged as the originator of a work they created. It must be asserted (which is why you nearly always see such an assertion on the copyright page inside books), and visual creators should ensure they put their name somewhere on a work itself, or on a frame or mount. Publishers or users of another’s material must accredit a work’s creator, as is good (and common) practice in any case.

2. False attribution. This right allows a person not to have a work falsely attributed to them. In a way, it may be seen as the counterpoint to the paternity right detailed above.

3. Integrity right. Creators are able to enact this right if they feel their work has been subject to ‘derogatory treatment’ and its integrity has thereby been called into question. ‘Derogatory treatment’ is any addition to, deletion from or alteration to or adaptation of a work that distorts or mutilates it and is prejudicial to the honour or reputation of its creator. There are very few instances in the UK where the integrity right has been brought into play. Contrast this with France, where creators enjoy much more highly developed system of moral rights and where complex cases have resulted in some very interesting and successful claims. 

4. The right to privacy of certain commissioned photographs and films. This gives a commissioning party (as opposed to a creator) the right to prevent distribution or dissemination of, for example, wedding or civil partnership photographs. So, it might be the case that as a photographer you own the copyright over an image … but you are limited in what you can do with it as the commissioning party’s right of privacy may override your copyright.

Artist’s resale right

Artist’s resale right entitles the creator of an artistic work to a royalty resulting from the resale of a work, provided the sale is transacted via an ‘art market professional’ (such as an auction house or a commercial gallery) and is above a certain value.

This right lasts for the same period as copyright, but at present only applies to works by living artists. By 2012 artist’s resale right will also apply to dead artists. Royalties are administered by the Design and Artists Copyright Society and the Artists Collecting Society, set up by the Bridgeman Art Library. Creators are strongly advised to ensure their contact details are lodged with either body to ensure they receive royalties.