Australia: The New Moral Rights Legislation

Last Updated: 19 April 2001
Article by John Afaras

Co-written by Jenny Markovic

The Copyright Amendment (Moral Rights) Act 2000 (Cth) (‘the Act’) came into force on 21 December 2000 after significant amendments were made to the original Bill during 2000. The Act amends the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) and introduces comprehensive moral rights protection in Australia for both authors of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works and for film-makers (producers, directors and screenwriters).

Previously, authors received limited moral rights protection under the Copyright Act 1968 covering false attribution in the content of literary, artistic, dramatic and musical works. There was, however, no protection for cinematograph films and the provisions did not include a positive obligation of attribution.


‘Moral rights’ seek to protect the creator’s honour and reputation. Moral rights exist because in some sense creative material is an emanation or extension of the creator’s personality, and what is done with his or her material may affect his or her standing and reputation.

‘Economic rights’ in a work relate to the creator’s right to reproduce, assign or license the work. A creator is not able to assign his or her moral rights, even where the economic rights in the work have been assigned or sold.


The Australian Copyright Council has noted that under the Act moral rights are attached to the following ‘works’:

  • Written material (novels, screenplays, poems, song lyrics and journal articles);
  • Artistic works (paintings, drawings, architecture, sculpture, craft work, photographs, maps and plans);
  • Musical works;
  • Dramatic works (ballets, plays, screenplays and mime);
  • Computer programs;
  • Cinematograph films (such as feature films, documentaries, music videos, television programs and television commercials).


Under the Act, creators are entitled to take legal action in certain circumstances which include where:

  • they are not attributed or credited for their work (the right of attribution);
  • their work is falsely attributed to someone else (the right against false attribution); or
  • their work is treated in a derogatory way (the right of integrity) for example, by distorting or modifying it.

Right Of Attribution

The right of attribution is infringed if, after 21 December 2000, someone does an act in respect of a work without identifying the author in a clear and prominent way. Such acts include the acts usually referred to as economic rights of copyright such as reproduction, publication, exhibiting and transmitting.

Right Against False Attribution

Infringement of the right against false attribution occurs in a number of circumstances including:

  • the attributor applies a person’s name to a work or its reproduction which falsely implies that the person is the author of the work, or that the work is an adaptation of the person’s work;
  • a person commercially deals with a work (including offering to sell, hire or exhibit in public) which has an author’s name on it, and the person knows that the named author is not the author of the work;
  • a person commercially deals with an altered work as if it were an unaltered work where that person has knowledge that it is not the unaltered work of the author (except where the effect of the alteration is insubstantial, or is required by law, or is necessary to avoid a breach of the law).

Right Of Integrity

A person infringes the right of integrity if the person, after 21 December 2000, subjects an author’s work to derogatory treatment. ‘Derogatory treatment’ is broadly defined and includes ‘a material distortion of, or the destruction or mutilation of, or a material alteration to the work itself that is prejudicial to the author’s honour or reputation’: Copyright Act 1968 ss 195AJ-195AL. It is noteworthy that neither ‘honour’ nor ‘reputation’ is defined in the Act. Examples of this type of conduct may include editing a novel or removing sections of a film.


The right of attribution and the right of integrity will not be infringed if the act or omission was reasonable.

The Act prescribes a number of matters to be considered in determining reasonableness, including the nature of the work; the purpose, manner and context of its use; relevant industry practice; and whether it was made in the course of employment.

It is not an infringement of the right of integrity to do something in good faith to restore or preserve a work.

Moral rights will not be infringed where the creator has provided full and informed consent to an otherwise infringing act. This consent, however, must be in writing and conform to further requirements under the Act.

Liability For Infringement

Liability for infringement of moral rights can be incurred by the person who does the infringing act or who authorises another to do it.


The Act gives the courts the discretion to choose from a wide range of remedies for infringement, including injunction, damages, ordering a public apology, and reversal of a mistreatment of a work.


For literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, moral rights will last for the life of the author plus 50 years. The right of integrity in authorship in relation to films, however, will last only until the creator’s death.

Conclusion And Warnings

The Attorney-General’s Department has noted that, while the above amendments are a major advance for authors and film-makers in affording them recognition and respect in connection with their creations, experience in other countries suggests that enforcement of moral rights through the courts will be an exceptional occurrence. Rather, it has been envisaged that the main impact of the Act will be to build on good existing industry practice and, where necessary, to raise awareness of the need to respect the creativity of authors and artists.

Clearly, however, the Act is more broad reaching. It is important in agreements with consultants and independent contractors (particularly in ‘creative’ fields) to ensure that moral rights are addressed to avoid difficulties which may arise when material prepared or provided under contract is altered for any reason. Further, employers and businesses must be aware that, even where an employer owns copyright, the employee still holds the moral rights, unless a moral rights consent in writing has been obtained.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.