China: The Right To Maintain The Integrity Of A Work Q&A

Last Updated: 12 April 2017
Article by Watson & Band Law Offices

What is the right to maintain the integrity of a work?

The right to maintain the integrity of work (the "right of integrity") is a copyright-related personal right. The rights owner may demand that an infringer cease its infringement and eliminate the adverse influence of the infringement, but cannot claim damages. The protective scope of this right, in further analysis, is narrow and obscure compared to the rights of publication, authorship and modification, which are all copyright-related personal rights. The right of publication grants the work public exposure, which, though restricted by the principle of "once for all" (once disclosed, a secret is no longer a secret), represents a "life or death" power. The right of authorship establishes a close link between the author and the work. The right of modification safeguards the purity of the work by prohibiting unauthorized deletion or changes. The right of integrity is designed to "protect the work from distortion or unauthorized alteration", which seems to overlap to some extent with the right of modification. It is admittedly quite difficult to precisely define "distortion" or "unauthorized alteration".

What are the standards for protecting the right of integrity?

In judicial records, very few results return from a search using the key words "the right of integrity". Even in the few relevant cases, the interpretation of this right can also apply to the right of modification and does not reveal any key distinction that could clearly define the right to maintain the integrity of a work.

In a recent case concerning the work Chronicles of a Ghostly Tribe, the trial court upheld the author's request for protection based on a balancing of interests test. The court held that the author should tolerate a certain degree of modification of his work or recreation based on his work: "When the new work is published, if the complete version of the original work is publicly available, the debate should focus on whether the work in controversy has damaged the reputation of the author of the original work."

What mechanism should be instituted to enhance the right of integrity?

In the future, the right to integrity could play a major part in balancing the relationship between the original work and an adapted work under authorization. It can be further protected by the following mechanism:

I. The adapter should obtain the consent of the author of the original work before making changes to key characters or key plotlines of the original work;

II. Under the circumstance described above, the author of the original work should reply to the consent request within a reasonable time; otherwise, the author's silence should be treated as consent;

III. The author of the original work should not be restricted by the "reasonable time" limitation if the adapted content disrupts public order or violates good morals;

IV. Once given, consent to the change should not be revocable by the author of the original work;

V. To balance interests, the remedies for infringement of the right of integrity can include modification, deletion or replacement of the content in dispute; publication of a conspicuous announcement in the adapted work; and deletion of all indications of the relationship between the adapted work and the original work.

(Source: Discussions on the Future Development of the Right of Integrity Using the Example of the Trial Judgement in the "Chronicles of a Ghostly Tribe" Copyright Dispute By Wang Huayun)

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.

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