Copyright being a negative right, means the right of the author or owner to restrain others from copying his/ her original works. It is interesting to note that the author of a work may not always be the owner. The Copyright Act, 1957 (“the Act”), aims at securing the moral and economic rights relating to assignment and licensing of work for the benefit of the author as well as the owner. Though the owner/ applicant of copyright registration can be a person or a corporate entity, the authorship always vests in an individual. It is noteworthy that subsequent to the recent amendments to the Act, the author cannot be divested of his moral rights in the work.

India being a signatory to the Berne Convention, has incorporated Article 6bis of the convention in Section 57 the Act. This section enumerates the moral rights of the author. It provides the author the right to claim authorship in the work even after assignment of the copyright. It also prescribes that the author has a right to claim royalty in case of authorised use and damages in case any distortion, modification or mutilation prejudices his work regardless of any assignment, whether partly or wholly. Further assignee of a copyright cannot claim any rights or immunities based on the contract which are inconsistent with the provisions of Section 57.

In the case of Amar Nath Seghal v Union of India, a huge mural created by the plaintiff was dislodged from its original place of display and consigned to a government owned storeroom. This was done without the permission of the author and he perceived it to be ill treatment of his work and filed a petition at the Delhi High Court. A permanent injunction was ordered against the defendants to restrain them from distorting, mutilating or damaging the author’s mural and damages upto INR 50 Lacs were awarded as compensation to the author. Here, the Court observed that there are 2 types of moral rights: The ‘right to attribution’ which deals with exploitation of the work by way of licensing and assignment and the ‘Integrity right' which means the right to maintain the integrity of the work no matter to whom it has been assigned. An urgent need was felt by the court in this case to interpret Section 57 of the Act to include destruction of work of any form of art as the highest form of mutilation.

It was held that “When an author creates a work of art or a literary work, it is possible to conceive of many rights which may flow. The first and foremost right which comes to one's mind is the “Paternity Right” in the work, i.e. the right to have his name on the work”. There can be no purity without integrity. It may be a matter of opinion, but certainly, treatment of a work which is derogatory to the reputation of the author, or in some way degrades the work as conceived by the author can be objected to by the author. This would be the moral right of “integrity”.

Hence moral rights of an author are associated with the work ab initio regardless of any assignment whether partly or wholly. Whether copyright is in existence or expired, an author cannot be divested of its moral rights.

Compiled by: Adv. Sachi Kapoor | Concept & Edited by: Dr. Mohan Dewan

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