- Adv. Parag Kamani*

Every creator of work (“author”) gives rise to moral rights, which are personal rights that are recognized in civil law jurisdictions.

Simplistically speaking, moral rights create recognition when the creator’s work is used, and the manner in which such work is treated and/or depicted.

Moral rights have been explained under Section 57 of the Copyright Act, 1957. Originally, the section focused on literary works, initially resulting in authors of “other” works with nothing to safeguard themselves with. However, following a judgment in 1987, the Honourable Courts widened the scope of Section 57 to include authors of other works as well. Hence, moral rights since apply and protect original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, cinematograph films, and sound recordings from unauthorized uses. The relevant portion of the Act is reproduced below –

Author’s special rights — (1) Independently of the author’s copyright and, even after the assignment either wholly or partially of the said copyright, the author of a work shall have the right—

(a) to claim authorship of the work; and

(b) to restrain or claim damages in respect of any distortion, mutilation, modification or other act in relation to the said work if such distortion, mutilation, modification or other act would be prejudicial to his honour or reputation.

Effectively, as per my reading of Section 57 of the Act, it defines four basic “moral rights” of an author/creator. These are:

i. Right of attribution, also called the right of paternity.

ii. Right of integrity.

iii. Right of having the work/creation published anonymously or pseudonymously.

iv. Right of not having the work falsely attributed to the creator.

Moral rights require that the creator’s name is always shown with their work. This is called right of attribution/paternity. This refers to a right of an author/creator to claim authorship of work and a right to prevent all others from claiming authorship of their work.

Moral rights also require that the creator’s work is not treated in any way that hurts the creator’s reputation. This is called right of integrity. The preserving of the integrity of the work allows the creator to object to alteration, distortion, or mutilation of the work that is prejudicial to the creator's honour or reputation.

Without prejudice to the rights conferred on authors, a performer’s right is an exclusive right subject to the provisions of the Copyright Act, 1957. However, it is hereby clarified that the mere removal of any portion of a performance for the purpose of editing, or to fit the recording within a limited duration, or any other modification required for purely technical reasons, shall not be deemed to be prejudicial to the performer’s reputation.

Moral rights are rights that the creator of a work is automatically entitled to at the time of creation, and which no one else can claim. Moral rights exist alongside copyright in certain types of work. Generally, moral rights remain with the creator of a work or pass to the creator’s estate on death. Unlike copyright, moral rights cannot be assigned (legally transferred). Even if an artiste has assigned his or her copyright rights to a work to a third party, he or she still maintains the moral rights to the work. However, these are frequently waived and, hence, it remains moot for artistes whether moral rights are a boon or a bane.

(*The author has been part of the global Media & Entertainment industry for 30 years.)

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

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.