Moral Rights: What are they?

This resource gives an overview of moral rights, when they may not apply and the need to protect them.

[hidden title="What are moral rights?"]

Moral rights are in addition to your economic right of copyright in your artwork which allows you to commercially gain from the exploitation of your works. They exist to ensure that in most situations you are credited for your work and that it is not treated by your commissioner in a way that you consider derogatory to your reputation through any addition, deletion, alteration to, or adaptation of the work that amounts to a distortion or mutilation of the work.

The Moral Rights are:

  • The Right of Paternity – You have a right to be identified as author of your illustration. This right must be asserted in writing and should be included on any licence to reproduce, copyright assignment or other written contract. Especially in book publishing contracts.
  • The Right of Integrity – You have a right to object to derogatory treatment of your illustration. This means you have a right to object if your illustration has been adapted, altered, added to or deleted from in a way that you consider detrimental to your reputation. You may be able to rely on this right if you are unhappy about the colour reproduction of your illustration or, if perhaps, it has been cropped in a way which distorts it.
  • You have a right not to be falsely attributed to another person’s artwork.

It is not possible to pass on your moral rights by way of assignment or licence but they can be waived (given up). Check any written contract carefully to ensure that your client is not asking you to waive your moral rights. A waiver of moral rights often comes alongside assignments of copyright if the client is seeking total control of the artwork.


[hidden title="When moral rights do not apply"]

Moral rights do not apply to work commissioned for newspapers and magazine, although illustrations usually are credited in these types of publications. There is also a general expectation within the industry that you would not be credited for illustrations on, for example, advertising or packaging.


[hidden title="Campaigning"]

Along with, amongst others, the Association of Photographers, the NUJ, the Musicians Union, and as part of the Creators Rights Alliance and British Copyright Council, the AOI is campaigning and lobbying parliament on behalf of illustrators to change the attitude of many clients and members of the public towards creator’s rights. In many other EU countries, for example, moral rights cannot be waived. They are considered to be a right, not a commodity, thereby ensuring their protection for the creator.

The issues related to rights grabs by clients and unfair contracts have increasingly become a feature of the ongoing campaigns that the AOI continues to be involved with, on behalf of and thanks to the continued support of the membership.



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