Since their introduction in 1989, moral rights for authors have been something of a legal non-event. Here we report on a rare case where moral rights were in issue. Have moral rights got interesting at last?
Topic: Moral Rights
Who: Anya vs Wu and Others
Where: The Chancery Division of the High Court of Justice, London
When: February 2004
In Chancery, Lewison J pronounced judgement in a rare case involving claims of moral rights infringement.
The judge was dealing with an application by the defendants (D) to strike out a claim of moral rights infringement by the claimant (C). C was a scientist who had published a number of papers. D were scientists operating in a similar area to C and they had published their own papers on similar topics. In this case, C claimed that D's papers exploited C's work without his consent. C admitted that D had reached their own conclusions at the end of their papers, but in doing so, they had drawn on the ideas of C, he said, as they appeared in the papers that C had published. D's papers failed to acknowledge their use of C's ideas, hence the proceedings for infringement of moral right.
D defended on the basis that whatever ideas they used in their own papers, it was D, not C, that had written the papers. Accordingly, no moral rights infringement claim was arguable and the case should be struck out.
The judge agreed, finding C's claims had no prospects of success and the case was thrown out.
Why this matters:
Before the introduction of the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act in 1989, there was just one moral right in the UK. This was the right to claim damages for "false attribution of authorship." This entitled author A to sue a publisher for damages if the publisher produced a book which bore A's name, but which in fact contained material by B.
This was not the case here, since it was B, not A (the author whose name was already on the book) who was complaining.
Accordingly, in this case C had to fall back on one of the other two moral rights which were introduced by way of the 1988 Act. There is the right to claim relief if one's own work is subjected to "derogatory treatment", for instance by unauthorised tampering, editing or touching up of the material in question. Secondly, there is the so called "paternity right" which entitles an author to claim that his name appears on any work which includes his copyright material. It was here that C's claim fell down, because like copyright, moral rights protect actual creative material, in other words the way that ideas are articulated, as opposed to the ideas themselves. As it was only C's ideas that he claimed were used in D's papers, C's claim had to fail.
More generally, moral rights have turned out to be something of a non event in the UK at least, and we have yet to see a reported case in which, in a marketing context, they have given rise to material additional exposure for advertisers and marketers who produce material which is in some way inspired by third parties.