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Moral rights overview

The moral rights of Australian creators are protected under the Copyright Act, following passage of the Copyright Amendment (Moral Rights) Act 2000.

These changes are in line with the Berne Convention, the main international convention on copyright. Moral rights are the unassignable personal right of a creator of a work or maker of a film to:

The moral rights amendments also introduced provisions relating to false attribution of authorship.

Moral rights are non-economic rights, as they do not directly confer a financial return on copyright creators or owners. They may not be traded, sold or bequeathed in a will, although when the creator dies the rights may be exercised by his or her legal personal representatives.

Creators who are employees hold moral rights in their works even if the copyright in the material they produce belongs to their employer.

Any creator may give consent to a specified act or omission which would otherwise be an infringement of moral rights.

Provisions for consent by employed creators are broader – they may give their employer consent to all or any acts or omissions in relation to all works made or to be made in the course of employment.

The moral rights of attribution and integrity are not infringed if the treatment of the material was 'reasonable' in all the circumstances. However, false attribution of authorship cannot be defended on the basis of 'reasonableness' (the only defence is consent).

The aim of the legislation is to make users aware of, and to respect, creators' moral rights. Consequently, it is preferable for any infringement to be corrected rather than punished by way of damages. However, while encouraging disputes to be settled by negotiation and mediation, the legislation allows a court to make an injunction, award damages for losses, make a declaration that a moral right has been infringed, or order a public apology or the removal or reversal of any infringement.

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