Saturday, November 29, 2008

Moral Rights Of Composers- The Missing Cornerstone - Part 1

Moral Rights or globally known as, droits moraux, is a special right held by artists that is irrevocable, though can in some places be waived, to it's creations regardless of other transferable economic rights (copyrights). These rights include;

-The right to claim authorship of a work.
-The right to have a work published anonymously or pseudonymously.
-The right to the integrity of the work preventing alteration, distortion or mutilation.
-The right to prevent the use of one's name on any work the author did not create.
-The right to object to derogatory action in relation to their work, which would be prejudicial to the author’s honor or reputation.

There are other rights depending on the country but these are the basic ones.

Under US federal law, though a carter of The Berne Convention, Moral Rights are not recognized with the exception of The Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA), which gives limited rights to visual artists. The definition, under US copyright code, of a piece of "visual art" is extremely limited to: A ``work of visual art'' includes any painting, drawing, print, sculpture, or still photographic image produced for exhibition purposes, produced in a single copy or an edition of 200 or fewer if signed and consecutively numbered by the artist. 17 U.S.C. 101 (1990).
VARA specifically exclud
es works for hire, motion pictures and other audiovisual works, and works of applied art.

VARA is very important for a number of reason, most significantly is the admission that there are rights outside of the economic world. Prior to VARA the consensus in Washington was that the copyright laws and trademark rights within the
Lanham Act and other laws, covered the issues covered at the Berne Convention. This is of course not true and that all rights on the books up until VARA were transferable and part of the economic arena.

Why would law makers object in principal to Moral Rights? Taking lobbyists out of the equation, those politicians with Freedman-ite economic philosophy probably see Moral Rights as a distortion within Free Trade principals. So, if a widget is a widget than it is only a widget and Moral Rights would impede economic commerce of art.

So what does all of this talk about Moral Rights that the US does not recognize and VARA have to do with us as film composers? Not much but the proposal of a Composers Rights Act, even if it excludes works for hire, would go a long way towards providing a cornerstone that can be built upon later on.

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