Last updated 24 August 2016

The author of a work has a right not to have authorship of the work falsely attributed to someone else (s 195AC(1) Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) Copyright Act)). The moral rights provisions exhaustively list the acts that contravene this right (ss 195AC–AH Copyright Act). In the case of a literary, dramatic or musical work, acts of false attribution of authorship would include:

  • inserting or affixing (or authorising someone else to insert or affix) a person’s name in or on the work, or in or on a reproduction of the work in a way that falsely implied the person is the author/artist or an author of the work or an adaptation of a work
  • dealing with a work with a person’s name falsely inserted or affixed, if it is known that the person is not an author/artist of the work or the work is not an adaptation of a work of the person
  • dealing with a reproduction of the work that has a person’s name falsely inserted or affixed, if it is known the person is not an author/artist of the work or that the work is not an adaptation of a work of the person
  • performing in public or communicating the work (or adaptation of the work) as being authored by a particular person when it is known that the person is not an author/artist of the work or that the work is not an adaptation of the work of the person.

In the case of an artistic work, there is an additional contravention (specifically the use of that person’s name in connection with the work or in connection with a reproduction of the work) in such a way as to imply falsely that the person is an author of the work (s 195AE Copyright Act).

In cases involving films, acts of false attribution of authorship would include:

  • inserting or affixing (or authorising someone else to insert or affix) a person’s name in or on the work, or in or on a reproduction of the work in a way that would falsely imply the person is the director, producer or screenwriter of the film
  • dealing with a work where it is known that a person’s name has been falsely inserted or affixed
  • communicating the film as a director, producer or screenwriter when it is known that the person is not the director, producer or screenwriter of the film (s 195AF Copyright Act).

Provisions exist in the Copyright Act for committing acts of false attribution of authorship of altered literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work (s 195AG), with some limitations in cases where the alteration is insubstantial (s 195AG(2)(a)) or where it was required by law (s 195AG(2)(b)). There are also provisions for cases of altered cinematograph film (s 195AH). Some practical examples of false attributions of authorship are listed below:

  • An art dealer commissions an artist to produce a series of paintings for an exhibition. Before the series can be completed the artist becomes unwell and is unable to continue painting. The art dealer then enlists the assistance of someone who is skilled at copying painting styles and they complete the series in time for the exhibition. The exhibition goes ahead advertising the series of works by the original artist.
  • A student writes a poem for assessment in a university course. The lecturer changes the title and then submits the poem to a university publication under his own name.
  • A journalist is commissioned to interview and write an article for a newspaper on homosexual parenting. The article is substantially rewritten by the editor of the newspaper, which fundamentally alters the writer’s portrayal of the journalist’s interviewees and conclusions.