Last updated 16 August 2022

Moral rights are held by the individual creators of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works and makers of films (s 190 Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) (Copyright Act)). Examples include the:

  • painter of a painting
  • writer of a screenplay
  • composer of a musical work
  • architect of a building
  • writer of a novel
  • choreographer of a ballet.

In the case of films, the following people are entitled to take legal action with respect to moral rights (s 191 Copyright Act):

  • principal director
  • principal producer (provided the producer is a natural person and not a company)
  • principal screenwriter.

Moral rights of performers

Performers are entitled to moral rights similar to authors. In particular, performers have the right:

  • of attribution of performership (the right to be identified as the performer)
  • not to have performership falsely attributed
  • of integrity of performership (the right not to have the performance subjected to derogatory treatment).

A performer’s right of attribution of performership and the right not to have performership falsely attributed in respect of a recorded performance continues in force until copyright ceases to subsist in the recorded performance (ss 195ANA(1)–(2) Copyright Act). A performer’s right of integrity of performership in respect of a recorded performance continues in force until the performer dies (s 195ANA(3)).

Transfer of moral rights

Moral rights belong to the creator and remain with the author even if copyright has been transferred to someone else. This means that moral rights are not assignable. Moral rights are therefore different to economic rights, which give an owner a right to reproduce the work, or where the owner can assign or license the use or reproduction of a work. It means that even if creators assign all their economic rights in a work, they would retain the moral rights.

Duration of moral rights

The duration of the right of attribution continues for as long as copyright—the life of the author plus 70 years for works and 70 years from first publication. For works other than films, the right of integrity continues as long as copyright (s 195AM(2) Copyright Act).