Moral rights differ from copyright in the sense that copyright protects property rights, which entitle authors to publish and economically benefit from their published works, while moral rights safeguard personal and reputational rights, which permit authors to defend both the integrity of their works and the use of their names. In countries that legally recognize moral rights, authors have redress to protect any distortion, misrepresentation or interference of their works that could negatively affect their honour.
The doctrine of moral rights is based on the idea that authors have a special bond with their own creative work and are recognized as the “soul” of their work. The important underlying principle is that damage to the reputation of an author is something apart from infringement of the work itself.
Section 57 of the Copyright Act, 1957, embodies the principle of moral rights in Indian law. There have been various judicial pronouncements of Indian courts on the “special rights” embodied under this section, in cases such as Amar Nath Sehgal v Union of India (2005) and Mannu Bhandari v Kala Vikas Pictures Pvt Ltd and Anr (1986).
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Esha Harkisandas is an associate at Bharucha & Partners.
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