"The moral right of the author has been asserted."

“The moral right of the author has been asserted.”

I recently found this phrase on the copyright page of a book. Somehow, even though I’m a writer, editor, publisher, and bibliophile, I don’t recall ever seeing it before. It is apparently related to copyright issues, but its significance, as distinct from the more standard copyright statements (which it usually accompanies but does not replace), is not entirely clear to me.

I’ve tried using Google to determine its meaning, but the first 110 cites I found were all simply using the phrase as I had seen it in the book. So it’s much more common than I realized, but I’m still slightly in the dark.

Would anyone care to fight my ignorance.? Thanks.

It’s a right under the Berne Copyright Convention (though the US does not recognize it).

Basically, it means that the original author of a work is the only one who can claim authorship, and he can prevent others from modifying his work or doing things that he feels might hurt his reputation. The word come from the French “droite morale” and has nothing to do with morality.

The US doesn’t subscribe because it could allow authors to assert those rights if, say, a filmmaker made a movie that the author disapproved of. Hollywood wasn’t going to allow that can of worms to be opened.

Moral rights are part of the Berne Convention, but not part of U.S. Copyright Law (with certain exceptions). It is the one (I believe) provision of the Berne Convention that the U.S. deliberately omitted. You’ll see it on books from the EU, and usually from the UK, but not on US books.

Moral Rights Basics.

American courts have not generally granted the equivalent of moral rights to U.S. authors (except in the motion picture industry). See Moral Rights of Authors in the USA.

I’ve had books published in Panama, and am currently planning on doing one with a Costa Rican publisher. Contracts here for authors include provisions on moral rights.

Thanks, guys. I hadn’t heard about moral rights before.

The second of Exapno’s cites quotes a legal decision as follows:

Emphasis added.

Does anyone know anything more about this matter of inheriting moral rights? The decision seems to imply that in Europe, moral rights have different conditions than copyright. Can an author’s heirs assert moral rights after the expiration of copyright? Under what circumstances would moral rights not pass to heirs? I assume that copyright passes to heirs in Europe, as it does here.

Just idly curious, now that I’ve learned something new.