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Moral Rights

Contributed by Australian Copyright Council and current to May 2022

As well as copyright, creators also have moral rights in their creations.

What are moral rights?

Moral rights are the reputational rights of the creator (Part IX).

Unlike copyright, moral rights cannot be licensed or assigned, and can only be owned by humans.

There are three types of moral rights:
  • the right of attribution
  • the right against false attribution, and
  • the right of integrity.
Moral rights generally expire when copyright expires. The only exception is the right of integrity for cinematographic films which lasts until the death of the creator (usually the director or producer).

The right of attribution

The moral right of attribution is the legal right of a creator to be named as the creator of the copyright material in the manner that they want. A creator may use a pseudonym or be anonymous if they wish (Part IX, Division 2).

The right against false attribution

The moral right against false attribution is the right of creator to not have their creation wrongly attributed to somebody else. For example, if a creator has chosen to be anonymous, it would be an infringement of their moral right against false attribution to credit someone else for their work (Part IX, Division 3).

The moral right of integrity

The moral right of integrity is the right of a creator to not have their creation treated in a way that is derogatory of their honour or reputation. Examples of this include distorting or mutilating a work, or in the case of artworks, destroying that work. Simply altering a creator’s work or treating it in a way that the creator doesn’t like, will not be an infringement of the right of integrity unless it also prejudices their honour or reputation (Part IX, Division 4).

Exceptions to Moral Rights Infringement

Where a creator’s moral rights have been infringed, there are two defences: consent and reasonableness.

Creators may consent to their material being dealt with in ways which would otherwise infringe their moral rights. For example, a creator can agree to not be attributed and have their work published anonymously.

In most cases, consents must be quite specific and given in relation to specific acts and/or works. However, where the creator is an employee, broader consents may be sought.


A failure to attribute the creator, or a derogatory treatment of copyright work, does not infringe the creator’s rights if the action was ‘reasonable’ in the circumstances. The Copyright Act sets out a number of factors to be considered in working out whether the action was reasonable. T

These include:
  • the nature of the work
  • the purpose, manner and context for which it is used
  • relevant industry practice
  • whether the work was created in the course of employment or under a contract of service, and
  • if there are two or more authors, their views about the failure to attribute or derogatory treatment.
There is no defence of reasonableness for false attribution.

For more details on moral rights, please see the Australian Copyright Council’s Moral Rights fact sheet.

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