CFS position on copyright

Howard Knopf has posted that the Canadian Federation of Students has recently released their own paper on the issue of copyright. Read it here. He is right in his assessment that they argue for a much better balance then what the multinational corporations and foreign governments are trying to get us to adopt.

There is one part of their brief however where I think they still have it wrong. That is on the issue of moral rights.

The CFS argues that "If a student is hired to write a report, for example, the contracting agency may wish to change the conclusion but still attach the student’s name to the document. With moral rights intact, a student can prevent this from happening. If moral rights are waived, the student has no such power. To avoid these situations the Copyright Act should be amended to, at the very least, state that, in circumstances where a power imbalance exists in creator-distributor negotiations, moral rights shall be inalienable."

A creator's reputation can alternatively be protected by going the other way. If moral rights gave the creator only the right to have his name (dis)associated with a work and that right were not waivable as current moral rights are, then this would achieve the same end of protecting the persons integrety and be simpler. If the author has concerns about how the work was to be used, then those concerns should be delt with in the contract at the outset.

When you sell something, be it real property or copyright monopoly rights you should not, by default, be able to dictate how that property is to be used. If such control is desired, then it sould be negotiated for.

With the exception of a right of (dis)association, moral rights in copyright should be abolished.

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Moral rights and integrity

Moral rights concern truth, i.e. accuracy in attribution. They are not in the remit of copyright - exclusive controls over distribution, performance, reproduction, or derivation.

Truth is not really something that can be alienable or inalienable since it is not in control of the person. Rather, truth is inviolate.

No-one can deny or alter the fact of an author's authorship. However, authors have a right to privacy and thus a right not to be identified as the author of their work if they so wish.

Authors can of course ignore someone else's false claim to authorship if they wish (in the case of ghostwritten works).

The right to integrity is not a matter of the author possessing indefinite control over the modification of their published work, but a requirement that if their work is modified without their authorisation it not be misrepresented as the original work, or an authorised modification.

There are no moral rights in copyright. Moral rights are rights and cannot be abolished. However, copyright is a privilege and can and should be abolished.

As far as waiving of rights goes, you can ignore or tolerate violation of your rights, but rights cannot be surrendered, sold, or confiscated - they remain retained, inalienable. A state may unethically suspend them to create privileges, but that's commercial corruption for you.

Moral Rights are perverted

Your interpretation of moral rights is good, and it would be good if in fact that is how they were interpreted.

Unfortunatly moral rights as they are currently interpreted give authors a lot more rights then they should be entitled to under the guise of reputation integrity.

Two cases which illustrate my point are Natalka Husar's novel cover artwork, and Michael Snow's geese at the Eaton Centre.

Neither of these cases involved any serious threat to the reputation of the original creators, and had some simple mechanism existed to allow those creators to publicly disavow any affiliation with what was subsequently done with their work, that would have been more than sufficient to address any perceived threat.

Moral rights must not be used as a stick prevent others from expressing their own artistic creativity with works that they have legitimately acquired under property and copyright laws.

Unfortunately, this is what happens and is why I strongly believe that moral rights must be abolished and replaced with a right of (dis)association. This could be as simple as requiring the posting of a notice along with the work expression the objections of the original author.