Wednesday 22 December 2010

Moral Rights: the book

Moral Rights, spearheaded by British barristers and scholars Kevin Garnett and QC, Gillian Davies, is a massive work on what many practitioners would mistakenly write off as a topic of minor importance. In truth, while the volume of litigation on moral rights -- particularly the right of paternity and the right to the integrity of one's work -- has never been great, the number of problems caused by a failure to understand these rights and to take them into account in a commercial setting has increased, and is likely to continue to do so now that the universal medium of the internet has both amplified the effect of many moral rights infractions and increased the likelihood of their being seen by authors. The categorisation of these rights as "moral" as opposed to "economic" has been to some extent to blame for their neglect: while they are not economic in the sense that rights such as the reproduction and transmission rights influence trade in copyright works, they can have a resoundingly economic impact whether they are exploited, waived or enforced.

While both Kevin and Gillian are very much associated with patents (Kevin is currently a Board of Appeal member at the European Patent Office, where Gillian once chaired a Technical Board of Appeals and sat as a member of the Enlarged Board), and both are creatures of Hogarth Chambers, it is for their work in the field of copyright that they are probably best known and most appreciated:  both have been major contributors to the same publisher's IP soap Copinger and Skone James on Copyright, first published in 1870 and thus even more long-running than Coronation Street.  Gillian has also served a term at the helm of IFPI, so the copyright credentials of this pairing are unimpeachable.

So what does the book do? Why go to such lengths to create and publish a weighty tome on so under-estimated and misunderstood a topic?  The publishers don't give away much information themselves (certainly, when compared with most other publishers of legal books, Sweet & Maxwell are quite stingy with their information). Anyway, according to the book's web page, Kevin and Gillian offer "a practical insight into an area not covered by other texts" -- which is mainly true.  Most books on copyright say something about moral rights, but you'd have to lay a lot of them end to end in order to cover the ground this subject-specific title does.  The publishers then list its virtues.  It:
• Examines moral rights in the UK in detail and contrasts with that of key EU and international jurisdictions
• Discusses the historical treatment of moral rights in the UK
• Considers copyright, the paternity right, the right to privacy and transmission of moral rights
• Offers a practical and comparative approach to an area about which little has been written
• Looks at how moral rights have developed internationally, and examines their treatment in international and regional conventions and treaties
• Compares moral rights in more established civil law jurisdictions with those in less developed common law jurisdictions
• Examines moral rights in 19 of the key European and international jurisdictions, with each jurisdiction being covered by a local copyright expert
• Covers each jurisdiction systematically and comprehensively
• Discusses the significant case law from civil law jurisdictions
• Includes relevant sections of the Copyright, Patents and Designs Act 1988 for easy reference
• Features an extensive bibliography>
Fortunately the authors are not expected to do this alone.  They are assisted by a team of many talents, drawing on national (and in some cases multinational) expertise supplied by a long list of contributing experts among whom can be found such household names as Adolf Dietz, Willem Grosheide, Paul Torremans, Irini Stamatoudi and Elizabeth Adeney, aided and abetted by Maria Mercedes Frabboni, Patricia Akester, Jacques de Werra, Gadi Oron and more besides.  Quite why this useful information -- which adds considerable value and authority to the book -- is not made available to visitors to the book's web details is beyond the understanding of this reviewer.  The book itself is a tour de force.  It covers practically every possible issue arising from the various moral rights and is not just a one-stop-shop but a springboard from which the reader can reach out to different legal traditions, technologies and cultures and learn more than he or she ever imagined to exist on the subject.  Well done!

Bibliographical details. Published by Sweet & Maxwell, October 2010. ISBN 9780421729407. Hardback, cxii + 1,177 pages. Price £165. Book's web page here.  Rupture factor: considerable.

1 comment:

Crosbie Fitch said...

As the anachronistic privilege of copyright falls into decrepitude natural rights pertaining to intellectual works (aka moral rights) will indeed become ever more important.

Even so, it is necessary to decontaminate moral rights from infection by copyright inculcated notions, e.g. mistaking authorship as a transferable privilege, or the right to integrity as a power of veto over derivative works.

Even Creative Commons fails to see the subtle but significant difference between 'not attributing' and 'misattributing' authorship.

We have to let go of this idea that the author obtains some kind of power over those who come into contact with their published work, or that this work is a bodily extension of the author.