In our new Industry KnowHow series for the autumn, the Society of Authors tackles those big questions about creator's rights. First up, it's moral rights. 

Like most creators, you probably care for more than simply the economic value of the works you create. Moral rights were introduced to protect your reputation and the integrity of your work. They are independent from copyright. 

What are Moral Rights?

Moral rights are available for literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works and film, as well as some performances. There are four moral rights recognised in the UK:

  1. You have the moral right to be identified as the author of your work (the so-called ‘paternity’ right – although it should be called the ‘maternity’ right in view of the time and effort it takes to bring a work into creation). In the UK, this must be asserted – for example, as a statement in a book, in the metadata of a digital image, or in any contracts related to the work. This right does not apply to newspapers, magazines, encyclopaedias or similar work with numerous contributors.
  2. The right not to be identified as an author when you are not the author of a work. This is known as false attribution. It can be useful if so many changes are made to your work that you no longer wish to be associated with it.
  3. You have the right to object to derogatory treatment of your work, (the ‘integrity’ right) meaning changes that could negatively affect your reputation.
  4. If you commission photographs or video for your own personal purposes (such as your wedding) then you have the right of privacy, so that they cannot be exhibited or distributed without your consent. This applies even if you do not own the copyright.

Bear in mind

Moral rights do not apply to certain types of works, such as a computer program, and may not apply if you created the work during the course of your employment. Your moral rights exist for as long as the copyright lasts, although your false attribution right only lasts for 20 years after your death.

What’s more, you cannot pass your moral rights on to anyone else, even when you license or assign your copyright, except when you die. However, you can choose to waive these rights, with or without conditions and, sadly, exploiters of your work will often demand that you do so. Think carefully before you waive these rights: they are there to ensure that you can control how the world sees your work. Always get advice on any contracts that ask you to waive your rights.

Main Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The Society of Authors (SoA) is the largest UK trade union for all types of writers, illustrators and literary translators, at all stages of their careers. The SoA offers specialist tailored advice to all members and has been speaking out for the profession since 1884. To join or to find out more and seek advice, visit

Eleanor Pender is Knowhow Editor. If there's something you'd like to know how to do or know more about, send your suggestions to

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