The Legal Language – Moral rights

03 August 2022

Have you ever read something and thought, “I’m not sure what that means” or ‘is that really correct”? Welcome to our series of quickfire interviews that attempt to unravel those interesting words and phrases.

In this edition, we speak to Workplace Relations Associate Stephanie Shahine, who talks to us about the phrase she finds interesting, Moral rights.

What word or phrase have you chosen and what does it mean?

“Moral rights” are rights which arise automatically when an individual produces a piece of work which they are the author or creator.

Why do you like this word or phrase?

It’s an interesting phrase which suggests that an individual has the right to be morally sound. It does not sound like an expression which is linked to intellectual property or employment law.

When did you first come across this word or phrase in a legal context?

I first came across the expression “moral rights” when reviewing employment contracts for clients early on in my career. I quickly learned that employment law and intellectual property can intermingle and that, even though copyright in works created by an employee in pursuance of their employment vest in the employer, moral rights’ cannot be ‘assigned’ to an employer. In an employment agreement, the employee can waive their moral rights or agree to the employer infringing those moral rights – allowing the employer to fully use and amend documents created by the employee across their employment.