Moral Rights of An Author under Copyrights Act by Shikha at LexCliq

Copyright refers to a bundle of rights which are vested in the owner of copyright which are exclusively granted to him/her by virtue of Section 14 of the Copyright Act, 1957. These rights are to be exercised only by the owner of such copyright. A  person who is duly authorized  by way of license or assignment, by the owner of copyright can also enjoy such rights. These bundles of rights are provided under section 14 (a) to (e). These rights include the right of reproduction, right of adaptation, right of publication, right to communication to public etc.

Along with these economic rights provided in sec 14, copyrights also includes moral rights which is the special rights of the author by virtue of section 57 of Copyright Act, 1957. Author’s special right includes the right to paternity and right to  integrity. Section 57 says  that moral rights are not Transferable right as copyright and even after assignment where the right to ownership is transferred by the author on the  other person  this right to integrity and right to get energy remains with the author itself.

Right to Paternity is given under section 57  (1)  (a) which says that the author of a work can claim  the authorship of the world and have it attributed to him. It is a right to be acknowledged as the author of a work. Right to integrity  is given under section 57 (1 ) (b). This right restrain others from or claim damages in respect of any distortion, mutilation, modification or other act in relation to the said work if such act would be prejudicial to his reputation. Moreover, failure to display a what all to display it to satisfaction for the authors  share not be violation of this right to integrity. This  moral right of the author can also be recognized by their legal representatives

Two of the most important cases related to  moral right in India are:

Mannu Bhandari v. Kala Vikas pictures Limited[1]

It is a landmark case in the field of copyright law in India. It is the first case where Indian higher court has addressed the breadth and scope of moral rights under Indian copyright law.

Facts of the case are that the plaintiff was a well-known Hindi novelist. The defendant made the film Samay Ki Dhara, which was based on plaintiff’s novel Aap Ka Bunty. Despite the fact that the movie was made with the plaintiff’s permission, the plaintiff was dissatisfied with how her work was treated throughout the adaptation of the novel into a film. The plaintiff believed that allowing the distorted version of her novel to be shown in the movie would ruin her reputation. As a result, the plaintiff requested a permanent injunction prohibiting the film’s showing and exhibition.

The following key points were clarified by the court in this case –

  • Section 57 of the Copyright Act, 1957, which deals with moral rights protection in India, raises the author’s status beyond the material gains of copyright and gives it a special status.
  • Even in circumstances when a film is made based on the author’s novel, a restriction order in the type of an injunction can be issued.
  • Language of section 57 is broad in scope and cannot be limited to merely “literary” expression. The visuals and audio expression are both covered directly under the section.
  • The fact that the remedies of a restraint order or damages can be claimed “even after the assignment either wholly or partially of the said copyright” emphasizes the special protection given to authors under Indian copyright law.
  • Section 57 thus clearly overrides the terms of the copyright assignment contract.
  • Modifications that are acceptable are those that do not convert the film into an altogether new version from the original novel, as stated in section 57 of the contract.
  • The modifications should not distort or mutilate the original work.

The court ordered the defendant in this instance to make specific changes and deletions to the movie before screening it after carefully considering the facts of the case. The court did not enforce its findings because the parties had reached an agreement before the verdict was issued.

Amarnath Sehgal vs Union of India[2]

It is a significant Indian judgment decided by the Delhi High Court, which upheld an author’s moral right under the Indian Copyright Act for the first time and awarded damages.

The facts of the case are that plaintiff is a well-known sculptor and artist. The Indian government commissioned him in year 1957, to create a bronze mural to be kept on the lobby wall of Vigyan Bhavan. This embellishment of a national structure became a part of Indian art heritage. However, in 1979, the mural was pulled down and kept in to the storeroom without the plaintiff’s knowledge or consent. He made representations to the government authorities for the same but there was no result. He filed a suit in the Delhi High Court under Section 57 of the Copyright Act, 1957, seeking an apology from the defendants, a permanent injunction prohibiting the defendants from distorting, mutilating, or ruining the plaintiff’s mural, and damages of Rs. 50 lakhs.

Court said that even though the defendants own the copyright on the painting, the Court found that the plaintiff had a cause of action under Section 57 of the Copyright Act, 1957. The defendants also infringed the plaintiff’s moral right to integrity in the mural, as well as the integrity of the work in respect to the nation’s cultural heritage. The Court ordered the defendants to permanently return the mural remnants to the plaintiff, with no rights vesting in the defendants going forward, and to pay damages and costs.

Difference between economic right and moral right

  • Economic right is associated  with both the author and the owner of the copyright but Moral rights are the special rights of the author.
  • Economic right are transferable but the moral rights are not transferable.
  • When assignment of are rights given under section 14 of copyright act is made, then the ownership of that right is transferred to the assignee but in case of moral rights even when assignment is made the right is not transferred and is retained with the author itself.


[1] AIR 1987 Delhi 13

[2] 117 (2005) DLT 717

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