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Copyright Office Asking Artists for Input on Moral Rights

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on March 08, 2017 12:57 PM

Did some kid use an app to morph your selfie into a picture of you with dog ears?

Or did someone snag your profile picture and post it somewhere that you would rather not see?

Maybe these questions are funny, but the U.S. Copyright Office seriously wants to know what is happening to your photos. The Copyright Office is seeking comment from the public about how to better protect photos and other arts from unlawful exploitation.

Moral Rights

In a notice released in January, the Copyright Office invited public comment about moral rights of attribution and integrity, which are non-economic rights that are considered personal to an author. It has set a deadline for comments to be submitted by March 30, 2017.

In particular, the government wants to know whether to change laws enacted in 17 U.S. Code § 106A. This includes the right to have credit for original work and to preserve a work in its original form.

Among other questions, the notice asks:

  • Would stronger protections for either the right of attribution or the right of integrity implicate the First Amendment?
  • If a more explicit provision on moral rights were to be added to the Copyright Act, what exceptions or limitations should be considered?
  • How does, or could, technology be used to address, facilitate, or resolve challenges and problems faced by authors who want to protect the attribution and integrity of their works?

The office sent out the notice after holding public hearings last year. Participants included authors, artists, musicians, and performers, who discussed the importance that copyright law -- and specifically attribution -- plays in supporting their work. A photographer, for example, said attribution is critical because others can easily copy and spread photos across the internet without attribution.

Image Theft is Common

Digital Trends, a technology and news ezine, said image theft is a common occurrence and urged artists to voice their concerns for the Copyright Office study.

"The study is looking specifically at non-economic 'moral rights,' or the idea that copyright should also protect personal factors and the artist's reputation and not just any monetary loss," the company said. "The list of moral rights also includes the right to be credited when a photograph is used."

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