Artist’s Moral Right to Correct Attribution
In 1886, representatives of the world’s nations met in Bern, Switzerland, to establish artistic and legal guidelines which led to copyright laws throughout the world. In addition to protecting artists economically through copyright, the Bern Convention recognized that artists’ work extends beyond the material:
“art works [are] … almost literal extensions of the artist’s soul or creative being; since the artist’s personality is embodied in the products of his or her labor, to attack or misrepresent the work is, in effect, to attack or slander a person (hence the term moral rights).
Moral Right to Correct Attribution
Recognizing this extension of artists’ souls and personality into their work, the delegates at the Berne Convention also established moral rights for artists. Included in these is the Moral Right to Correct Attribution, or the right to be known as the creator of the work (and, correspondingly, the right of non-attribution or disavowal of the work).
France was the first to enact laws protecting the moral rights of artists early in the last century. By 1989, 78 countries had passed laws protecting the moral rights of visual artists.
The Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA)
In 1990 the United States, after 104 years of debate, became the 79th country to pass such a law: The Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA). Included in American law are the rights of attribution and integrity.
1. Patricia Failing, “Artists Moral Rights in the United States before VARA/1990: An Introduction,” The Committee on Intellectual Property of the College Art Association, Beyond Copyright: Do Artists Have Rights? A panel discussion of the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA)), February 2002, 1.
2. Richard Solomon, “Moral Rights and Murals,” Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles, published originally in the MCLA Newsletter, v. 6, ns. 3,4, 1995, reproduced on http://www.lamurals.org/MCLATechnical/Solomon1.html, accessed September 2003