Lessig on moral rights

There is an interesting argument between the BBC’s Bill Thompson and Lessig. Thompson recently wrote a thoughtful paper about the great copyright debate, which amongst other things, criticised the lack of thought that Creative Commons has had regarding moral rights. Lessig has replied that moral rights are really important, but that CC licences do not deal with them and leave each jurisdiction to handle them as they may. Lessig says:

So yes, Creative Commons will not, at least in some jurisdictions, deal with moral rights. Nor will it cure cancer or end poverty. But if it is unclear to anyone, let’s be clear about it: We don’t therefore not “care” about cancer or poverty. We don’t therefore “dismiss” those problems. We just understand — as everyone should — that the tools we’re spreading can only do so much.

This is a false analogy, as cancer and poverty have nothing to do with copyright, but moral rights are an integral part of copyright in many jurisdictions. Therefore, dealing with moral rights is going to be integral to any adequate copyright-related licence. I can see why CC licences prefer not to deal with moral rights, as they are often seen to be directly in clash with many of the adaptation and derivative rights awarded in such documents. Bill Thompson argues that he may want to object Nazi groups from using his work, and this is where moral rights would be useful. I tend to agree with him, but I have also expressed elsewhere that the philosophy behind open source, free software and CC licences is to allow modifications of the work, and moral rights may be against those stated goals.

Nevertheless, it is nice to see that this issue is being taken seriously, and that people are willing to engage in some debate about the subject of moral rights.

Leave a Reply