How to assert your moral rights

Tracing copyright owners and asking permission.
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leafin
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How to assert your moral rights

Post by leafin » Sat Oct 29, 2011 2:59 pm

I used to work for an employer and developed certain (sophisticated) software. The contract stated that the Intellectual property belonged to the employer, however the contract stated that the moral rights of the employee would be respected "where asserted".

After I left that job, I wrote an email to my line manager expressing my desire to be named as an author if my work ever gets published in some form. My language was not-too-technical in that email and I did not use the words "moral rights" etc because (a) I thought it was a friendly email and (b) I was quite frankly unaware of the technicalities surrounding IP stuff.

Now they seem to be trying to publish my work without informing me (I found out by other means) and when I contacted them, they said I don't have much right to object to it because the IP belongs to them. I am not claiming the IP; I just want to be recognised as an author.

So my question is: does my earlier email to my line manager count as an assertion of my moral rights? Or is there any formal process to assert your moral rights?

Thanks.

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Sat Oct 29, 2011 9:22 pm

Hi Leafin,
Ordinarily I think your email would have been sufficient to assert your moral rights. The Copyright Designs and Patents Act says that asserting can be done "by instrument in writing signed by the author or director" - an instrument being a written document.
However, in this particular case you unfortunately do not have the basic right which is accorded to most other authors, because the work in question was a computer prgram, and because it was created in course of employment, as covered by Section 79 of the Act:
79 Exceptions to right.

(1) The right conferred by section 77 (right to be identified as author or director) is subject to the following exceptions.

(2) The right does not apply in relation to the following descriptions of work—

(a) a computer program;

(b) the design of a typeface;

(c) any computer-generated work.

(3) The right does not apply to anything done by or with the authority of the copyright owner where copyright in the work originally vested in the author’s or director’s employer by virtue of section 11(2) (works produced in the course of employment).
So on the basis that your former employer does not seem to be prepared to credit you out of goodwill, I'm afraid there's not much you can do.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

leafin
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Post by leafin » Sun Oct 30, 2011 3:41 pm

Hi AndyJ,

Many thanks for your quick reply.

Just to clarify, the computer program I developed was for scientific research purpose and I obtained a lot of results as part of that research. Now the current employees of that employer are trying to publish it all in a journal. It is this publication in which I am trying to seek a moral right, not over the original computer program.

Not sure if that makes a difference?

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Sun Oct 30, 2011 9:55 pm

Hi Leafin,
If you wrote up the article which the employer is trying to get published, then you would be classed as the author for copyright purposes (so for instance the term of copyright protection would be based on your lifetime plus 70 years), and as literary works are not affected by the exemption in section 79(2) which I quoted, that problem at least is removed. If the paper was written jointly with others, then you would all share authorship, and the copyright term would be based on the longest surviving author.
The bad news is that unfortunately the Section 79(3) exemption does still apply, so denying you the moral right to a credit for something done in the course of employment. That said, it is fairly common practice, especially in academic and quasi-academic (eg industrial scientific work) circles to allow authors of papers to be credited even though their employer as owner of the copyright, has the right in law not grant this. It is something which a well-drafted contract of employment can specify, one way or the other.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

leafin
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Post by leafin » Sat Nov 05, 2011 12:04 am

Okay, many thanks for your reply. Your help much appreciated.

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