Wikipedia:Moral rights

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Like other aspects of copyright law, Wikipedia recognizes the legal and philosophical basis of the moral rights of creators with respect to creative and artistic works. Wikipedia's article on moral rights explains:

Sources of authority[edit]

Moral rights are set forth in Article 6bis of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, to which most countries in the world (including the United States) are signatories. The Berne Convention states:

In the United States, moral rights are also protected, with respect to certain visual artworks, by the Visual Artists Rights Act.[2]

In general[edit]

The moral rights of an author include the author's right to control first publication or presentation of a work; the author's right to be attributed or to remain anonymous; the author's right for the work to be published or presented without distortion or mutilation. As with copyright, moral rights apply to creative expression but not to mere facts. Editors must respect moral rights to ensure that Wikipedia content can be reused as widely as possible. Some editors also feel strongly that this is the right thing to do.

Written works[edit]

One means by which moral rights may be violated is in the close paraphrasing of an author's written work. Wikipedia editors must not use unpublished work in any way. With published work, editors should attribute each source to the author where the publication names the author, and attribute the source to the publication if it does not name the author. It is sometimes relevant for an article to include a short quotation such as a significant statement made by the subject of the article or a notable comment about the subject. In these cases a verbatim quotation should be given rather than a paraphrase. Quotations should be used very sparingly and must be clearly identified and formatted as defined in MOS:QUOTE.

Visual arts[edit]

Michael Snow's swan sculptures, held by the courts to be protected by his moral rights.

Wikipedia editors should not portray visual works such as paintings or sculptures in ways that distort or misrepresent the actual appearance of the work, unless such a portrayal is for the purposes of demonstrating a notable and reliably referenced distortion or misrepresentation of the work itself. For example, in the noted Canadian case of Snow v. The Eaton Centre Ltd., artist Michael Snow created a sculpture of flying geese to be displayed in the Toronto Eaton Centre. When the Centre later decided to decorate the geese by tying red ribbons around their necks, Snow successfully asserted his moral rights to the presentation of his work in a lawsuit to prevent this activity. It would not be permissible for a Wikipedia editor to show images of the geese with ribbons on their necks, and represent this as the intended appearance of the work; however, it would be appropriate to show such an image as an example of the conduct that was found to violate the artist's moral rights.

Titles of works[edit]

It is the right of the author to determine the title of his or her creative works, including in the use of unusual typographical conventions - for example, the author's decision to title a song "Nothing Compares 2 U", rather than "Nothing Compares To You". Where it is not unduly technically burdensome, and where at least some reliable sources have used the author's preferred typographical conventions, Wikipedia should respect titles of works as selected by their authors.

Note that although Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Trademarks requires the use of standard capitalization and other spelling conventions in widespread use for names of products, this convention only applies to trademarks; it is legally well-established that titles of works are not trademarks, even though the title of a work can also become a trademark. Whereas a trademark owner has no legal cause of action against a third party who ignores the trademark owner's typographical conventions when discussing the product in a non-commercial venue, it is conceivable that an author of a creative work would have a legal cause of action in such a situation.


  1. ^ Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, September 9, 1886, art. 6bis, S. Treaty Doc. No. 27, 99th Cong., 2d Sess. 41 (1986).
  2. ^ Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA), 17 U.S.C. § 106A.