Moral Rights and New Technologies: Creativity and Authorship in a Digital World

Published on: Author: Ruth O'Donnell Leave a comment

Professor Mira T. Sundara Rajan recently hosted an innovative conference on Moral Rights and New Technologies: Creativity and Authorship in a Digital World, held at the University of Glasgow’s Gilbert Scott Conference Suite on 31 March and 1 April. The conference grew out of discussions between Professor Sundara Rajan and members of the United States Copyright Office, which has been leading a study of moral rights over the past several months (https://www.copyright.gov/policy/moralrights/), who proposed to come to the UK to hear about international approaches to moral rights at a time when the U.S. is exploring policy development in this area. Speakers included Ms. Kim Isbell of the U.S. Copyright Office, keynote speaker Mr. Justice Arnold of the UK High Court, Mr. Ludovic Julié of the French Ministry of Culture, and a number of prominent artists and musicians. The conference also enjoyed the support of the French Embassy in Washington DC and the participation of the Musée Rodin in Paris.

Moral rights are an aspect of copyright law that offers legal protection to an author’s non-commercial interests – the right to attribution as the creator of his or her own work, as well as a right to respect for the integrity of the work. They are included in most copyright laws of the world, though their protection in the United States is limited. They have the dual function of personal rights benefiting the author, and cultural rights that serve the public interest in the preservation of cultural heritage and historical truth.

The Glasgow conference offered a unique wealth of interdisciplinary and international perspectives on law and the arts. The final program featured more than twenty prominent speakers, representing a dozen countries including India, the United States, and Canada, as well as Western and Eastern Europe, and bringing together leading legal academics, intellectual property practitioners, and representatives of Silicon Valley. In a creative twist, the conference integrated musical and audio-visual performances into the program, including a session on “The Art of Listening” led by eminent sound producer Martha de Francisco, bringing extraordinary practical insight and hands-on experience to the discussions of intellectual property law, practice, and policy.

The conference opened with a presentation by Ms. Kim Isbell of the United States Copyright Office, on its current program of work related to moral rights. The keynote speech was subsequently delivered by Mr. Justice Richard Arnold of the UK High Court, who spoke on UK moral rights and the status of pseudonymous authorship under UK and international laws – a topic inspired by the unmasking of author Elena Ferrante (https://www.theatlantic.com/newsletters/sign-up/daily/?utm_source=ws640q3 ). The group brought to light the amazing diversity of international approaches to moral rights, particularly in view of international norms that should help to unify the treatment of this area in different jurisdictions. It then went on to consider the relevance of this individualistic and culturally oriented area of the law for new technologies, including artificial intelligence, text and data mining, and 3D printing.

A special highlight of the program was the excellent presentations of two alumni of the IP LL.M. program at Glasgow Law School, Mr. Florian De Rouck and Mr. Johannes Grossekettler. They helped to represent the “next generation” of excellence in IP law at the event.

The conference website is still under construction, but it can be viewed here: http://professormira.com/moral-rights/

Please check back as more information becomes available to post!

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