Moral Rights are Neither Held nor Perpetual · Wednesday August 01, 2012 by Crosbie Fitch
Having seen others Pondering Perpetual Moral Rights I suspect that discovering natural rights can be a shock to those brought up on a diet of privileges (legislatively created rights). One such privilege, copyright, is the natural right to copy, annulled in the majority (1709), to be left, by exclusion, in the hands of a few – hence why we have ‘copyright holders’ and not ‘right to life holders’. See Paine’s Rights of Man.
Moral rights derive from natural law, and so are not the privileges tendentiously misnamed as rights, though their legislative recognition often enhances/corrupts them with proprietary/unnatural aspects.
Given that we’re endowed by our creator with rights (nature → natural) and these are inherent and so a priori inalienable (as one’s shadow) then it should not be surprising that they are not transferable as privileges, nor do they exist separately from the human being endowed with them.
Governments are instituted among men to recognise and secure our rights, not to create privileges (by necessarily annulling the respective right in the majority). See The Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies.
So, authorship is a fact and perpetual. Misrepresenting authorship is a deceit and a violation of each audience members’ right to truth (from our natural/vital ability to apprehend the truth of our senses). The perpetuality of authorship does not arise because law or lawyers claim the author’s moral right is perpetual. Shakespeare is dead and has no right to be violated, but this doesn’t change the truth of who authored his works, nor does it make it open season for others to claim authorship. If one claims to have authored Macbeth one deceives one’s audience. It is not up to Shakespeare’s ghost to sue the fraudster per his ‘moral right’, but up to the government to secure the audience’s right to truth – to provide them with remedies against fraud.
As to divulgation, while an author has a natural right to privacy, to exclude others from their writings, they have no right to gag those to whom they confide their writings. Confidentiality is a matter of trust, not the power to alienate another from their liberty to disclose that which they have been entrusted not to (nor a legally granted power to punish them for their liberty). Obviously, at the natural end of the author’s life, so ends their natural right to privacy. However, those who inherit their belongings have their own privacy, so cannot be forced to disclose what they have inherited.
When you understand natural rights, you can then more easily understand where legislation strays from the path of securing rights to the granting of privileges, and where confusion inevitably arises.
A lot of confusion could be avoided if privileges weren’t pretended to be rights, but then that rather undermines the need to persuade the public that privileges are good things.