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12. What are moral rights?

Moral rights are concerned with protecting the personality and reputation of authors, as opposed to the economic rights of the copyright owners. As such, moral rights are inalienable from the author and cannot be assigned to other persons (see section 105 of the Copyright Ordinance). In Hong Kong , moral rights are conferred on two types of authors: (i) authors of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works (examples of these works can be obtained from the previous page); and (ii) directors of films. Their moral rights under the Copyright Ordinance are as follows.


  • The right to be identified as the author of the work or director of the film in certain circumstances (see section 89 of the Copyright Ordinance).
  • The right in certain circumstances to object to derogatory treatment of the work or film which amounts to a distortion or mutilation or is otherwise prejudicial to the honour or reputation of the author or director (see section 92 of the Copyright Ordinance).

In addition, any person has the right in certain circumstances not to have a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work falsely attributed to him as author, and not to have a film falsely attributed to him as director (see section 96 of the Copyright Ordinance).


The above rights are, however, subject to certain conditions and exceptions (see sections 909193 and 94 of the Copyright Ordinance). While moral rights are not assignable, any of them can be waived by the right-holder (see section 98 of the Copyright Ordinance).


Infringement of moral rights can be treated as a breach of statutory duty owned to the person entitled to the right (i.e. the author of a work, the director of a film, or the person to whom a work is falsely attributed). Such infringement incurs civil liability and thus the infringer may be sued by the right-holder.