Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



The 1976 Copyright Act (the 1976 Act) embodies the most extensive reforms in the history of our nation's copyright laws. One proposed reform that is noticeably absent from the statutory scheme, however, is the explicit adoption of protections for the personal rights of creators with respect to their works. Instead,the 1976 Act continues this country's tradition of safeguarding only the pecuniary rights of a copyright owner. By assuring the copyright owner the exclusive rights to reproduce and distribute the original work, to prepare derivative works, and to perform and display publicly certain types of copyrighted works, the 1976 Act focuses on the inherent economic value of a copyright. Consequently, the primary objective of our copyright law is to ensure the copyright owner's receipt of all financial rewards to which he is entitled, under the 1976 Act, by virtue of ownership.

Because copyright law protects works that are the product of the creator's mind, heart, and soul, a degree of protection in addition to that which guarantees financial returns is warranted. The 1976 Act does not purport to protect the creator, but rather the copyright owner. Nevertheless, a creator, regardless of whether he holds the copyright in his work, has a personal interest in preserving the artistic integrity of his work and compelling recognition for his authorship. In many European and Third World nations personal rights are protected by a legal doctrine commonly known as the moral right.' In this country courts wishing to recognize a creator's personality interests are forced to rely upon other established legal theories such as unfair competition law, contract law, defamation, invasion of privacy, and even copyright law" to redress grievances implicating moral rights.