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Overview of  Moral Rights for Computer Programs

According to the Copyright Act, moral rights are, as a rule, inalienable. Moral rights are firmly attached to the author's person and to the protection of the work's original nature, and therefore the author cannot bindingly waive them even by agreement. Moral rights remain with the programmer of a computer program even if his copyright is transferred to the employer. However, the Copyright Act allows waiving moral rights in relation to the use of a work that is limited in scope and nature [1]. Therefore the programmer can bindingly waive his moral rights if the way the program is used and the context it is used in are clearly defined. Moral rights to computer programs are not protected everywhere. For example, in the United Kingdom and the United States, computer programs are not subject to the protection of name and integrity [2].

In the following, the two main parts, the right to attribution and the right to integrity of the work, which the moral rights comprise of, are illustrated in relation to the author of a computer program.


4.1 Right to Attribution

The names of the author's are listed in the computer software Photoshop


Copyright protects the author's name. According to the so-called right to attribution, the author's name should be acknowledged, in accordance with proper usage, when the work is reproduced or made fully or partially available to the public. [3] Thus, the name of the computer program's author must be acknowledged in accordance with the principle of proper usage when copying the program or distributing it to the public. This protection is not absolute and depends on the prevailing practices in each industry [4]. Thus, proper usage does not always require acknowledging the author's name. For example, software produced by large software companies usually cites the company's name only. On the other hand, the prevailing practice in universities is that acknowledging the author's name is part of proper usage.


4.2 Right to Integrity of the Work

Copyright also protects the author from infringing alteration of the work. According to the so-called right to the integrity of the work, the work may not be altered in a manner that would infringe on the author's literary or artistic integrity. As a rule, computer programs are also protected from infringing alterations. However, according to the legislative history of the Act, alteration of a computer program is very seldom considered infringing. [5]

Notes and References

[1] Copyright Act § 3.3

[2] Välimäki (2009): Oikeudet tietokoneohjelmistoihin, Talentum, Helsinki

[3] Copyright Act

[4] Haarmann (2005): Tekijänoikeus ja lähioikeudet, Talentum, Helsinki.

[5] KM 1987:84.