“Author’s Rights” is an expression describing the legally enforceable rights granted by copyright laws to authors. These rights are designed to protect the author’s relationship with their work and to allow them to authorise or prohibit its use.
The existence of these rights is in line with Article 27-2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as published by the United Nations in 1948. This states: “Everyone has the right to the protection of moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the Author.”
How do author’s rights come into existence?
There is a common misconception that to acquire the author’s rights in a work, the author has to make some formal application in the same way that an application is made to patent an invention or to register a trademark. That is simply not the case with author’s rights.
There are no formalities required to obtain author’s rights. But there is one fundamental point that must always be remembered: author’s rights apply to the expression of an idea, not to the idea itself. When Beethoven heard his symphonies in his head they were simply ideas. It was only when he transcribed these ideas onto the manuscript paper that they qualified for author’s rights (if such things had existed in his day).
Additionally, the work, as expression, is not subject to any test of artistic merit – which means a telephone directory or a set of instructions to turn on a television can have author’s rights. All that matters is that the expression which constitutes the work is original.
As the CISAC Charter of the Author's Right stated in 1956: "The author's right is based upon the act of creation itself".