The Digital Media Project


Philip Merrill


TRU #24 Right for the author's work not to be tampered with (integrity)





Philip Merrill

Affiliation/additional information:

Active Contributor, Pasadena, California

Date submitted:







Name of TRU

Right for the author's work not to be tampered with (integrity)


Summary description of TRU

Right for the creator of a literary or artistic work to object to unreasonable modifications that distort or mutilate the work or otherwise present their work in a manner harmful to their reputation.


Use records of TRU

The prevailing, guiding principle that the creator of a work should be able to control having their work presented as originally intended falls victim to a host of complicating details. Creators are understandably sensitive about not having their work tampered with or modified without their approval, however middlemen and even end-users have compelling instances for which revision might be justified. There is also an important distinction to be made between works in the original as published and the various types of end-user modifications that can alter the original but are not intended for publication or distribution. For example, Mr. Schultz has pointed out "the difference between tampering with a file and claiming it is original and 'tampering' with a file for personal use or derivation purposes."

For middlemen, a countervailing TRU is reasonable modification, which certainly applies to minor issues such as punctuation or correcting misspelled words. On the other hand, middlemen could seek to take liberties such as changing characters' names and deleting or adding scenes or prose passages. Examples could include sexiness, political controvery or the use of vulgar language, and these might be either added or deleted for marketing pusposes, particularly when cross-cultural sensibilities are involved.

Although the U.S. resistance to moral rights can seem puzzling, it seems a likely speculation that the combination of paternity and integrity offer opportunities for creators to act like demanding prima donnas, regardless of what economic contracts say. This can include advocating integrity rights in combination with paternity by threatening, "If you do that, then you have to take my name off it" when the author's name is what gives a specific work its anticipated market value. For example, many a book author has objected to movie adaptations made from their books (e.g., Tom Clancy) by protesting that the filmmakers should have stuck to their book's plot and events more closely, and many a film director has objected to shortened versions demanded by film studios (e.g., Sergio Leone). Writers are also notorious for wanting deadlines extended, time for additional revision, or having unusual ideas of how to write such as fussing over commas. It has been said by many a businessman that without deadlines, creative types might simply never get things finished. Then if a work is a success, there is often a market for revisions and these in turn can entail a variety of complications.

Visual artists may also have unique quality-of-reproduction issues, for example concerns about accurate reproduction of colors.

In spite of the many excuses that can be made on behalf of those who habitually modify work as value players in the content-chain connecting creator with end-user, there are also compelling arguments to be made on the creator's behalf, since they are the source of the material to be presented. For example, American humorist James Thurber has related many stories in which his well-meaning and competent editors at The New Yorker magazine tried to mangle his prose in order to make it more acceptable. There is certainly a line that should not be crossed without the creator's consent, regardless of how difficult it might be to draw such a line for each individual work and proposed change. A well-known U.S. court case that was resolved on the economic issue of reputation - since moral rights do not apply in the U.S. except for certain visual arts - involved the work of Monty Python's Terry Gilliam, who successfully objected to commercially oriented edits made by ABC to condense his material for television broadcast (ref. Goldstein International Copyright Sec.


Nature of TRU

Legally supported. See also 59. TRU moral rights, with respect to the nature of moral rights generally.

Treaty landmarks include addition of paternity and integrity to Berne in 1928 Rome Act with Article 6bis according to Goldstein's International Copyright Sec. 2.I.2.I, and note mention of droit moral in 1928 Article 11bis. Also of note is Article 5 of the 1996 Geneva WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty. At Sec. 2.2.3, Goldstein says, "This is the first time moral rights have been prescribed for performers in an international agreement." A notable law case was decided 1991 by the Court of Cassation in France regarding movie colorization (Goldstein Sec., interpreting moral rights being "inalienable" as providing authors from foreign countries with full access to the French court system to assert these rights (at a minimum, inside France).

Before discussing the Oscar Wilde case (described more fully at TRU reputation), Sec. 5.4.I.I.ii of Goldstein says, "The economic right of adaptation will sometimes overlap the moral right of integrity which similarly empowers authors to control changes in their work." Note that many kinds of derivative work or "spin-offs" are possible but these largely don't impinge on TRU integrity unless they have author consent, that is to say the Right-holder exercising their TRU adaptation.


Benefits of TRU

Benefits Right-holders. Constrains the permissible behavior of Middle-men.


Possible digital support

The absolutist nature of moral rights lends itself to an information technology approach being as it embodies easily distinguished factual information that can be stored and provided readily through both a server system and databases protected by some sort of trusted digital repository (TDR, ref. RLG/OCLC report).

Integrity presents a number of unique challenges. Especially obvious is bit-accuracy either after transmission or confirmed as "going well" at the consumer-receiver device (or at least not going badly enough for a user to "sound the alarm" and complain). Arguably, provisioning is impossible without some easy way for the customer to report whether service is satisfactory or poor.

Several integrity concerns are connected to both TRU reputation and TRU that sales displays will follow acceptable practice. This would not be too difficult to arrange within some support-alternatives for "Integrity" provisioning.



DMP shall support the right for the author's work not to be tampered with (integrity)

DMP shall support specifications for End-users to signal content-providers as to whether the final rendering, of whatever data transmission is agreed to, is well-received and functioning as intended, conversely End-users shall be enabled to interactively communicate - to a service provider including a content service provider - in order to indicate when reception is garbled or unusable.

DMP shall support the ability for End-users to signal or communicate dissatisfaction with content, preserving a measurement of the exact moment of the objection as well as content source material being objected to, including the ability to downgrade the rating of a creator's reputation (a virtual "shame on you").

DMP shall support the specification for delivery of display criteria such as would be suitable to ensure that a promotional campaign remained branded within certain acceptable limits, for example minimum size of display, acceptable range of prescribed colors, authorised descriptions and other strings of prose.

8. References