The Digital Media Project


Philip Merrill


TRU #45 Right of first publication/disclosure





Philip Merrill

Affiliation/additional information:

Active Contributor, Pasadena, California

Date submitted:







Name of TRU

Right of first publication/disclosure


Summary description of TRU

Right for the creator to control the manner in which their work is initially released or divulged to the public, including economic rights as well as a moral right recognised under several legal systems.


Use records of TRU

As a moral right, this includes divulgation (as in, to divulge or disclose) or publication of that which has not been previously offered to the public. For creators with a very good reputation, working drafts of many kinds have value which third parties could seek to publish whether because of their economic value or just to satisfy popular curiosity. While cases dealing with this often relate to economic factors, it is good to consider this in the abstract respecting privacy or the need of creators to show drafts or sketches to a select group in order to solicit their reactions. As a threshhold issue in moral rights, this line between 'backstage' and 'on-stage' is very important to the creative process.

Because national systems of copyright protection habitually deal with works that are published at a certain place (or places) and time (or times) and then might qualify for the exclusive legal right in certain countries for certain amounts of time (which can vary for different places), the time and place of first publication/disclosure can be a critical "point of attachment" in order to calculate where and for how long a work will be protected. Within the Berne Union there has been some effort not to let such requirements be unduly difficult or technical, however the 'where' and 'when' still matter. For example, before the United States joined the Berne Union, simultaneous publication in both the U.S. as well as a Berne member nation was required in order to qualify for convention-level protection within Berne nations; publication within 30 days satisfied this requirement of being "simultaneous" and was commonly referred to as the "back door to Berne". Also, under neighboring rights treaties and various other legal fact situations, there can be a multitude of issues regarding which law (or revision of a statute) to apply including which country's legal protection rules to apply, and such questions can be decided based on the time(s) and place(s) of first publication. There are circumstances under which applying a (somewhat timeless and universal) moral right can be refreshingly simple in contrast with determining what laws apply based on first publication.


Nature of TRU

Legally supported in a variety of forms, both moral and economic. See also 59. TRU moral rights, with respect to the nature of moral rights generally.

The moral right of disclosure is explicitly extended to all authors in France's IP Code Art. I, I2I-2 (link to statute) which states "The author alone shall have the right to divulge his work" and by Germany's Copyright Act Article 12 (link to statute).

In International Copyright, Goldstein observes that while Berne does not explicitly grant disclosure as a moral right in 6bis, it "partially secures the right" by confining exemptions such as 10 and 10bis to published works (ref. Sec. He also observes that it is "[i]mplicit in the economic rights of reproduction, public performance, and distribution" (same cite) for example 17 U.S.C. Sec. 106(3) (link to statute). He also suggests that the U.S. Sec. 202 provision that transfer of a material object does not convey "rights in the copyrighted work embodied in the object" supports this TRU (link to statute).

Article 3 of Berne contains several interesting references to TRU first publication (link to treaty language), particularly insofar as first publication in a Union country activates the treaty's protection. Goldstein observes (ref. Sec. 4.I.I.I.B.ii) that Article 3(3) is supportive of this TRU by virtue of what does not qualify as publication, particularly ephemeral and unauthorised copies of a work. It must be noted about 3(3), however, that it requires "the availability of such copies ... as to satisfy the reasonable requirements of the public, having regard to the nature of the work." (The nature of movies was considered an exception back before multiple, individually owned copies were technologically feasible.)


Benefits of TRU

Benefits Right-holders. Constrains other Right-holders and End-users, particularly restricting informatory news and TRU to quote.


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).



DMP shall support the right of first publication/disclosure

Note the Heidelberg RQs support most of what's needed for this, except for whatever interface is required to communicate with a moral rights database server.