In France, le droit moral, the moral right, provides legal protection for the non-economic interests of writers, visual artists, and performing artists. The received wisdom is that le droit moral developed from the work of German philosophers like Kant and Hegel, as well as many French theorists. In this article, however, I argue that these rights developed in France long before German philosophers and French scholars articulated the theoretical underpinnings.
This article identifies the origins of le droit moral in the history of French intellectual property law. It reports on such disparate influences as Cicero’s complaints against his publisher, a 1504 Parisian court decision finding for a writer against an unauthorized printer, and the detailed regulations imposed on the playwrights of the Comédie Française during the ancient regime. Although le droit moral was not included in the core copyright statutes forged during the French Revolution, court decisions in the next decades protected le droit moral in matter-of-fact language. I submit that the sensibility to protect these rights was already developed in the culture of France, thanks to its eighteenth century dramatists.For a contemporary view readers should turn to works such as Maree Sainsbury's study of the Australian statute and the 1177 page Moral Rights (London: Sweet & Maxwell 2010) edited by Gillian Davies & Kevin Garnett