Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Moral Rights Debate

I know I’ve already said this before, but I think it bears repeating. After some serious soul searching, I made the decision to change both my outlook on and approach to my writing career.  I’m writing what I want, the way I want, for the readers who have already made it clear they like my style and my characters. Since making up my mind, I’ve never been happier.  I’ve rediscovered the joy of writing and am working harder than ever to produce the most polished product I can offer to my readers.

Though I never thought I was the only writer to make such a decision, I’ve recently found evidence other writers feel the same way I do which is not nearly as interesting as something else I stumbled across.  There are some writers who not only don’t seem to put a premium on their work but apparently feel scorn for those of us who do. And this isn’t something I’m theorizing about. It’s something I’ve witnessed firsthand in online writer’s forums.

While trolling one of my favorite forums last week, I came across a post from a long time writer in her mid-fifties who chose to withdraw from a rather prominent writing contest because she didn’t want to lose the moral rights to her story. Giving up those rights was one of the conditions of accepting the prize of publication. There are three basic components of moral rights: the right to have the author’s name attached to the work and not removed without her permission, the right to release that work anonymously if the author doesn’t want to be named and perhaps the most important of all is the right to maintain the integrity of the work. In other words, nothing is changed without the approval of the author. When the author in question found out the contest she had entered would expect her to give up her moral rights, she withdrew.   The author decided not to risk having her work changed beyond a point that she could live with and further decided she was happy continuing to self-publish.

The author’s decision to withdraw sparked a controversial debate in our forum. Some writers rallied behind her, with me being one of them. Some writers felt she was being too egotistical and that her refusal to relinquish those rights was as good as saying she was above being edited. Still other writers, the ones that disturbed me the most, felt she was making a mistake by missing out on her chance for mainstream publication. Those writers didn’t care how many changes were made to their work as long as they were awarded the prize money. In some circles, they’d be called sellouts.

The fact that one author’s decision inspired such a heated debate really had me scratching my head.  Quite frankly, who cares if she withdrew and what the reasons were? It’s her work and her right to manage it as she sees fit. To verbally attack her for doing so is both pointless and rude.  The author made a decision that she could live with and I for one commend her for it. 

The moral rights debate will always rage on, but at the end of the day, we all have to make choices we can live with. That author made hers. I’ve made mine, and I’m sticking to it.

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