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10:34am on Friday, 11th October, 2013:



When I signed up for the university's "listen again" facility recently, I did something that the people who put it together apparently hadn't considered: I read what I was agreeing to. It was generally fine, except for a reference to waiving my moral rights to my performance.

Unluckily for the Listen Again people, I know a little about moral rights, having looked at them in the context of MMOs as performance play. There was a helpful comments box at the end of the form, so in it I wrote:

"I do not agree to waive all moral rights in my performance. I wish to exercise the right to be identified as the author of the work and I wish to reserve the right to object to derogatory treatment. I am alarmed that you would require us to waive these rights."

I didn't expect my comment would be read, but I turns out I wasn't the only person to object. This is what comes of having a university with a Law department specialising in Human Rights. The clause has now been removed, and replaced with one to the effect that if we find our work has been misattributed, we should complain and they'll change it.

Here's the part of their email where they explain why they had the clause there in the first place:

"The Listen Again agreement asked staff who permitted their lectures to be recorded to waive their "moral rights" in the performance of their lectures. This was intended to cover the situation where the publicly available version of the lecture was accidentally misattributed (which may occasionally happen if there is a difference between the timetable information and the actual event - e.g. where a Lecturer was originally scheduled to be delivered by Dr. X but is instead delivered by Prof. Y). It has never been the University's intention to make lectures available without attribution, and every effort will be made to make sure that attribution is correct."

That all sounds reasonable, but the powers they wanted were far in excess of what they needed them to do. This is so often the case these days with rules and regulations — and especially laws. Laws created specifically to target terrorists are used to catch people parking their car badly, or to freeze the assets of a country suffering a banking collapse.

It's all well and good when the people who frame the rules have good intentions, but they won't always be the people who apply those rules...

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Copyright © 2013 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).