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In recent years the United States has followed other common-law jurisdictions, as well as most of the civil-law jurisdictions of western Europe, in adopting legislation recognizing artists' "moral rights." While there has been extensive debate about that legislation, to date there has been little effort at sustained analysis, from an economic point of view, of the functions that moral rights might perform. This article offers such an analysis, arguing that moral rights doctrine serves, among other purposes, to control reputational externalities to the potential benefit, not just of the individual artist, but of other owners of the artist's work and of the public at large. The article also discusses the importance of copyright doctrine in performing a similar role and explores the merits of supplementing or replacing moral rights doctrine with a broader and more flexible system of display rights for visual artists.
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