The moral rights of a work does not refer to the ethics of the author(s). Rather, this bundle of rights derives from the French term droit moral and refers to the right of the author to exercise control over his/her work. Whereas copyright may be transferred and lasts beyond the life of the author, moral rights reside with the author until the author's death.
In the US, moral rights vest only in visual arts and can be found at 17 U.S.C. §106A (also known as the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990). Sculptures and paintings are common examples of objects in which moral rights would attach.
Moral rights give an author the ability to protect his or her work from alteration, degradation or distortion, regardless of the owner of the particular work. The Visual Artists Rights Act also allows the artist to control how a work is associated or perceived to prevent distortion of the work and possibly tarnish the artist's reputation.
For more information about moral rights, see Moral Rights Basics.