What is Copyright?

Copyright is the legal term, which describes the rights given to authors/creators of certain categories of work. Copyright applies to all sorts of written and recorded materials from software and the internet to drawings, photography, films and music.
Copyright protection extends to the following works

·         original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works

·         sound recordings, films

·         broadcasts, cable programmes

·         the typographical arrangement of published editions

·         computer programmes

·         original databases

How do I register my Copyright?

In Ireland, there is no registration procedure for owners of a copyright work. The act of creating a work also creates copyright. It is important that the originator of the work can show subsequently when the work and consequential copyright were created. There are two ways of doing this:

  • Deposit a copy of the work with an acknowledged representative (who may be a bank or solicitor) in such a way as to allow the date and time of the deposit to be recorded or notarised.
  • Send a copy of the work to oneself by registered post (ensuring a clear date stamp on the envelope), retaining the original receipt of posting and leaving the envelope containing the copyright work unopened thus establishing that the work existed at that date and time.

How long does Copyright last?

The Copyright protection for literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works expires 70 years after the death of the author/creator. If the copyright is still in force it would be necessary to get the permission of the owner of the copyright to reproduce the work no matter what language it is in.

It should be noted that the duration of copyright in Ireland may differ from other countries e.g. the duration for sound recordings in the USA is 95 years from the date it was made available to the public whereas in Ireland, it is only 50 years.

Do I always need permission to copy a Copyright work?

There are certain very specific situations where you may be permitted to do so without seeking permission from the owner. If what you want to copy does not fall within the exemptions set out in the Copyright & Related Rights Act 2000 (link to Act) , you should consider purchasing the copyright or alternatively, as is more usually the case, the copyright owner may licence you to use the work for an agreed fee. Examples of exemptions are the playing of a sound recording, film or broadcast before pupils in an educational establishment for the purposes of instruction and the copying by librarians and archivists of works which have been made available to the public.

How do I know if something is Copyrighted?

It may have the © logo in a prominent position on the work together with the name of the author and the year of first publication (e.g. © Walt Disney 1998).

How does Copyright work on the Internet?

In relation to the Internet, a 'notify and take down' approach is often adopted whereby, if infringing material is being carried on a service (for example, by an Internet service provider), and the rights owners inform service providers that infringing material is being carried on their service, the service providers will be asked and often obliged to remove that material as soon as possible. In many jurisdictions, including Ireland, court orders are being obtained by rights holders to require internet service providers to prevent internet users accessing certain websites which are known to allow copyright material to be downloaded without the permission of the owners.

How do I copyright computer programs or sound recordings?

Under the 2000 Act copyright is taken to exist as soon as it is created. There is no registration process. However, in the event of a doubt or a dispute, seek legal advice.

If I have paid for someone else to create something, will I own the Copyright?

Unless it is specifically stated in the contract commissioning the work, that you or your business will own the copyright in the work that you have paid for, ownership will vest in the first owner of copyright which will be the person or organisation that was asked to create the work.

If the issue of ownership is not mentioned in the commissioning contract, you will need to negotiate the transfer of the copyright to you. The creator of the work will be under no legal obligation to transfer the copyright to you. For it to have legal effect , an agreement about transfer of ownership of copyright has to be in writing, signed by or on behalf of the transferor.

Must I get a Copyright licence for use of music and sound recordings in my business?

Yes, if the material is covered by copyright. Copyright gives the owner/creator of a work the opportunity to make a commercial gain from the exploitation of his/her work. Composers, record companies, musicians, etc. who own copyright will be represented by copyright licensing bodies (link) whose purpose is to collect royalties for the rightsholders they represent. Therefore the use of a sound recording may require more than one licence, because there are several different rights associated with a sound recording. For example the Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO) represents the authors and music publishers who own the copyright in the lyrics and composition. Another licensing body, Phonographic Performance Ireland Limited (PPI) represents the record companies who own the copyright in the sound recording.

What are moral rights associated with Copyright?

The concept of moral rights in copyright works was introduced into Irish law by the Copyright & Related Rights Act 2000. These moral rights are: the paternity right (the right to be identified as the author of the work); the integrity right (the right to prevent mutilation, distortion or other derogatory alteration of the work) and the right of false attribution (the right not to have a work falsely attributed to you).