Copyright Law in Ireland-The Essentials


Copyright is the legal term, which describes the rights given to authors/creators of certain categories of work.

Copyright protection extends to the following works:

1.original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works sound recordings, films,broadcasts, cable programmes
2.the typographical arrangement of published editions,computer programmes,
3.original databases.

The owner of copyright is the author and within the Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000 the author has a very specific definition

21.—In this Act, “author” means the person who creates a work and includes:
(a) in the case of a sound recording, the producer;
(b) in the case of a film, the producer and the principal director;
(c) in the case of a broadcast, the person making the broadcast or in the case of a broadcast which relays another broadcast by reception and immediate retransmission, without alteration, the person making that other broadcast;
(d) in the case of a cable programme, the person providing the cable programme service in which the programme is included;
(e) in the case of a typographical arrangement of a published edition, the publisher;
(f) in the case of a work which is computer-generated, the person by whom the arrangements necessary for the creation of the work are undertaken;
(g) in the case of an original database, the individual or group of individuals who made the database; and
(h) in the case of a photograph, the photographer


For example a photographer is the owner in the case of a photograph.

However, as copyright is a form of property, the right may be transferred to someone else, for example, to a publisher. Where an employee in the course of employment creates the work, the employer is the owner of the copyright in the work, unless an agreement to the contrary exists.

Copyright is a property right and the owner of the work can control the use of the work, subject to certain exceptions. The owner has the exclusive right to prohibit or authorise others to undertake the following:

1. copy the work
2. perform the work
3. make the work available to the public through broadcasting or recordings
4. make an adaptation of the work.

Copyright takes effect as soon as the work is put on paper, film, or other fixed medium such as CD-ROM, DVD, Internet, etc.

No protection is provided for ideas while the ideas are in a persons mind; copyright law protects the form of expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves.

Rights related to Copyright

Rights are not restricted just to the creators of the works themselves but certain other rights may apply.

For example, the record company has certain rights in a sound recording of the performance of a song, in addition the author(s) of the lyrics and the music will also have certain copyrights. Similarly performing artists have certain rights in their performances. The legislation also provides for moral rights, such as the right to be acknowledged as the author of a particular work and also the right to object to derogatory treatment of that work.

The primary legislation governing copyright in Ireland is the Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000 (No. 28 of 2000)

Copyright Protection

In Ireland, there is no registration procedure for owners of a copyright work.

Basically the act of creating a work also creates the copyright, which then subsists in the physical expression of the work.

Copyrights are protected by law and illegal use of these rights can be contested in the Courts, the technical term for this misuse is infringement.

The legislation provides for criminal offences and consequently infringers could face both civil liability and criminal convictions.

Professional advice should be sought by copyright owners with regard to the options and the remedies available where infringement of their work occurs.

It is most important that the originator of a work can show subsequently when the work and the consequential copyright were created as it may be necessary to commence or defend infringement proceedings, at some later stage.

One way of doing this is to 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.

Alternatively, one may 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.

The Copyright Notice and Symbol ©

It is important to show that copyright is claimed in a work. Works should be clearly marked to show who the copyright owner is and the date from which copyright is claimed.


The internationally recognised symbol © is normally used to indicate that a work is protected by copyright.


© Copyright Business and Legal 2009.

Examples of more detailed copyright notices may be found in published versions of literary works. The inclusion of a copyright notice does not legally constitute proof of ownership, but does indicate a claim to copyright, which may prove useful if it is necessary to defend that claim or to deter possible infringement.

It is usually necessary to obtain permission to use copyright material. Persons with a copy of a work can look for an indication on the work regarding copyright. This can assist making contact with the author/ original creator of the work in order to obtain their permission to use the work for any act, which is prohibited by copyright legislation.

Length of Copyright Protection

The duration of copyright protection varies according to the format of the work. In respect of the following works the term of protection is:

Literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works

Copyright protection expires 70 years after the death of the author/creator


Copyright protection expires 70 years after the last of the following dies, the director, the author of the screenplay, the author of the dialogue of the film, or the author of the music composed for use in the film.

Sound recordings

Copyright protection expires 50 years after the sound recording is made or if it is made available to the public then 50 years from the date it was made available to the public.


Copyright protection expires 50 years after the broadcast is first transmitted

The typographical arrangement of a published edition

Copyright protection expires 50 years after the date it is first made available to the public

Computer-generated works

Copyright protection expires 70 years after the date it is first made available to the public

Chapter 3 of the Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000 (No. 28 of 2000) deals in greater detail with the duration of copyright in Ireland.

Benefits of Copyright Protection

Copyright protection provides a vital incentive for the creation of many intellectual works.

Without copyright protection, it would be easy for others to exploit these works without paying any royalties or remuneration to the owner of the work. Copyright therefore encourages enterprise and creates a favourable climate to stimulate economic activity.

Copyright protection provides benefits in the form of economic rights which entitle the creators to control use of their literary and artistic material in a number of ways such as making copies, performing in public, broadcasting, use on-line, etc. and to obtain an appropriate economic reward.

Creators can therefore be rewarded for their creativity and investment.

Copyright also gives moral rights to be identified as the creator or author of certain kinds of material (known as the paternity right), and object to the distortion and mutilation of it.

An author’s right to object to the modification or derogatory action in relation to his or her work is known as an integrity right. Chapter 7 of the Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000 (No. 28 of 2000) deals in greater detail with moral rights applicable in Ireland.

Commissioned Work and Copyright

Prior to the Copyright and Related Works Act, 2000 the commissioner of certain types of work would own the copyright to that work.

That is no longer the case.

If you commission artistic work and wish to have the copyright transferred to you, it will be necessary to have a written agreement to do so.

In Irish law, the assignment of copyright in a work must be effected in writing and signed by the person assigning the copyright (section 120, Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000).

(3) An assignment of the copyright in a work, whether in whole or in part, is not effective unless it is in writing and signed by or on behalf of the assignor.

However, if an employee creates a work in the course of his/her employment, the owner of the copyright in that work will be the employer.

25 thoughts on “Copyright Law in Ireland-The Essentials”

  1. Dear Sir
    I am just start my own photography business .
    As a side product I gonna do so called : Slideshow on DVD.
    I have some doubts regarding to uses somebody soundtracks producing my own DVD for private client. Should I buy copyrights from artist?

    Regard Rafal

  2. could you please enlighten me as regards whether a balance has been struck between the interests of right holders and the public

  3. That is a very big question to answer and I suppose it depends on which side of the balance you find yourself ie whether you are a copyright holder or a member of the public who wishes to use copyright work.

  4. Rafal, I have answered you already by email but the answer is yes, you do need to respect the copyright holders rights..

  5. 1. I see that Literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works Copyright protection expires 70 years after the death of the author/creator. Does the term ‘musical works’ refer also to music created using a computer i.e. electronic music?
    2. How do I protect my works [music] from other people trying to claim it as their own, i.e. do I have to buy copyright so that people can’t try and ‘steel’ my creation? I have heard that copyright is automatic now, so does this just require me to put the ‘copyright’ sign etc on my CD or CD cover etc? I have heard many different opinions on the matter and therefore in the confusion don’t know what to do now.
    Thank you. duane

  6. 2011.03.30
    Hi terry, thank you for the response. I see the link does provide very extensive knowledge, but I am not a lawyer. So, if you could please help me: 1. the second I write down an idea weather it be a base concept or story-line for a book, or an idea for an online help website, etc this is then automatically copyrighted? 2. For my music, am I allowed to use the ‘copyright’ sign ‘©’ on my covers and labels and in ID3 tags on mp3’s to state that it is copyrighted material, or do you have to buy the right to use this sign. Copyright, tax, and law has been a dilemma for me until now when I am starting to do research. 3. If you would know, what are the basics of law i.e. that every citizen should understand and know and operate within, or by? Thank you for your time terry.

  7. Duane
    1. You can’t copyright an idea

    2. Yes

    3. The basics are set out above Duane-copyright exists when you create the music/book/document etc. It is up to you to enforce it if you feel it is being infringed.

    You can always contact a solicitor if you feel your rights are being infringed..

  8. 2011.03.30
    1. Ahh, so it is only once your idea is in book/audio file format i.e. title and cover/file name, that you can copyright the title/work [not the idea] as yours?
    The thing I need to know is 2. what to put on my cd’s and covers . . . currently I use: [name], all rights reserved, [year], 3. Is this sufficient? Or should I put: © Copyright, [name] [year]. aswell or instead of? 4. Or do I have to pay in order to be allowed to use the © symbol?
    5. Would it be better for me to deposit a copy of my work with an acknowledged representative, than send via the post? I have heard that there is no point in the post method, in terms of legality, that you need to register ‘buy’ as they said copyright.
    Thank you for clarifying that I should contact a solicitor if my rights are being infringed. Can I contact you in such a scenario?
    Thank you Terry

  9. Hi Duane
    Just use the copyright symbol and the year to indicate your copyright in the work.

    You can of course make an appointment to come in for a consultation if you have any problems..


  10. Hi terry. Is there like an online directory of ‘commissioner for oaths’, where I could see closest to me?

  11. Duane
    all solicitors are commissioners for oaths so go to your local solicitor.

    I don’t think there is an online list or database of commissioners for oaths.

  12. Hi Terry

    I need advice. Myself and my friend created a particular jewellery line which is quite unique. We have been selling at markets. Recently someone approached us about buying jewellery from us to sell in their shop. We had a couple of discussions and then heard nothing. I was in their shop last weekend and see they have copied our idea themselves. Do we have any rights in this regard? At present we are not a registered business.
    I look forward to hearing from you.

  13. Hello…I am about to submit a one act play that I have put together to the Abbey Theater in Dublin. Can you tell me what do I have to do with regard to copyright, and if I have to register the play with somebody trustworthy before submitting?

  14. Hi Charlie
    You don’t have to do anything-just put a copyright notice or symbol on the work.
    First ownership of copyright.

    Copyright and Related Rights Act,200
    23.—(1) The author of a work shall be the first owner of the copyright unless—

  15. Thanks Terry…just one more thing-how to ensure the work is not stolen and how to ensure somebody else doesn’t get all the credit for it?

  16. The only way someone can use it is with your consent. If a breach occurs there are various remedies for you and penalties against the offender.
    You will need to consult a solicitor if a breach occurs.

  17. I used to work for a car / van dealership, my role there was to sell the commercial range of vehicles, I took a lot of photographs to use on adverts for commercial vehicle websites…. Auto Trader ect.

    I have since left the company and I am employed by another dealership….. I noticed my previous employer is using my ‘photos in commercial vehicle websites as above…

    Do I have copyright of the images I took using my own camera ? my contract with my previous employer did not include taking photos, I just preferred doing it as I have a keen eye for detail.

    Your comments please ?

    Daniel. K

  18. Hi Daniel
    Section 23 of the Copyright Act 2000 states that the owner of copyright is the author, or in your case photographer.
    However there are three exceptions to this and the most important one is “where the work is made by an employee in the course of employment, the employer is the first owner of any copyright in the work subject to any agreement to the contrary.”

  19. Hello,
    I am a photographer, recently I had a client coming in with an old photograph (about 50 years old), asking me to scan it and print it a bit larger that the original size. I agreed to do it, but then noticed that the photgraph had a logo (which was stamped by cold press) of the studio which took it. The photo studio with the same name is still working. If I take the job, would I be braking the copyright law? Or is it better to refuse? Thank you.

  20. @Gerry: Hi Gerry,
    You would not necessarily be breaking the law as the person who presented it to you may have bought the copyright or purchased a licence or may be using it with the consent of the other studio.

    Without knowing all the details I would not be prepared to advise; you are better off speaking the the person who brought it in first if you have concerns and then decide.

  21. Hi,
    I am a photographer and often come across people who, in a public space, claim that I may not take their photo, or use it ‘for gain’ (most notably – and furstratingly – members of an organisation for whom I am doing a long-term commission to boost their PR).

    I have searched and searched for the legislation covering this sort of scenario, and am wondering:
    (a) When in a public space (or a privately owned one into which I have been invited by the owner), am I legally required to have model release forms for members of the public to sign?
    (b) Is there any legislation under which I could be prosecuted for taking a photograph in public and using it in advertising or ‘for gain’?

    Many thanks,

    P.s. While I have found useful in the past, it makes no reference to case law or any acts, so it’s hard to refer to officially.

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