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FAQs on Copyright


The questions have been put together by representatives of consumers’ interests. National copyright experts from the 28 EU Member States provided answers under their respective jurisdiction. The European Observatory coordinates this work in the context of its Working Groups.

What does copyright and related rights mean and cover, and is it the same all over the world?

Copyright and related rights address separate but overlapping subject matter and interests that are recognised and protected under Irish law. Writers and composers, for example, enjoy copyright in original compositions, while the actors and performers who give effect to those copyright works enjoy related rights in respect of their contributions. Both copyright and performance rights can be remunerative and psychological — recognition, for instance. While a worldwide consensus about the nature of copyright is underpinned by Treaty law, greater differences exist at national level in relation to related rights. EU law, however, has effected a large measure of uniformity. As a basic rule, any infringement of a copyright or related right should be pursued in the legal system of the country or state where the unlawful act (e.g. copying) took place.

Who owns copyright and how does copyright benefit creators, rights holders(s), consumers, society, economy and culture as a whole?

Irish copyright law in general recognises that the author of a copyright work is entitled to expect that copyright in a work will first vest in the author. Irish law allows that author in whom copyright vests to deal freely in that work by sale or licence of the copyright and to dispose of the copyright in a will. In a practical sense, a rights holder may allow free use to others by licences or declarations that he or she will not seek to assert copyright ownership. The Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000 (CRRA 2000) contains a number of mechanisms to offset ownership rights with access and free use rights for educational establishments, researchers, students, etc.

Do I automatically get copyright protection, for example, if I take a photograph with my phone, or do I have to register my work to get protection?

Irish law does not contain any requirements in relation to the registration of title to copyright or entitlement to related rights. To the extent that no bureaucratic systems are in place (and no registration fees payable), Irish law assists creators, but there will still be a need to satisfy complex rules on originality and prove the time and place where the work was created.

What is copyright infringement? Can I get in trouble for copyright infringement? What if I wasn’t aware that I infringed something protected by copyright?

Copyright infringement occurs when the user of a pre-existing work copies it, allows others to access and use the work (by uploading it to a website for example), adapts it or sells on or distributes copies to others. Doing these things, being aware that they are unlawful, can also be a criminal act. Civil penalties in the form of damages can be extensive. It is not a defence for a user to say infringement took place innocently.

Under which conditions can I use a work protected by copyright created by another? I was told that using works created by others is simply a quote and thus is always allowed.

Irish law contains a large number of mechanisms whereby a user may seek to gain access rights and rights to use copyright works under licensing mechanisms. However, online use and commercial use in particular will be problematic as a result of rights holder reluctance to authorise free use or unremunerated use in certain instances. The Irish quotation provisions in Section 52(4) CRRA 2000 are, however, quite extensive and do not require remuneration to be provided by the user.

Am I allowed to use music protected by copyright as a soundtrack for a home video that I made and want to upload on a video platform?

No. Irish copyright law specifically protects the reproduction right, the adaptation right and the communication to the public right. It is clear that the upload of music protected by copyright as a soundtrack for a home video to be uploaded to a video platform without the authorisation of the rights holder would very likely infringe all three of the aforementioned rights. Furthermore, under Irish copyright law, authors and performers also enjoy moral rights, so performer’s rights may also be infringed in this scenario.

Am I allowed to give a copy of a work protected by copyright to a family member or a friend?

Irish law does not contain a defence of private copying in respect of the reproduction or distribution of a copyright work. In respect of such acts of reproduction or distribution, it follows that acts of copying or distribution for friends and family are not permitted acts.

Am I allowed to download a work protected by copyright from the internet and does it matter which technology is used and whether I download only parts of the work?

Downloading a work will, in general terms, be an act of copying, irrespective of what technology is used to download and whether all or any substantial part of the copyrighted work is downloaded.

I tried to copy a movie from a DVD to my computer, but could not do it because of something called ‘Technical Protection Measures’. What is that and am I allowed to get around them in order to make private copies?

Technical Protection Measures (TPM) refer to technologies that control and/or restrict the use of and access to digital media content on electronic devices with such technologies installed. TPMs are often used to protect copyright works, for example, through encryption on DVDs.

Am I infringing copyright if I watch a movie by streaming it instead of downloading it from the internet?

Streaming is not treated in any specific way under Irish law. The streaming of content without permission of rights holders could potentially constitute an infringement of both the reproduction right and the making available right.

If copyright-protected works are included into my posts automatically by social media platforms, am I responsible for this and is this a copyright infringement? What if I link to them or embed them in my own website or blog?

Irish law in relation to copyright infringement is found in the CRRA 2000. There are no special provisions relating to social media, but posting or reposting of works owned by others must respect ordinary law. Linking alone, however, is likely to be lawful as Irish courts apply the rules developed by EU institutions. However, internet service provider (ISP) liability rules and the awarding of injunctions to disable subscriber access to ISP services are regulated under Statutory Instrument No 59/2012, as well as ISP/rights holder graduated response agreements, which may ultimately lead to an ISP terminating subscriber access to services.

When I create a work and upload it online, terms and conditions of many sites ask for me to transfer my copyright to the site. Does that mean I lose all those rights in them for the future?

Transfer of rights provisions under Irish law, and contract law provisions generally, apply to the online transfer of rights. It is important to recognise that the nature of the assignment or licence may differ in terms of activity and duration, and good drafting will be important to clearly set out rights and duties. Copyright will also be an important source of remedies if breach of a grant is also a copyright infringement, as the CRRA 2000 has a fuller range of remedies than those available for breach of contract.

My avatar is based on my favourite movie star, cartoon character or sports club. Can I get in trouble for infringement of copyright or any other legislation because of this?

Irish law does not provide any specific guidance on virtual world issues.

How do I know whether a work is offered legally or illegally online?

Irish law does not contain any indicia of when a work is an infringing copy.

What is meant by the term ‘Fair Use’

Fair use is a legal concept that allows the reproduction of copyrighted material for certain purposes without obtaining permission and without paying a fee or royalty. Purposes permitting the application of fair use generally include review, news reporting, teaching, or scholarly research. Extending fair use in any way could affect the earning potential of copyright music.

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