Copyright is a species of legal protection that applies to a number
of categories of work, principally the traditional "artistic"
categories of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, and
categories of work which approximate to these traditional categories.
Among the latter are computer programs, which are given written
expression in specialised languages and are, therefore, protected as
Copyright has been recognised by the Irish
courts as a property right, supported by statute. The justification for
legislation in this area is twofold.
First, persons who create
works of the intellect or who invest in their creation and
dissemination are entitled as a matter of human right to secure a fair
return for their creativity and investment.
the rights of creators and investors to a fair return are supported,
the community as a whole would be impoverished by the fact that, in
many cases, these works would not be created or developed.
The Origins of Copyright
The scholars of Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire were the first
to be concerned about being recognised as the authors of their works,
but they did not have any economic rights to speak of. It was not until
the invention of printing in the late fifteenth century that a form of
copyright protection was devised. Until then, the copying of a
manuscript was a painstakingly slow process done mainly by monks in the
confines of closed orders. It was limited to copying religious works
for orders and the Royal courts of Europe. The majority of people were
illiterate, with only privileged members of society having access to
the writings. Early Irish manuscripts provide a well known illustration
of a copyright dispute in such ancient times:
Ireland - Copyright in the 6th Century
scholars dispute the true outcome of this copyright litigation; while
some traditions doubt whether the said trial was actually about
unauthorised copying at all, others disagree and assert that it may
even have led to the battle of Cuil Dremne.
The Development of Copyright Law
The advent of printing in the sixteenth century meant that the
ability to print books easily and cheaply raised the issue of piracy.
As the number of printers increased in England, the King exercised the
royal prerogative to regulate the book trade and protect printers
against piracy. This was the first of many decrees to control what was
being printed. The Licensing Act of 1662 established a register of
licensed books and introduced a requirement to deposit a copy of the
the book to be licensed. Deposit was administered by the Stationers'
Company who were given powers to seize books suspected of containing
material hostile to the Church or Government. By 1681 the Stationers'
company had been repealed, although the Stationers' Company continued
to regulate the printing trade.
The Statute of Anne, enacted in
1710, was the first copyright Act in the world and introduced the
concepts of an author being the owner of copyright, and the principle
of fixed term protection for published works. Arising in part out of
preparation for the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary
Works, the International Copyright Act of 1886 was passed. The
requirement to register foreign works was abolished, and an exclusive
right to import or produce translations was introduced. The
introduction of the Copyright Act, 1911 (which came into effect on July
1st, 1912) marked the next significant development in copyright law.
This both repealed and consolidated most of the earlier legislation.
Records, perforated rolls, sound recordings and works of architecture
all gained protection, while the requirement to register copyright with
the Stationers' Hall was abolished. The 1911 Act also abolished common
law copyright protection in unpublished works, with the exception of
unpublished paintings, drawings and photographs.
Copyright Law in Ireland
Notwithstanding the fact that English copyright protection had been
extended to cover Ireland many years before the establishment of the
Irish state in 1921, many of the cultural and economic patterns that
had built up over the previous century continued to exist. The academic
and literary figures (including W.B. Yeates) still tended to look to
British academic presses and commercial publishers to put their works
before the world. The Performing Rights Society (established in 1914)
still functioned from London for the benefit of Irish composers and
music publishers. Even attempts to stimulate the publication of
scholarship in the Irish language and early Irish history were
frustrated by the size of the market, publishers' indifference and a
lack of technical resources.
With the establishment of the
Irish State in 1921, Ireland lost all of its administrative structures
and bodies that had caused the commercial and industrial property
sectors of the economy to function. Initially, for example, there was
no Irish Patent Office and registration of a design copyright did not
take place because there was no administrative body to accept
applications for registration. Although the right to assert a copyright
was afforded in the common law, it was not until the introduction of
the Industrial and Commercial Property (Protection) Act, 1927 that
copyright law was put on a statutory footing. In addition to setting up
the Irish Patent Office, the 1927 Act also dealt substantially with
patents, trade marks and industrial designs. Part IV of the Act dealt
specifically with copyright and made provisions for such matters as
ownership, infringement, remedies, exemptions, compulsory licenses,
works of joint and foreign authors, posthumous works, and the
preservation of existing copyrights.
The next significant
development in Irish copyright law occurred in 1964 with the
introduction of the Copyright Act, 1963. The Act newly defined the
rights of authors of literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works
and established new copyrights in sound recordings, cinematograph films
and published editions. It also bestowed limited dispute resolution
functions on the Controller.
In more recent times, the Copyright
and Related Rights Act 2000 (which came into operation on 1 January
2001), considerably extended the Controller's statutory functions in
the copyright domain. In addition to the dispute resolution functions
that existed under the 1963 Act, the Controller now has a role in
regulating licensing schemes and proposed licensing schemes in relation
to various areas which are subject to copyright and other rights. This
function includes the establishment and maintenance of a number of