About Copyright

What is Copyright?

Copyright is defined as the set of exclusive rights granted to the creator of an original work, including the right to copy, distribute and adapt the work. These rights can be licensed, transferred and/or assigned.

Copyright is an intellectual property right. It allows the creators of original works to control how their work is used and to benefit financially from its use. Copyright in Ireland is regulated by statute (The Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000).

In Ireland the copyright in a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work expires 70 years after the death of the author, after which the work is said to enter the public domain. This means that work may be used or modified or republished by any person, without fear of copyright infringement.

Copyright Can Protect:

  • Literary works, including novels, instruction manuals, computer programs, song lyrics, newspaper articles and some types of database.
  • Dramatic works, including dance or mime.
  • Musical works.
  • Artistic works, including paintings, engravings, photographs, sculptures, collages, architecture, technical drawings, diagrams, maps and logos.
  • Layouts or typographical arrangements used to publish a work, a book for instance.
  • Recordings of a work, including sound and film.
  • Broadcasts of a work.

Copyright applies to any medium. This means that you must not reproduce copyright protected work in another medium without permission. Some examples include:

  • Publishing photographs on the internet.
  • Making a sound recording of a book.
  • Making a painting of a photograph.

A copyright protected work can have more than one connected to it. For example, an album of music can have separate copyrights; one for each individual song, a separate copyright for the sound recordings, a separate copyright for the artwork and so on.

Copyright does not protect an idea. The creation of music, as with other creations of the mind, can be regarded as an aspect of a person’s personality, or put another way, a property right. Such a property right, however, is not copyright protected until it is presented in a material form. So for a piece of music or song to become copyrighted it is not sufficient for it to exist in the mind of the composer but instead it must be in a written form or recorded.

Once in this material form, the protection of the copyright legislation comes into effect without any formal procedure. Countries such as the United States use a system of copyright registration known as ‘copyrighting’ songs. However, in Ireland, this is not necessary.

The only concern some composers might have is that of plagiarism, i.e. somebody else saying they had written the work. To protect against this, it is common practice when a composer or songwriter creates a piece of music to record it on a CD or write it out in manuscript form and lodge it in a safe place such as with a solicitor or a bank manager. Alternatively, posting it by registered mail to himself/herself also protects against plagiarism. In this way if a dispute regarding ownership arises he/she will be in a position to prove that it was in existence at a particular date (i.e. the date stamped on the registered mail envelope or the recorded date of receipt by the solicitor).

History of Performing Rights

While England has been viewed as the leader in the development of the legal protection of copyright, the French were the first to develop the notion of performing rights.

In 1777, the playwright Pierre Beaumarchais founded an organisation, ‘Bureau de Legislation Dramatique’ which in 1829 became the Societé des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques (SACD) pursuant to which theatres agreed to pay playwrights a portion of their takings by the Society.

In 1847, the author Ernest Bourget had the idea of claiming the performing right in establishments that used songs and/or musical works. A lawsuit won by Bourget and others led in 1851 to the formation of the Societé des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Editeurs de Musiques (SACEM) – the first performing rights society in the world.

Other countries soon followed suit. In 1882 the Italian Society SIAE was founded. In 1903 the predecessor society to the current German society GEMA was formed by Richard Strauss, which became GEMA in 1915 when it merged with another small society. IMRO was formed in 1988, the territory being previously administered by the UK society PRS.

Internationally, the Berne Convention on 9 September 1886 set out the scope of copyright protection, and is still in force to this day. Copyright has grown from a legal concept regulating copying rights in the publishing of books and maps to one with a significant effect on nearly every modern industry, covering such items as sound recordings, films, photographs, software and architectural works.


What is a creator? by CISACTV


What is a creative Work? by CISACTV


What is an Authors society? by CISACTV