Copyright

Copyright

This information is intended as a guideline only and does not purport to be a complete statement of the law. Further information can be obtained from the Irish Copyright Agency.

"My greatest fear is that I'll discover - or worse, that someone else will point out to me - that I've stolen another man's words, thinking them my own"
Thom Gunn, The Economist

How to get copyright

Copyright automatically belongs to an author. The author is not obliged to do anything in order to protect their work - as soon as you put pen to paper copyright of the work belongs to you. If you wish you may use the © symbol followed by your name and the date, but this simply reminds the user that the material is copyrighted. If you wish to take steps to actively protect your work from infringement of copyright, you may do one of two things:

Put your work into an envelope and post it to yourself. When you receive the work back through the post do not open the envelope, but keep it as your original. The postmark on the sealed envelope is your evidence of the date from which you have had the material.

An alternative way to prove authorship on a certain date is to register the work with the Copyright Bank.

What is copyright?

Copyright is essentially a property right. In order to benefit of its protection the material must be in 'tangible form'. Every original literary, dramatic or music work automatically has copyright, with the following conditions:

  • An author's copyright lasts for the duration of his/her lifetime and 70 years thereafter
  • A publisher owns the copyright in the typography of editions of a work for a period of 25 years from the year of publication
  • Where a work is made in the course of employment, the copyright in the work belongs to the employer unless there is an agreement to the contrary
  • Newspaper proprietors own the copyright in what is published in newspapers
  • Copyright can be assigned to another person by an agreement in writing
  • On the death of a rights holder, the copyright in his/her works forms part of his/her estate

Reproducing copyrighted material

Reproduction of a copyright work without the permission of the rights holder is an infringement of copyright. However, a "fair dealing" in the case of reproduction for the purposes of research or private study is not an infringement. By "fair dealing" what is usually meant is 5% in the case of magazines and periodicals and 10% in the case of books.

If you want to reproduce a copyright work and the reproduction would not be a "fair dealing" (i.e. if it is not research or private study or does not come within the other exceptions in the Copyright Act) then the permission of the rights holder must be obtained. Annual permissions to photocopy limited numbers and limited extracts from copyright works (books and periodicals) are available from the publisher of the work or from Irish Copyright Licensing Agency for a small fee in the form of licences. Contacting Rightsholders Publishers will probably appear in the telephone book, the Writers and Artists Yearbook or the Irish Writers Guide. Alternatively, you could try contacting CAI (see below). Living authors can be contacted care of their publisher or the Irish Writers Union. Copyright queries dealing with works of deceased authors should be addressed to "the estate of", author's name, c/o the publisher.

Contacting Rightsholders

Publishers will probably appear in the telephone book, the Writers and Artists Yearbook or the Irish Writers Guide. Alternatively, you could try contacting CAI (see below). Living authors can be contacted care of their publisher or the Irish Writers Union. Copyright queries dealing with works of deceased authors should be addressed to "the estate of", author's name, c/o the publisher.

"'Inimitable' is one of those off-the-shelf, unhelpful epithets that get loosely tossed in the direction of mastery, but in poetry the test of true originality is to be eminently imitable - it's doing it first and registering the trademark that counts"
Peter Forbes, The Independent

Further Information

Clé: Irish Book Publishers Association
Copyright Association of Ireland
Irish Copyright Licensing Agency
Irish Writers' Union

Useful Addresses

Irish Copyright Agency, Trinity College Library, Trinity College, Dublin 2; tel. 01 8961661

Useful Publications

The Irish Writers Guide (Wolfhound Press)
The Writers and Artist's Yearbook 2007 (A&C Black)

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  • Writers in Libraries Application Form
  • Writers in Residence Application Form
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