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This guide  provides a general introduction to copyright and is not intended as a comprehensive interpretation of the copyright legislation.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a form of intellectual property law which automatically applies to works on creation. It's purpose is to prevent such works from being used without the permission of their authors/creators. Copyright does not apply to an actual idea but to the presentation or production of an idea into words, symbols, images, recordings, and computer generated works. These works can be published or unpublished.

The legislation on Copyright also provides for Copyright owners to be renumerated for the use, distribution and reproduction of their works. This is to ensure the flow of creative and innovative works of authors/creators are encouraged and protected.

Copyright materials can be identified by the internationally recognised  'C in a circle' symbol Copyright logo


The main legislation governing copyright in Ireland is the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000 to which there have been many amendments up to the Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Law Provisions Act 2019.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has consolidated the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000 and recent associated amendments up to 12 November 2021, in the Unofficial Consolidated Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000 (as amended). Please see links below for access to these Acts.

Copyright Limits-how long does it last?

Copyright is automatic on creation but is not perpetual. It generally lasts for the lifetime of the creator plus 70 years.

The following time limits apply:

  • Print literary, dramatic or artistic work -  lifetime of the author + 70 years
  • Film - 70 years after the death of the last author/creator, director, screen writer or musical composer
  • Sound recordings and broadcasts - 70 years after the recording was made or if in the public domain, 50 years from it's release date to the public or broadcast transmission
  • Computer generated works - 70 years after date of release to the public.

Copyright Concepts

Moral Rights

These are the rights to claim authorship or paternity over a work and how that work is used is modified. If it is prejucial towards the author than they maintain the right to object to the use - the right of integrity. 

Economic Right

Right of creator/owner to gain financial reward for the use or reproduction of their works.

Exclusive Right

Copyright owners have the exclusive right to exclude others from using their works without permission.

(For more details on rights read this document on Understanding Copyright and Related Rights by the World Intellectual Property Organisation)

Fair Dealing

Fair Dealing is defined as “making use… for a purpose and to an extent which will not unreasonably prejudice the interests of the owner of the copyright” Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000 Section 50(4)

The concept of Fair Dealing (not to be confused with the US Concept of 'Fair Use') allows for the use of a work without permission under the following exceptions:

  • academic or educational research or private study
  • the criticism, review, quotation or reporting of current events
  • where the author/creator is acknowledged

Fair Dealing generally applies to making a single copy of a work for individual use. Multiple copies are covered under the terms of the ICLA Licence Agreement.