Understanding Copyright

Copyright is an intellectual property right which features mainly in, but is not exclusive to the cultural, arts and information technology sectors.  It is the legal form of protection used by the creators or authors of such works to protect the tangible form of all or part of their individual works. A tangible form of an idea is essentially the expression of that idea in a visible and/or audible form.  This could be where a songwriter writes the lyrics and musical notes of their compositions on paper or even makes a recording of the song. Other examples may be an author writing a book, a photographer taking a picture, a sculptor creating an image or somebody creating a software application. In all of these cases, they began with an idea (that often but not always requires further development) before eventually expressing it in a visible or audible manner.

The Copyright symbol © (and of course, Copyright legislation) is then used to provide protection to all or parts of the expression of that particular idea such as the lyrics and/or tune of song, characters and/or extracts from a book or movie.

As copyright exists during the lifetime of the author and for some years after their death, the creator of a work can pass the Copyright of the work to their next of kin for their benefit also.

Copyright will not protect ideas or concepts while they are vague or have no significant content e.g. the plot of a book not yet written, a TV game show whose rules have yet to be determined, a photograph not yet taken.

So while the tune for a song or an idea for an App for a mobile phone is revolving around your mind but you have done nothing further with it than that, then that is all it is ….. just an idea ! There is nothing to stop another person from independently having the same idea and going on to fully express it in a form which may be protected by Copyright.

There is no system of registration for copyright protection in Ireland as copyright arises automatically on the creation of an original work. You do not need to publish your work, to put a copyright notice on it or do anything else to be covered by copyright – protection is free and automatic.

The main legislation governing copyright in Ireland is the Copyright & Related Rights Act, 2000.