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Guide to Copyright: Copyright and UL - Overview

What is copyright

  • Copyright is a property right protecting the economic interests of people or organisations that create works of various types and own the rights in their work.  This right cannot be taken from them nor can their works be used without their permission.
  • Copyright is an intellectual property rights that protects literary and artistic works.  Other IP rights include:
    • Patents, which protect inventions
    • Trade marks, which protect distinctive names &/or symbols for products and services
    • Registered designs, which protect aesthetic features of a product
  • Copyright is also a moral right, which includes the right to be identified as the creator of a work, not to have works falsely attributed to a creator or have a creator's work falsely attributed to someone else. It also covers the right not to have a creator's work changed or adapted in any way without their permission.
  • Copyright is established automatically, it doesn't need to be applied for in any way and is international.
  • The Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000 is the main legislation for this area and will be referred to in these guidelines as the Act or the Copyright Act.

How long does copyright protection last?

  • In most cases a work is protected by copyright for 70 years after the death of the creator.
  • While the content of a work may be out of copyright if the author has been dead more than 70 years, a publisher will continue to have copyright in the typographical arrangement of any published edition of that work for 50 years.
  • Rights equivalent to authors' rights may be acquired for 25 years by anyone who first makes a work available to the public (e.g. by publication) after its original copyright has expired, as long as it has never before been made publicly available.
  • Refer to sections 24-36 of the Act for further information.

What is protected by copyright

  • Any expression of ideas or facts, once they are fixed in some way, has copyright protection. There are many ways of "fixing" including writing down, filming, making a sound recording, printing, painting, performing, broadcasting, posting on the web and entering on a database. The ideas or facts themselves cannot be protected by copyright.
  • Copyright applies to all categories of information, irrespective of format, and includes traditional areas such as literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, as well as new categories such as computer programmes, databases and websites. 
  • Copyright exists in both published and unpublished works.
  • Refer to sections 17-20 of the Act for further information. 

Who is the copyright holder?

  • The copyright holder is usually the author, editor, publisher, producer, director, photographer, database compiler, sculptor etc.
  • Where a work is created in the course of employment, the employer is normally the copyright holder.  Employment and research contracts should be explicit in this area.
  • The copyright holder of a work has the exclusive right to copy the work, make the work available to the public or adapt the work as s/he wishes.
  • As a property right copyright can be transferred.  The copyright to published works may be owned by the publisher rather than the author, depending on the agreement signed by both parties
  • Refer to sections 21-23 of the Act for further information.

Copyright queries

This overview of copyright is for students and staff of the University of Limerick.  It is not a complete guide and should not be taken as legal advice.  Copyright queries may be directed to Cora Gleeson Librarian, Collection Services or Ciara McCaffrey, Deputy Librarian, Glucksman Library.