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Copyright: Why copyright matters and important concepts related to copyright

This guide will provide information on copyright for students, staff and researchers

What is this guide about?

This guide is a brief introduction to copyright relevant to students, researchers and lecturers. It introduces the basic concepts of copyright, including Copyright, Creative Commons licensing and Fair Dealing. It will also provide some quick guidelines on how to avoid infringing copyright law.

Following correct copyright law is closely linked to avoiding plagiarism and referencing correctly, which the library has guides on. 

How long does copyright last?

Literary works - 70 years after the author's death. 

Film - 70 years after the death of the last of the major creators of the film, which include director, scriptwriter and music composer.

Computer-generated works: 70 years after they were first created and distributed. 

What is copyright?


Copyright refers to the legal rights given to the originator of the created material. For example an artist has this right over his painting, to print, publish, reproduce, film etc this material over a period of years, though they may give this right to others at their discretion or by allowing others to reuse it when other people ask for the owners permission. 

Remember however,  that most journals ask you to hand the copyright of your writing over to them. This is important to take this into account if you later wish to deposit the article in an Institutional Repository. Consult the publisher website for more information. 

 An author who publishes via an open access route will usually retain copyright.

Though it focuses mainly on the USA context, the above video gives a concise introduction to the copyright concept. 

Why is copyright important?

The importance of copyright is an essential component of the modern educational experience. Copyright is important as it helps to protect the value of an author/academic/researchers work, by giving the originator of the work the ability to protect it from unlicensed or uncredited usage. This leads to the prevention of their work being copied to the degree where they cannot sell it effectively or receive credit for it.  In this way, copyright fosters intellectual creativity as it provides an incentive for a creator to work freely, allowing them to gain recognition for their work as well as protecting their livelihood.

What is Creative Commons

There are a few exceptions to full copyright however, one of these being Creative Commons. Creative Commons refers to a set of licenses that allows authors of papers and other works decide exactly how people may use their work and for what purpose. It essentially means that they can decide to what use their works can be made. There are six different licenses that are available that are made up of Attribution, that the author of the work should have their name recognised and attached to it, non-derivatives, whether or not the original can be changed, non-commercial, can they make money off using the item, and share alike that all work taken from the original must have the same creative commons license. The six licenses combine allowances and stop some of these uses to form the different license. A breakdown of these licenses can be seen in the video below. It allows students and lecturers to see in what ways they can use certain works. It also allows authors to easily make their work easy to share and accessible if they desire it. However, remember by using this license you signing away your rights to full copyright protection and lessening any financial incentives from the work. Also, remember there is a way to put your work into the public domain completely through the CC0 license but this forfeits any copyright protection including attribution.  

What can I copy?

You can copy a work :

  • Whose copyright has expired
  • You own the copyright to the work
  • The copyright holder has given you permission to copy the work
  • The work is governed by a license granted the copyright holder
  • Your copying is permitted by fair use/fair dealing

Library and electronic resources

IADT library subscribes to a range of electronic resources and copying restrictions which are governed by a license.

Staff and students can:

  • Search and retrieve items
  • Print and download for personal use

They do not allow:

  • Downloading a significant part of a database or the entire contents of a publication e.g. a full journal.  
  • Multiple copying of single items
  • Distributing copies
  • Removing any marking or copyright statement from copies made
  • Using them for commercial purposes

Copyright in Ireland

Copyright in Ireland is enshrined in law by the Copyright & Related Rights Act, 2000 and its amendments. The Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Law Provisions Act 2019 is expected to replace the older act but has yet to be fully enacted. The 2000 act is still the law in relation to copyright at the time of writing. Students and lecturers should familiarize themselves with these laws. 

Updated 2019 act

The 2019 act has updated the provisions of the educational exceptions to include: 

- That both copying and communicating the copy falls under the exceptions for education produced by the act.

- The replacement of reproduction rather than reprogramming of documents including digital forms of copying. 

- Provisions for distance-learning that allows the institution to communicate needed works to distance-learing students. Those students are allowed to make copies of those works. 

- That as long as sufficient acknowledgement is given, copies can be made of works available through the internet.  


Disclaimer: This guide should be used as a reference to copyright law only and should not replace legal advice. The advice given is to be used as a guide only. 

Fair Dealing

fair dealing logo 

Fair dealing refers to instances when you do not need to ask permission from the creator of a copyrighted work to use their content. It applies in circumstances when: 

1. The copied work is not infringing on the profits of the originators of the work. 

2. It is used for academic, education, criticism, review or reporting on currents events purposes. 

3.  A satisfactory attribution is given to the originator of the copyrighted work. 

However defense on a case on case basis and fault for a case is based on four aspects: the purpose of the work; how much is copied; the purpose of your use and whether it  infringes on the right or profits of the original works owners.

This usually only applies to individual copies. Multiple copies cannot be made and distributed unless covered by the ICLA  license. ICLA approved work can be copied and distributed to students.

Contact Us!

Please feel free to contact us about any question you have - about this subject or anything else you need help with. Library staff are available to provide help and answer queries online/remotely and in-person on Level 1 of the Library.

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