Government Plans to Reform Irish Copyright Law

The Government has recently approved the drafting of a scheme for a new copyright bill (the “Bill”) to make changes to Irish copyright legislation. If enacted, this will implement some of the recommendations for the reform and modernisation of Irish law made by the Copyright Review Committee (the “Committee”). 

Role of the Copyright Review Committee

The Committee was established in 2011 to develop proposals for the reform of copyright law and published its report, Modernising Copyright (the “Report”), in 2013. The Report identified barriers to innovation in the digital environment and set out proposals to remove these barriers. These included:

  • establishment of a Copyright Council and specialised intellectual property courts;
  • implementation of additional exemptions including in relation to innovation and fair use; and
  • specific provisions to deal with issues such as hyperlinking, digital watermarks and metadata.

Measures to be Included in the New Copyright Bill

The recent press release issued by the Government in relation to the approval of the drafting of a scheme for the Bill indicates that it will implement many of the Committee’s recommendations, including:

  • creating new exemptions for caricature, satire and parody;
  • allowing libraries, archives and educational institutions to make copies of work in their collections for the purposes of preservation and inclusion in catalogues for exhibitions;
  • extending existing copyright exemptions to: (i) promote not for profit research, including by introducing a text and data mining exception; (ii) widen the scope of the fair dealing exemption in the context of news reporting; and (iii) allow the creation of a voluntary digital deposit of books; and
  • improving access to the courts for intellectual property claims, especially in relation to low value claims which will be heard in the District or Circuit Courts.

However, other recommendations made by the Committee, such as the establishment of a Copyright Council, are notable by their absence.

Next Steps

While it is encouraging that the Government has signalled its intention to reform and modernise copyright law in Ireland, it is likely to be some time before the Bill is drafted and, if enacted, subsequently brought into force. It is also worth bearing in mind that parliamentary draughtsman will need to be cognisant of on-going work at an EU level aimed at reforming EU copyright law, particularly in connection with the EU proposals in relation to the Digital Single Market. It may transpire that at least some of Ireland’s proposed reforms will be superseded by EU led initiatives. 

This document has been prepared by McCann FitzGerald LLP for general guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for professional advice. Such advice should always be taken before acting on any of the matters discussed.