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Copyright: What is Copyright?

IT Carlow Library's guide to copyright

What is this guide about?

IT Carlow's guide to copyright. This guide is a brief introduction to copyright relevant to students, researchers and lecturers.

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 owner's 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.

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 teachers should familiarise themselves with these laws.

Read the Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Law Provisions Act 2019 here:

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 reprographing of documents including digital forms of copying.
  • Provisions for distance learning that allows the institution to communicate works of importance to distance students. Those students are allowed to make copies of those works.
  • That as long as a sufficient acknowledgement is given copies can be made of works available through the internet. 

Why is copyright important?

Content creators – such as authors, musicians and artists, invest their own time and resources to get their work published. It’s not that they don’t want us to enjoy it; after all, that is why they created it right? All they ask is that they get the deserved credit for their work and are able to earn a living from it if they wish.

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 by the copyright holder
  • Your copying is permitted by fair use

How long does copyright last?


Literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works: 70 years after author's death.

Film: 70 years after the death of the last of the major creators of the film, which include director, screenplay author, dialog author and music composer.

Sound Recordings70 years after the sound recording is made or if it is made available to the public then 50 years from the date it was made available to the public

Broadcast50 years after the broadcast is first transmitted

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


We would like to acknowledge that content for this guide was based on information in guides from the following libraries:

Dundalk Institute of Technology:

National College of Ireland:

Galway Mayo Institute of Technology: