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Copyright: Copyright Basics

This guide provides information on copyright in relation to library collections and their use for teaching, learning and research.

Copyright - What it is and what it isn't

Copyright - What it is and what it isn't

Copyright is the legal term, which describes the rights given to authors/creators of certain categories of work. 

Copyright is a property right and the owner of the work can control the use of the work, subject to certain exceptions.   

The owner of copyright is the author, meaning the person who creates the work. For example a photographer is the owner in the case of a photograph. 

However, as copyright is a form of property, the right may be transferred to someone else, for example, to a publisher

The owner has the exclusive right to prohibit or authorise others to undertake the following: 

  • copy the work
  • perform the work
  • make the work available to the public through broadcasting or recordings
  • make an adaptation of the work. 

Where an employee in the course of employment creates the work, the employer is the owner of the copyright in the work, unless an agreement to the contrary exists.

What Does Copyright Protect?

What Does Copyright Protect?

The Copyright & Related Rights Act, 2000 identifies copyright protection for:

  • original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works (traditionally called the “classical” copyrights);
  • film, sound recordings, broadcasts and the typographical arrangement of published editions (often called “related rights”, because they involve the exploitation of “classical” works);
  • computer software and non-original databases (despite their modest credentials as “creative” works) and
  • performances.

See also: Irish Patents Office: "What Is Copyright?"

Copyright and Related Rights (Ammendment) Act, 2004

Copyright and Related Rights (Ammendment) Act, 2007

Collection of Irish and EU Intellectual Property Legislation via Department of Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation

Related Guides of Interest

For information about Avoiding Plagiarism and Citing and Referencing check out our online guide with links to tutorials, examples and a quiz.

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We would like to thank Michael Stoller from NYU Libraries and colleagues from University of Manchester Library for permission to re-use some content of their guides.

Education and Copyright 1 - the "Fair Dealing" Concept

A work may be used by anyone for the purpose of research or private study without the permission of the author, provided the use is conducted in a way which does not prejudice the rights of the copyright owner.

The work may also be used for criticism or review or for reporting current events, with the same proviso, and provided further that the use of the work is accompanied by an acknowledgement identifying the author and the title work.

This bundle of exceptions is known as “fair dealing”. Although the legislation does not state the fact, it is unlikely that the making of multiple copies of a work will ever qualify as fair dealing.

See also: "Fair Dealings" in FAQ section of Copyright Association Ireland.

Education and Copyright 2 - Licensed Copying

UCD has obtained license (required) from the Irish Copyright Licensing Agency to carry out limited copying.

Under the terms of the ICLA license agreement extracts from books, journals and periodicals published in territories specified in the License ( may be copied provided that the copies:

  • Are for the educational purposes of the establishment;
  • Are accompanied by sufficient acknowledgement such as bibliographic citation;
  • Do not exceed:
    • One complete chapter or 5% of a book, whichever is greater;
    • One article from a periodical or journal;
    • The whole of a short story or poem not exceeding 10 pages in length from an anthology.
  • However, certain categories of works are not covered by the terms of the licence including newspapers, maps and printed music.  
  • If there is a requirement to copy from a work for educational purposes that is included in the list of Excluded Works, permission must be sought from the owner of the copyright in the work.
  • For more on photocopying, see the section on Photocopying and Scanning

Duration of Copyright Protection


Category of Work


Duration of Protection


Literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works


Copyright protection expires 70 years after the death of the author/creator




Copyright protection expires 70 years after the last of the following dies, the director, the author of the screenplay, the author of the dialogue of the film, or the author of the music composed for use in the film


Sound recordings


Copyright protection expires 70 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




Copyright protection expires 50 years after the broadcast is first transmitted


The typographical arrangement of a published edition


Copyright protection expires 50 years after the date it is first made available to the public


Computer-generated works


Copyright protection expires 70 years after the date it is first made available to the public



The information contained within these pages is intended as a general guideline, and an interpretation of current copyright issues. It is not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.

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