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Copyright protection applies automatically in Ireland to any type of expression of ideas or facts, translated to permanent form.

Media protected by copyright include original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, films, sound recordings, databases and computer programs.

Copyright law in Ireland is regulated primarily by the Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000 (PDF 614KB) (the “2000 Act”).

Copyright infringement includes making and/or using illegal copies of works, or using original works in unauthorised ways. An infringement of copyright is punishable in accordance with the 2000 Act.


These guidelines are intended as a general introduction to some relevant aspects of copyright and are not an authoritative interpretation of the law.

Readers at the Library of Trinity College Dublin are reminded that it is their responsibility to ensure that they comply with copyright law when using the Library.

Even when a copy has been made in accordance with the regulations below, readers should expressly acknowledge the copyright of such material when using it, such as by referencing the copyright holder and the source.

Works No Longer Protected by Copyright

The duration of copyright varies, depending on the nature of the item. Please see the 2000 Act, or the earlier legislation in the case of works created prior to 1 January 2001, for details of the duration of the copyright by reference to the type of works.

In most cases, copyright lasts for the creator's lifetime plus seventy years. If a book is out of print it does not necessarily mean it is out of copyright.

  • Original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works - 70 years from the death of the author
  • Films - lifetime of the longest living amongst principal director, author of the screenplay, author of the dialogue, author of the music plus 70 years
  • Music - 50 years from the date of a sound recording, broadcast and typographical arrangement
  • Databases - 15 years from the year in which the making of the database was completed or 15 years from the date on which the database was first lawfully re-utilised

Where copyright in the work has expired readers are free under the 2000 Act to make copies, including by photocopying, scanning or photographing.

However, the Library of Trinity College Dublin may impose its own regulations on what may not be copied or photographed, due to the age and condition of the work, especially for material held in the Research Area, Early Printed Books and Special Collections, or Manuscripts & Archives.

The following information is for individuals making copies of works themselves. Copying by Library staff (for example, to supply material by Inter-Library Loan) is regulated by other parts of the 2000 Act.

Works Protected by Copyright

For the purposes of the 2000 Act, commentators have proposed that a book constitutes a “work”, and an individual issue of a journal constitutes a “work”.

Copies can be made in the following circumstances:

  • The person copying the work is the owner of the copyright. Note, for journal articles the author is generally not the copyright owner
  • The owner of the copyright has given permission for the work to be copied - for example, for certain government publications the copyright holder has waived their rights
  • Use of the work is governed by a licence granted by the copyright holder
  • The copying is permitted by one of the exemptions in the 2000 Act

Individual Research and Private Study

One exception to allow copying under the 2000 Act is “fair dealing” in the context of research or private study, referred to in Section 50 of the 2000 Act.

The 2000 Act does not explicitly specify any limit on the amount which can be copied under fair dealing. It states only that it must be for "a purpose and to an extent which will not unreasonably prejudice the interests of the owner of the copyright”, leaving the user to make their own judgement; working from other parts of the Act to do with libraries copying for users this may be interpreted as:

  • From a journal - no more articles from a volume than the number of issues in one year or 10% of a volume, whichever is the greater
  • From a book - a "reasonable" amount. Unfortunately Library staff cannot specify a "reasonable" amount, although a chapter is often quoted as a reasonable amount

However, the following may be considered when deciding on a reasonable amount of a work to copy:

  • Is the amount of copying requested a substitute for purchasing a publication that is in print?
  • In certain circumstances, up to 100% may be reasonable, e.g., where the work is distributed freely and intended for wide distribution
  • Where the work contains information of high economic value published for limited circulation (e.g., commercial market reports), even a very small amount may be unreasonable

Teaching Materials

Sections 53 to 58 of the 2000 Act specifically refer to exemptions in the context of educational purposes. Amongst the major exemptions that might apply to photocopying works for teaching are the following:

  • Instructions: giving or preparing for instruction where the use is by or on behalf of the person giving or receiving the instruction and with sufficient acknowledgement. There is no quantitative limit in such circumstances but please note that such copying may not be reprographic (i.e. photocopied or scanned) - the content has to be, for example, retyped.
  • Examinations: reprographic copying (photocopying or scanning) is permissible without limit in setting and communicating questions to candidates, with the exception of reprographic copying of musical works.
  • Reprographic copying: The copying must be for educational purposes, with acknowledgement and must be of no more than 5% of a work in any calendar year. Please note that this 5% is an institutional limit, so this limit does not only apply to the person doing the copying, it applies in total to all staff copying that work across Trinity College Dublin.

Irish Copyright Licensing Agency Licence

In addition to the copying permitted by the 2000 Act, a licensing scheme has been established for Irish higher education institutions. Trinity College Dublin and other institutions pay a substantial fee to avail of this licence.

The licence allows staff to make multiple paper copies of licensed works for educational purposes. This includes distribution to student groups or classes, inclusion in course packs, and inclusion by libraries in short-loan collections.

The number of copies is limited to the number of students in a class plus two for each teacher.

The extent of such multiple copying is limited to 5% of a book or a chapter (the greater) or one article from any one journal issue.

Certain categories of material (for example, music and separately published maps) are excluded, as are certain publishers, and material published in certain countries - contact the Irish Copyright Licensing Agency for full details.

Electronic Resources including E-Journals, E-Books, and Databases

The terms and conditions of these resources' subscriptions govern how users are permitted to use them.

In the case of many resources, the terms and conditions are governed by laws other than Irish law, and therefore the exceptions to the strict rights of copyright set out in the 2000 Act do not apply.

In general, users may:

  • Search and retrieve items
  • Print and/or download individual items for personal use for teaching, learning and research

In most instances, the licence will not permit the following:

  • Downloading of the substantial part of a database or the entire contents of a publication (this would include an entire journal issue)
  • Multiple copying of items that have been printed out or downloaded
  • Distributing copies
  • Removing any proprietary marking or copyright statement from copy made
  • Using electronic resources for commercial purposes

Copyright and Blackboard

The Irish Copyright Licensing Agency Licence now allows the scanning and uploading of Irish printed publications to local Intranets such as Blackboard.

It remains illegal to upload into Blackboard downloaded electronic materials, unless the publisher/distributor specifically permit this. Examples of these might be online journal article PDFs, e-books or full text reports from databases.

Good practice is to link directly to these items on their own sites from within Blackboard. Bear in mind links may only be valid on campus, unless specially formatted to work off campus. For help see Support for Teaching or contact the relevant Subject Librarian.