What is a Copyright ?

A copyright describes the rights given to authors and creators of certain categories of work and extends to the following works:

  • Original Literary, Dramatic, Musical or Artistic Works
  • Sound Recordings
  • Films
  • Broadcasts
  • Cable Programmes
  • The Typographical Arrangement of Published Editions
  • Computer Programmes
  • Original Databases

Who Owns the Copyright ?

The owner of copyright is the author, the person who created the work.  For example, a photographer is the owner in the case of a photograph.  Where an employee during employment creates the work, the employer is the owner of the copyright in the work, unless an agreement to the contrary exists.

As copyright is a form of property, the right may be transferred to someone else such as a book to a publisher.  For example, copyright in most of the Beatles songs would originally have vested in the authors of the songs, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, but would subsequently have been assigned to their record company under the terms of their record contract.

McCartney lost the rights to the Beatles catalog back in 1985, when Michael Jackson outbid him when they went up for sale. Jackson paid more than $47 million for ATV, the company that had owned copyrights to Beatles songs since 1967. In the nineties, Jackson sold half of his share to Sony for $100 million. Following Jackson’s death in 2009, his estate sold the remaining shares to Sony for $750 million in 2016.

How Long Does My Copyright Protection Last ?

The term of copyright protection depends on national law and the type of work involved. In Ireland, the term of copyright in a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work is 70 years after the death of the author (or in the case of works having more than one author, 70 years after the death of the sole surviving author). Thus, copyright in the Beatles music in Ireland will last for 70 years after the death of Paul McCartney.

Copyright protection subsists as soon as the work is recorded on a recording medium – therefore once a poem has been recorded on paper or a memory device, copyright protection will exist.