For our June Lunchtime Seminar we were very pleased to welcome Dr. Eoin O’Dell, Associate Professor from Trinity College Dublin, School of Law. Eoin was addressing the Learnovate members on the topic of copyright, he is a member of the Irish Government Copyright Review Committee and has contributed to submissions at both Irish and European levels.
To put the topic in perspective the seminar took the approach of Copyright; past, present and future.

In relation to copyright past it was interesting to hear that Ireland is the location of one of the first reported cases of copyright. The case involved St Colmcille who copied a book belonging to St Finian. When it was brought to the High King of Ireland his judgement rings true to this very day, his edict was “To every cow its calf and to every book its copy”. A principle that holds true to this day. The history part of the session continued to show the progression through to the present EU Directive 2001/29/EC which relates to copyright in the Information Society.

Looking at the copyright present position, there were a few assumed rules that Eoin put straight. To be deemed in the public domain and therefore not subject to copyright, an artifact needs to be purposefully placed in the public domain, being on a publically accessible website is not such a case. Secondly, the idea that to copyright you must mail a copy of your original work to yourself in a sealed envelope is false, copyright is automatically assigned to any original work. The third eye-opener is to understand that copyright for work produced by an employee, related to the employment, belongs to the employer unless otherwise agreed.
In relation to using other peoples work the options are;
– Old, in the EU copyright is life of the author plus 70 years.
– Public Domain, as mentioned earlier it must be purposefully put in the public domain.
– Most Government publications are in the Public Domain
– Permission, if you are granted permission by the author, or current owner of the copyright. Permission may have time or geographical limitations
– Licences, probably the one used by most Learnovate members, where in return for a consideration permission is granted with conditions.
– Exceptions, Under Irish Law, Sections 50 and 51 of the Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000 deal with ‘fair dealing’. Fair dealing allows the use of published materials for the purposes of criticism, review, research and/or private study.
– Education, there are exemptions in relation to copyright, but educators need to look carefully at Sections 53 to 58 of the act. It is not by any means an educational free-for-all.
– Links, legal rulings of late have supported the idea that links to others sites are not infringements of copyright. If the target site is open to the public, linking to it is not providing access to a new public.

Looking at copyright future, Eoin drew from his recent experiences with the Copyright Review Committee and the publication of their “Modernising Copyright” report .
In general the report promotes a ‘Fair Use’ approach with improvements that include;
– the inclusion of formal, non-commercial education and examination in the ‘fair dealing’ category, including for distance learning on the internet.
– Linking to be seen only as an infringement if it links to an infringed copy.
– Marshalling, an extension of linking allowing for the Indexing, Syndicating, Aggregating and Curating of copyright material, while the main focus would be in the area of News, we can see obvious implications here for Technology Enhanced Learning.

Some issues from the attendees included the need to chase down the copyright author, and while there is work being done in relation to “copyright orphans”, finding the author is currently the best or only practice to follow.
When dealing with software development the copyright of IP would reside with the developer unless otherwise agreed, the clients call of “I paid for it therefore I own it”, is not valid unless contained in an agreement.
There is no need for “I agree” buttons. By being on a site or downloading software you actually agree to the terms and conditions associated with it.
A final tip from Eoin was that he uses sites like tineye to run a quick check on an image to see if it is potentially a copyright infringement.
A big thanks to Eoin and we hope to have him back later in the year to talk to our members on privacy in cyberspace.

If you would like a copy of Eoin’s presentation please contact me,

Eoin is contactable at:
Email: odelle at,
Twitter: @cearta