Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 28 Nov 1962

Vol. 198 No. 2

Copyright Bill, 1962: Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The object of the Bill is to bring the law of copyright up-to-date to meet modern conditions and to have the law, which is at present spread over five enactments, comprised in a single statute separate from the laws dealing with patents for inventions, trade marks and industrial designs.

The Industrial and Commercial Property (Protection) Acts, 1927 to 1958, and the statutory orders and regulations made under these Acts contain the law on these subjects as well as on copyright. Parts VI and VII of the 1927 Act which relate to copyright were based on the Copyright Act, 1911, which continued to be the British law on the subject up to 1st June, 1957, and that Act was also the model on which the British self-governing dominions framed their copyright legislation. The new British Act, which was enacted in 1956 following the report of a committee of inquiry, is a comprehensive measure and takes into account modern developments whereby ideas can be conveyed not only, as formerly, by printing and reading, but now also by radio, television, films and recordings. This British Act has been taken as a model for the consideration of proposed new copyright legislation in a number of countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and Ghana, and it is the basis on which much of the present Bill has been prepared.

Copyright protects all kinds of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works including cinematograph films from unauthorised copying or pirating. It is necessarily the subject of international agreement as protection must be assured across national boundaries. There are two main multilateral agreements on this matter, namely, the International Convention for the protection of Literary and Artistic Works (the "Berne Convention") and the Universal Copyright Convention (the "Geneva Convention"). Ireland is a party to both and the Bill is in accord with our obligations under these Conventions.

The development of broadcasting, particularly of television broadcasting, and the possibility of the recording or other use by unauthorised persons of broadcasts for commercial gain, have raised the question of giving broadcasts legal rights and protection distinct from any that the law already gives to the literary, musical or artistic works that may be elements of a broadcast. In other countries the view has been taken that broadcasting is a matter which should properly be given rights, in the nature of copyright, under the copyright law. I share this view and the present Bill seeks to give effect to it.

Two international agreements regarding the protection of broadcasts have been signed on behalf of Ireland, but cannot be ratified until the appropriate protection has been provided for by our law, and the benefit of it has been extended by Order to foreign broadcasts. One of these conventions, the "European Convention for the Protection of Television Broadcasts" was made under the auspices of the Council of Europe and relates only to television broadcasts. The other is a wider convention concluded at Rome in October 1961, under the auspices of Unesco, ILO, and the International Bureaux for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. This latter convention covers the international protection of performers, producers of phonograms and broadcasting organisations. The proposals in this Bill relating to broadcasts will meet the relevant requirements of these conventions.

The Act of 1927, based, as already stated, on the Copyright Act, 1911, treated of cinematograph films and gramophone records as if the films were a kind of dramatic work and the records a kind of musical work. Films and recordings have now developed to a stage where they cannot be regarded as a class of dramatic or musical works, being frequently concerned with neither one nor the other. There is frequently no personal author in the sense in which the word is used in relation to dramatic or musical works. Nevertheless, it is considered that films and recordings rank as subjects proper to be accorded rights, on their own standing, under the copyright law and that the rights arising under this law should properly be vested in the maker, whether this be an individual or corporate body. The State is committed under the international copyright conventions to the protection of cinematograph films, and, as I have said, the Rome Agreement for the international protection of performers, producers of phonograms, and broadcasting organisations requires us to accord protection on a reciprocal basis to records, or phonograms as the Convention calls them, of the participating States. The provisions in the Bill regarding the copyright in sound recordings will meet the requirements of the Convention in that respect.

The Bill does not deal with the question of rights of performing artists, also covered by the Rome Convention of last year; that will have to be the subject of a separate Bill. I have this matter under examination.

One of the rights established by the law in copyright works is the right to control the performance of a work as distinct from the basic right to control copying. In the case of musical works, it is the practice of composers, lyric writers and music publishers to assign the performing right to a body composed of all three groups, known as the Performing Right Society Limited. This is a British-based organisation with representation in Ireland and it has its counterparts in practically all countries throughout the world. The effect of the arrangement I have referred to is that persons wishing to perform copyright music in public, e.g., at concerts, dances, cinemas, etc., or to broadcast such music, can secure a licence from the Performing Right Society for the performance of any music in its repertoire, on the payment of a fee graded according to the potential receipts from the performance. Practically all copyright music is within the control of the Society. Without detracting from an individual composer's copyright, it is considered that the channelling of the control of the performance of practically all copyright music into one body constitutes a monopoly that ought to be subject to some review where a dispute arises between that body and any group of users over the schedule of fees, or with any individual who is refused a licence to perform such music in public. It is considered that the appropriate appeal authority should be the Controller of Industrial and Commercial Property who has somewhat analogous functions in the matter of patents.

The Bill also proposes to re-enact the provision in existing law which requires publishers to send free to certain libraries a copy of every book first published in the State. I know that this whole arrangement has been adversely criticised but after full consideration of the matter I am satisfied that it is in the national interest that it should be continued. The list of libraries to which such copies must be sent is extended by the inclusion of the library of St. Patrick's College, Maynooth. This is a recognised college of the National University of Ireland.

A provision is contained at section 56 of the Bill enabling the Benchers of the King's Inns to dispose of any books in that library, notwithstanding any provision in any of the earlier Copyright Acts or in the King's Inns Library Act, 1945, which required any books obtained by the Library to be preserved in it. The Benchers think that there are some books in the Library which could usefully be disposed of, and the proceeds applied in binding or cataloguing books of more interest to the users of the Library.

The Bill proposes the establishment of a new copyright in published editions of works, for the benefit of publishers. This new copyright will merely protect publishers from having their typographical arrangements copied by photographic means. It will not necessarily prevent the publication by other publishers of the same material.

An existing provision in the law regarding the false attribution of authorship of artistic works is extended to literary, dramatic, and musical works by section 53 of the Bill. The Bill provides that offences under the section will be prosecuted not by the Minister, as at present, but by the person to whom the work has been falsely attributed or, if he is dead, by his personal representatives.

The Bill continues the existing provisions under which the benefits of the protection established by it can be extended to other countries with which Ireland has entered into arrangements for the reciprocal protection of copyright.

It is also proposed that the copyright to subsist in future sound recordings should not include an absolute right over the public performance of such recordings, but only a right to fair remuneration when the recordings are so used.

Some further alterations of existing law are proposed which can be dealt with more fully at later stages, but they include proposals for a term of copyright of 25 years for such subject matters as recordings and cinematograph films to bring the period into line with that proposed for broadcasts. Because of the obvious relationship between films and photographs, the latter, it is proposed, should also be subject to the twenty-five year term. It is considered that a term of twenty-five years' copyright is more appropriate to such subject matters as recordings, films and broadcasts, than the term of 50 years, measured from the death of the author, which the law gives to original literary or musical works. The shorter term meets the obligations in this respect of any of the international conventions dealing with the subjects. It is also more in line with the period of monopoly granted for inventions, 16 years, or industrial designs, 15 years.

Some features of the existing law which are not proposed for re-enactment include the present limitation of a three year period in which to commence actions for infringement of copyright; the keeping of a statutory register of entertainments by proprietors of theatres, etc.; the keeping of a statutory register of artistic works by the Controller of Industrial and Commercial Property; and certain powers of seizure by the Gardaí of pirated musical works which originally derived from the Musical Act, 1906. I recommend the Bill for the approval of the Dáil.

As the Minister has said, this Bill brings the law up to date in relation to copyright and that is a desirable development. Yesterday we discussed a separate Bill dealing with trade marks and, as I understand it, for the future, the provisions in regard to trade marks will be contained in a separate Bill and copyright will be contained in this Bill, whereas formerly they were both included in the Industrial and Commercial Property Protection Act, 1927. There are one or two matters that strike me in this Bill on which I should like some amplification. One is in relation to Section 39 which says:

(1) an appeal shall lie to the High Court from any order or decision of the Controller...

(2) a decision of the High Court under this Section shall be final and not appealable.

Normally in a section of that sort where finality is imposed on an appeal, there is a proviso that an appeal can be taken on a point of law. That might require consideration between now and Committee Stage.

Under Section 43, exemption is granted to certain international organisations, mainly, the United Nations, the organs thereof and the specialised agencies, and also the Organisation of American States. It is also possible under the section to specify other international organisations. I should be interested to know if there is any special reason why the organisations named, the United Nations and its various organs and agencies and the Organisation of American States, are so specified and if there is any reason why a similar provision should not apply to, say, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for European Co-operation and Development, or any of the other organisations such as ILO.

There is another matter referred to in the Minister's speech in relation to Section 53 of the Bill. He says the Bill provides that offences under the section will be prosecuted, not by the Minister as at present but by the person to whom the work has been falsely attributed or, if he is dead, by his personal representative. Take a person who has a large number of literary or artistic productions to his credit, say, a well-known author like the late Bernard Shaw who wrote over a long period and who has now been dead for some years. Is it his personal representative who has the right to take action? Is there any reason why under this proposed Act the change is being made under which this right is vested in the person or his personal representative rather than in the Minister?

It is desirable to make the amendment which is suggested in Section 56. I have no doubt the Benchers of the King's Inns have a number of books which are of no continued use to the people who use the King's Inns library; consequently the power to sell or exchange these books is desirable in order to enable them to devote the money secured from such sale to the purpose either of acquiring additional books or binding or cataloguing existing books there.

I agree also with the provision in the Bill obliging publishers of any book which is published in the State to deliver copies to the National Library and to the library of the universities, including now St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, and Trinity College. This involves publishers in extra expense but these libraries provide a very valuable and useful service. Their funds are not unlimited and this will enable them to keep up to date with publications in a readily accessible manner. For that reason, I think the practice should be continued.

I am not clear about the third point Deputy Cosgrave raised. Why should a person to whom work has been falsely attributed initiate a prosecution? Surely it should be the person who wrote the work. I am not clear why the Minister should use those words.

If Deputy Barry were a composer of note, composing works of high musical content and somebody composed what might be called a Tin Pan Alley ditty and put Deputy Barry's name under it, Deputy Barry in those circumstances would be an aggrieved party and would have the right to prosecute the person who composed this Tin Pan Alley ditty.

It does not relate to the pirating of my works?

No, the contrary.

I thought it was protection against the pirating of works.

No, it is false attribution, that is, having the work falsely attributed to somebody other than the real author.

The first point raised by Deputy Cosgrave is a good one, that normally speaking when decisions of the High Court are final there is a proviso that in the case of a point of law the decision need not be final. Therefore, I will have that matter examined between now and Committee Stage which incidentally I propose to ask for on a date after Christmas when the Dáil reassembles because, this Bill being rather technical, I should like to give those interested in it a full opportunity of examining it in all its details.

As regards the point as to why in Section 43 the United Nations Organisation and its different agencies and the Organisation of American States were specified, the answer is that these organisations are those included in the Protocol to the Universal Copyright Convention.

Those are the three main points that have been raised. I have already answered the third point raised by Deputy Cosgrave in reply to Deputy Barry. As I said, this is a technical Bill, one that must be passed in order to enable us to keep in line with international law and to enable us to adopt international Conventions to which we are a party. Between now and Committee Stage, which will be several weeks ahead, I hope those individuals and organisations who are interested in it will have studied the Bill so as to make sure that all responsible points of view will be considered on Committee Stage.

Even by then, the Minister will hardly have got a copyright for politicians.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 12th December, 1962.