This is a Bill to bring the law of copyright up-to-date to meet present day conditions, and to replace the existing Acts, which deal with the matter, by a single comprehensive statute.
Copyright law is the law that protects the authors and composers of original intellectual works such as writings, plays, music, paintings, etcetera. It is the law by which such persons are enabled to derive an economic benefit from their works after they have published them to the world. Basically, the rights which the law gives to authors are the rights to prevent their works from being copied or from being performed, without their permission.
The law at present is contained in Parts VI and VII of the Industrial and Commercial Property (Protection) Act, 1927. There have been a number of minor amendments to this over the years, the last being in 1958. The law enacted in 1927 was substantially the same as that contained in the Copyright Act of 1911; and in the half-century that has passed since then, there have developed new methods of exploiting literary and musical works such as by radio and television, and also new claimants for copyright protection, such as the broadcasting organisations and the cinematograph industry.
The Bill which is now introduced does not make any very fundamental change in the rights of authors and composers over their original works of a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic character, but it defines these rights more exactly. It also introduces some new copyrights in subject-matters other than literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works, and I think I should say a few words about each of these at this stage.
In section 17 of the Bill, a copyright is established in sound recordings. This replaces a provision in existing law under which records and the like were given a copyright as if they were musical works. The contents of recordings need not, of course, be music, and it is more appropriate that the copyright in such subject-matters should be separately defined, as the copyright in recordings is independent of any copyright in any literary or musical work that may be incorporated in the recording. The scope of the copyright in sound recordings, under the Bill, is a right to prevent copying, and a right to payment when the recording is played in public or broadcast.
Section 18 of the Bill deals with cinematograph films, and gives them a copyright on their own standing, irrespective of whether the film is of a dramatic character or a simple record of passing events, and it vests this copyright in the maker of the film whether it be a person or corporate body.
A new copyright is set up by Section 19 in sound and television broadcasts, and it is vested in Radio Éireann. The scope of this copyright is a right to prevent the unauthorised recording or re-broadcasting of a broadcast, and to prevent a television broadcast from being shown to a paying audience. As in the case of sound recordings and cinematograph films, the copyright being established in broadcasts is separate from any copyright that may subsist in any work or subject-matter contained in the broadcast.
There is a further new class of copyright established by Section 20. It is for the benefit of publishers and consists of a right for the publisher to prevent the photo-copying of any edition he may publish. It does not give him any special right in the work contained in the edition; it merely protects his typographical arrangement from reproduction by photographic means.
For the first time, a certain measure of control over the exercise of certain copyrights is being introduced into the law. It is well known that the performing right in musical works is exercised by composers by means of an organisation set up for that purpose. This was probably inevitable, as it would be extremely difficult for an individual composer to keep track of all the various public performances that might be given of a work which he had published, and of which a copy could be bought in a shop. But the fact that the great bulk of what may be called popular music is within the control of one organisation, and that this music must be used by classes of persons such as cinema proprietors, dance promoters and entertainment organisers of various descriptions, has given rise to suggestions that there should be some means by which disputes between such an organisation of copyright owners and users of copyright works could be resolved. I may say that the use of gramophone records for playing in public is a similar case.
The Bill, therefore, in Part V, proposes to set up an appeal body, consisting of the Controller of Industrial and Commercial Property, before whom cases of dispute may be brought. Royalties charged by an individual author for the use of his works will not be a matter that could be brought before the Controller but licensing schemes operated by an organisation of copyright owners can be reviewed at the instance of an organisation of persons requiring such licences.
There have also been some questions raised from time to time about the costs that may be involved in copyright actions. Under the 1927 Act, such actions could be started only in the High Court. The present Bill does not require that actions should be commenced in any particular court, but a provision is introduced in Section 23 which limits the costs that may be recovered on an action taken in the High Court that could have been taken in a lower court. This places copyright actions in the same position as other types of action for infringement of property rights, as governed by the Courts of Justice Act of 1936.
Under present law, actions for infringement of copyright must be commenced within three years of the infringement but this provision is not being continued, and the matter will in future be governed by the Statute of Limitations.
Amongst the miscellaneous provisions being made in Part VII of the Bill is a continuation of the obligation on publishers to send copies of books first published in the State to certain libraries, to which St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, is now added. There have been, I know, criticisms of this, but it is a long time in the law; I think it is a desirable provision and I should not like to sponsor its removal.
And, speaking of libraries, there is a provision introduced at Section 58, enabling the King's Inns Library to dispose of books which they may have acquired and have been obliged to retain, under the terms of old Copyright Acts or the King's Inns Library Act of 1945.
The House will be aware that the protection of copyrights is largely a matter of international agreements. Ireland is a party to the two main Conventions on this matter, namely, the Berne Convention and the Universal Copyright Convention. We have also signed, but cannot yet ratify, a Convention for the international protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms, and Broadcasting Organisations, which was concluded at Rome in 1961. The proposals in this Bill are in accord with our obligations under the two copyright conventions I have mentioned, and are also designed to meet the requirements of the Rome Convention in so far as it relates to records and broadcasts. The Bill does not deal with rights for performers, which will have to be the subject of a separate measure. There is provision in Section 43 of the Bill continuing the existing arrangements by which the Government can make orders extending the benefit of this law to the works and to the nationals of foreign countries to which we give reciprocal protection under the Conventions.
I recommend the Bill for the approval of the House.