Expert committee calls for establishment of copyright council

Copyright committee also wants specialist courts for intellectual property claims

Dr Eoin O’Dell, chairman of the Copyright Review Committee, which released its Modernising Copyright report yesterday. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

An expert committee has called on the Government to set up a statutory copyright council to protect copyright and said specialist courts should be established for intellectual property claims.

The committee, chaired by academic lawyer Dr Eoin O’Dell, was appointed in 2011 to make recommendations for an overhaul of Irish copyright law. The topic is highly contentious: copyright holders claim the internet facilitates commercial flouting of copyright but technology groups claim the law as it stands is too restrictive.

The committee’s work covers such areas as newspaper and book publishing, journalism, internet search, academia and libraries, film and television, and the legal sector.

The committee's Modernising Copyright report was published yesterday by Minister for Enterprise Richard Bruton. He will examine the report before making legislative proposals to the Government.

Key recommendations
Among its key recommendations are its call for the establishment of a copyright council of Ireland to ensure the integrity of copyright while protecting freedom of expression.


Such a council should be independent, self-funding and would be analogous in some respects to the Press Council, said the committee's report. "This should be based on principal objects that ensure the protection of copyright and the general public interest as well as encouraging innovation; and it should have a broad subscribing membership and board drawn widely from the Irish copyright community," the committee said.

“Establishment of the council on a statutory basis would, in particular, assure its independence from Government, State agencies and from any one category or group of stakeholders.”

The committee also called for an expansion of the small claims procedure in the District Court to include intellectual property claims up to the standard limit of the court’s jurisdiction, currently €15,000. It further called for a specialist intellectual property court to be established in the Circuit Court.

In addition, it said the Controller of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks should be renamed the Controller of Intellectual Property.

"It will still be for the Minister to make policy, for the controller to implement that policy and to regulate and administer the State's formal intellectual property infrastructure, for the council to provide education and advice and run its various services, and for the courts to provide ultimate resolution of disputes."

Review committee
Dr O'Dell is an associate professor of law at Trinity College Dublin. His colleagues on the Copyright Review Committee were solicitor Patricia McGovern of legal firm DFMG and Prof Steve Hedley of University College Cork.

They said it should not be an infringement of copyright to derive an original work which either "substantially differs from, or substantially transforms" the initial work. They also called for a "very circumspect" copyright exemption for the"fair use" of material, saying they did not recommend a US-style "fair use" doctrine but rather a "specifically Irish" version. The committee will present its findings at a public forum in the Royal Irish Academy on December 9th.

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times