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Copyright & Images: Copyright Basics

Copyright & the Digital World; Rules, Risk and Creativity Copyright implications arise whenever anyone creates, interacts with or shares content online with others.


'As creators and consumers of artistic, scientific and cultural expression, copyright and licensing affect the daily lives of everyone in education and research ..'  Reedy, 2018

What is Copyright?

Copyright is the legal term, which describes the rights given to authors/creators of certain categories of work.  

Copyright is a property right and the owner of the work can control the use of the work, subject to certain exceptions.   

The owner of copyright is the author, meaning the person who creates the work. For example a photographer is the owner in the case of a photograph. 

However, as copyright is a form of property, the right may be transferred to someone else, for example, to a publisher

The owner has the exclusive right to prohibit or authorise others to undertake the following: 

  • copy the work
  • perform the work
  • make the work available to the public through broadcasting or recordings
  • make an adaptation of the work. 

Where an employee in the course of employment creates the work, the employer is the owner of the copyright in the work, unless an agreement to the contrary exists.


Copyright Law; Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000, Ireland


The law gives the owner of copyright the following exclusive rights:

  • To reproduce the work (i.e. to make copies);
  • To prepare derivative works (i.e. to make a movie from a book or to translate a work into another language);
  • To distribute copies publicly;
  • To perform the work publicly (i.e. a play or movie);
  • To display the work publicly; and
  • In the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

The owner of the copyright may transfer all or part of these rights to others.

Subject to some exceptions described in this guide (including fair use), if a person exercises any of these rights in another’s work without permission, the person may be liable for copyright infringement.

History: The first copyright legislation was created over 300 years ago. Originally restricted to the written word it now covers artistic, digital, musical, sound recordings, film etc. Copyright protection arises automatically as soon as a work is created (Berne Convention 1886).


Literary, Dramatic, Musical or artistic works: Copyright protection expires 70 years after the death of the author/creator 


For more information:  



This guide  licensed for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. 

Use of the Guide

The purpose of this guide is to give guidance for resolving basic copyright questions. It is designed to provide basic, general information about copyright, and does not constitute legal advice.  The links to third party sites in this guide are provided for your convenience, but NCAD does not take responsibility for the content of these other sites. If you have a question about a specific copyright issue not addressed by this guide, the library encourage you to seek further advice.