The remaining sections of the Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Law Provisions Act 2019 were enacted on 26 December introducing a number of significant and long-awaited changes to the copyright regime in Ireland.
The 2019 Act modernises Irish copyright law and implements certain exceptions to copyright infringement permitted under the EU Info Soc Directive.
It modernises the law in a number of respects and bolsters the position of rights holders in light of technological developments in the digital age.
Certain provisions of the 2019 Act also reflect aspects of Directive (EU) 2019/790 on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (CDSM Directive), though the 2019 Act does not refer to the CDSM Directive and substantial further implementing legislation will be required.
While the 2019 Act is broad and wide-ranging in its scope, it introduces some key changes including: the term of protection for copyright for designs/industrially exploited artistic works; defences to copyright infringement including the extension of the “fair dealing” exception; and the provisions of the 2019 Act that purport to extend the jurisdiction of the District Court and Circuit Court to hear “intellectual property claims”.
The Act strengthens the protection of copyright in designs by amending the term of protection from 25 years to the life of the creator, plus 70 years bringing Ireland in line with other EU Member States.
Companies that have modelled their business on the shorter period of copyright protection for the products caught by these provisions may need to take steps to ensure that they are not infringing once the transitional periods have expired.
The Act modernises and expands the existing “fair dealing” exceptions to copyright infringement introducing a fair dealing exception in respect of “caricature, parody or pastiche”. This is one of the exceptions that was permitted under the Info Soc Directive and is required under the CDSM Directive in respect of the uploading and making available of content generated by users on online content-sharing services.
This exception seeks to strike a balance between the rights of authors and rights holders and freedom of expression in the context of the internet. The exception will only apply to the extent that the use is for a purpose and to an extent which will not unreasonably prejudice the interests of the owner of the copyright.
There are also a number of education-focused exceptions to infringement, intended to reflect modern society’s learning methods, including in respect of distance learning and use of online materials.
Research based exemptions have also been updated to reflect the digital age and the increasingly important role of data analytics, including provisions in respect of “data mining” for non-commercial research.
The Act also improves the rights for “format shifting” for archivists and libraries i.e. making copies in different form for the purposes of preservation of those works.
A key amendment introduced by the Act is the extension of the jurisdiction of the Circuit and District Courts to include certain IP claims. The current jurisdiction of the Circuit Court covers claims with a value of up to €75,000, while the District Court hears claims with a value of up to €15,000.
IP rightsholders will now be able to bring certain claims in lower courts where they may be heard in a more timely manner and will incur fewer legal costs than if such proceedings were brought in the Commercial Court (which is the dedicated IP court of the High Court).
The Act significantly modernises copyright in Ireland but many provisions of the CDSM Directive remain to be implemented. As technology and commercial practices constantly evolve, the process of establishing a modern or fit-for-practice copyright regime will remain an ongoing one.