2.1 OER and copyright in Ireland

Magnifying glass on top of page with copyright logo (letter C in a circle)
Image: Exploring copyright by Fastfission, CC BY-SA (Wikimedia)

Copyright provides legal protection for authors and creators, but also limits the ability for subsequent sharing and reuse. If you wish to use a resource for which you are not the copyright owner, it is necessary to seek permission from the copyright owner or ensure that you comply with the specific terms of the relevant copyright licences or exceptions.

By adding an open licence to a resource, a creator can retain copyright but permit specific forms of reuse. Adding an open licence, such as a Creative Commons licence, to any resource makes it an open educational resource or OER.

This section briefly defines copyright in order to describe the broader context within which open licensing operates. If you have any questions about copyright in relation to your own work, it is important that you contact an existing service or colleague within your institution who can advise you. The resources provided below are provided for background information purposes only.  


Copyright is a legal term meaning that the authors or originators of various kinds of work, including (but not limited to) images, literary works, pieces of music, films, sound recordings, books and software, have specific rights. Copyright is an intellectual property right that provides legal protection for authors or originators of works, establishing that the work is their intellectual property and that reputational or financial gain associated with the work should go to the author or originator. (Once again, the addition of an open licence to a work does not affect copyright. By assigning an open licence to a work, an author/owner can proactively extend permissions to reuse the work, according to the terms of the open licence. Open licences only act to restrict what a reuser may do under the license, not what the owner can do.)

In Ireland, there is no registration procedure for owners of a copyright work. The act of creating a work also creates the copyright, which then subsists in the physical expression of such works (Intellectual Property Office of Ireland). The main legislation governing copyright in Ireland is the Copyright & Related Rights Act, 2000 and the Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Law Provisions Act, 2019.

Copyright exceptions

There are a number of limited exceptions to copyright (as defined in the Acts listed above) that are relevant within higher education. These exceptions facilitate the use of copyright protected works without the need to seek permission from the copyright owner. For example, limited exceptions exist to copy or communicate copyrighted work for the sole purpose of illustration for education, teaching or scientific research — as long as certain conditions are met. In addition, an educational establishment may share copyrighted work as part of a lesson or examination, to students of that establishment, via a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) — again, as long as certain specific conditions are met. Such conditions include a limit on the amount of material that may be shared, a requirement to provide attribution, checking that the material is not on the excluded works list, etc.

Irish Copyright Licensing Agency (ICLA)

The Irish Copyright Licensing Agency (ICLA) provides licences for the re-use of copyright works to organisations in Ireland, including the education sector. Specifically, the ICLA HE licence provides higher education institutions in Ireland with licensing for works used in blended and online teaching and learning. The full terms and conditions of the licence can be found at www.icla.ie/he/ and further detail can be found in the User Guidelines for the Higher Education Licence (ICLA, 2020).

A useful overview of Irish copyright law and open licences for digital learning was provided by Dr Darius Whelan (School of Law, University College Cork) at an EDTL webinar in June 2020. See the clip below (starts at 2:13).


Finding out more regarding copyright (Ireland and Europe)

Coronavirus and copyright – or, the copyright concerns of the widespread move to online instruction by Dr Eoin O’Dell (School of Law, Trinity College Dublin) outlines key aspects of recent copyright legislation that relate specifically to online education.

The Intellectual Property Office of Ireland (IPOI) provides an overview as well as a full report on copyright and related rights.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment provides a helpful overview of copyright.

COMMUNIA is an international organisation seeking to foster, strengthen and enrich the Public Domain; advocating for policies that increase access to and reuse of culture and knowledge; and seeking to limit the scope of exclusive copyright to sensible proportions that do not place unnecessary restrictions on access and use.

Copyright and Education in Europe: 15 everyday cases in 15 countries by Teresa Nobre (COMMUNIA) outlines five case studies of copyright in education in Europe; Ireland is not included in the fifteen countries, but the range of copyright legislation across Europe is illuminating.


1.5 References & Resources for Understanding Open
2.2 Creative Commons for open licensing