Pure Tradition Copyright Free

I welcome the recent demarcation agreement between Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Eíreann and the Irish Music Rights Organisation which should go a long way to ensuring that unnecessary and damaging disputes on such issues within the music community are avoided.’ This was stated by Mr Tom Kitt, TD, Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, when speaking in Seanad Eíreann on the new Copyright legislation.

Continuing Minister Kitt said -

Turning to the question of the relationship between copyright and traditional music, Senators will recall spirited exchanges taking place in the House on this subject in the course of debate on the Intellectual Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1998. Once again, Senators O Murchú and Mooney had notable contributions to make on that point in the current debate. Clearly, for pure traditional music which is, by definition, without an author, and for which the question of originality cannot arise, there is no reason primary copyright should attach to it at all. Copyright considerations should not affect the right of players to play music which is part of a genuine traditional community resource and over which no primary copyright interest can exist. Nonetheless, problems can arise in connection with arrangements of traditional music which, as arrangements, may be protected by copyright. Furthermore, concerns have been voiced about the implications for the continued free use of traditional music `captured’, so to speak, in ever more perfect recording media over which, of course, sound recording copyright, a neighbouring right, may exist in respect of the recording only.

Having considered the matter, I am not convinced that the phenomenon of so-called `digital capture’ should pose a practical problem in this area. It remains true that copyright cannot in any circumstances attach to a pure traditional work so as to interfere with the right of traditional players to perform it. There is, of course, an unavoidable area of difficulty with regard to arrangements of traditional music which may, as arrangements, qualify for copyright protection.

With regard to how disputes in this grey area might be avoided, I believe that interested parties, both in respect of traditional music and of music copyright, have a serious responsibility to behave sensibly and reasonably towards each other in asserting their respective rights. In this context, I welcome the recent demarcation agreement between Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Eireann and the Irish Music Rights Organisation which should go a long way to ensuring that unnecessary and damaging disputes on such issues within the music community are avoided.

`Property of The Spirits’

Senator ó Murchú mentioned the tradition in some societies that expressions of folklore such as traditional music should be regarded as the property of the spirits or, perhaps, as the common property of the community from which they arose. This touches, Minister Kitt said, on the question of whether intellectual property law should convey a form of protection which would in some way recognise the unique ownership interests of indigenous communities in their folklore and in indigenous assets in general, a recognition that might take the form of financial return to the community in question or special privileges in using the material, or both.

This is a large question which challenges the traditional, individualistic basis of intellectual property law as it has evolved in the developed world. It is clear that in a world of increasingly sophisticated media for the copying, representation, adaptation and transmission of artistic works, data and information of all sorts, intellectual property rights in relation to such materials can only be conveyed in an environment of substantial international agreement as to the scope of the protection to be afforded, its nature and is subject matter, as well as the appropriate beneficiaries of the protection. We are only at the beginning of the process that may lead to such agreement and many questions need to be answered before agreement on this level is possible.

At this stage, I can say that Ireland warmly welcomes the initiatives by international organisations such as UNESCO and the World Intellectual Property Organisation in advancing the debate at this early stage and we will follow future developments with interest. I will be anxious to follow that debate at intentional level. Senator O Murchú made a substantial and important point that needed to be be addressed during this debate.