Seanad debates

Friday, 18 December 2020

Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017: Committee and Remaining Stages


10:00 am

Photo of James BrowneJames Browne (Wexford, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

With regard to the issues involving the regulation of social media, it is not a matter for the Department of Justice and does not come under this Bill. It would lie with the new Department of Environment, Climate and Communications. I understand the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, has published a scheme for an updated Bill on the issues of online safety and media regulation. There are commitments in the programme for Government in that regard and on the establishment of a digital safety commissioner, which will certainly help.

Similarly, copyright law is not under the remit of the Department of Justice. Copyright can be a very powerful tool. Unfortunately, many people are not aware of the power of that law and how one can use it. When I was doing my masters in law, one of the issues that arose was the case law on it at the time where, perhaps, when there had been a bereavement in a shocking manner and newspapers wanted a photograph of the child or family member. A newspaper would somehow get it, possibly surreptitiously. However, it would then start charging other newspapers for using that image, even though it had no copyright over it and no right to do it. We are going off on a tangent, but the point is that I know copyright law can be a very powerful weapon. Its potential is probably not understood and it is certainly something that must be understood more and should be more accessible to the ordinary person. The Senator is right that if people had access to copyright law and could use it as a tool, it could be even more effective in terms of getting quick action taken by relevant social media bodies.


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