Maria O’Brien
Queen’s University Belfast, Ireland

Creative Commons 4.0 by Maria O’Brien. This text may be archived and redistributed both in electronic form and in hard copy, provided that the author and journal are properly cited and no fee is charged for access.

Simon Shire

Dublin: Clarus Press, 2023, 790 pages.

ISBN:  978-1 911611-07-3

Have you ever wondered why Taylor Swift is rerecording “Taylor’s versions” of some of her back catalogue? Or what the law is on live music performances? Or how much it might cost to have Dublin’s iconic Ha’penny Bridge in the background of your film? Or even if you have to pay to shoot your film in public? What about the legal issues behind raising private equity for a film? Or how Ireland’s generous film tax credit, Section 481, works in practice? Or do you want to read about the nuances of the cancelled Garth Brooks gigs at Croke Park in 2014?

Simon Shire’s comprehensive and wide-ranging book on entertainment and media law in Ireland has been long awaited in the entertainment law circuit in Ireland. It answers these questions and many more on wide-ranging aspects of entertainment, media and performance law in Ireland. This significant contribution to entertainment and media law practice in Ireland has filled a gap in the resources for anyone wanting insightful coverage of the multiple areas of legal practice that are involved in developing commercial creative content in Ireland. It takes a global perspective on some aspects, e.g., music copyright infringement, but with the understanding of the territorial particularities of an Irish legal focus.

The culture and entertainment industries in Ireland are recognised as a significant contributor to both the economy and the cultural fabric of a nation. The role of the law in regulating creation, consumption and dissemination of culture is of importance to legal practitioners, content creators and academic researchers. Simon Shire’s tome unravels many of the unknowns facing creators in their desire to work in the entertainment and creative industries. It is particularly useful for professionals and legal practitioners in this field, offering a comprehensive and in-depth analysis of the key aspects of entertainment law. What is particularly interesting is the intersection of positive law issues with analysis of relevant case law. This is not necessarily a book to read cover to cover in one sitting, and at 790 pages this would be a difficult task. Instead, it is a legal reference book, to be at hand for concise, astute and insightful coverage of many of the legal conundrums facing creative practitioners today.

There are a number of sections that will be of particular interest to the readership of this journal, with the coverage of film production in Part III for example. Other sections on copyright, music rights and performance rights offer insights into the foundational role of law in the world of cultural expression in Ireland. This book offers cultural practitioners and the legal field comprehensive information on key aspects of the creative economies. Where it is of interest to media academics is the opportunity to crack open the black box of laws and regulation that shape the production landscape. The law might be perceived of as simultaneously a protector of rights or as a barrier to expression. Shire’s book illustrates the complexity of the operation of the legal system in shaping content creation and consumption. It also illustrates the myriad ways cultural expression is undertaken. What makes this book of interest to film and media scholars in particular, and with a consideration of the readership of this journal, are the sections on film funding, copyright and performers’ rights. It also enables the reader to deepen their understanding of the regulatory systems that actively shape our cultural engagements.

The book opens with a section on business management, covering the legal aspects of company formation and the various types of event insurance. The provision of legal resources on such aspects of cultural production as music clearance, negligence law and insurance illustrates the depth and breadth of this textbook as a legal resource for those involved in production and their advisers. The next chapter covers the important area of safety, health and welfare at work, with an interesting section on the impact of COVID-19 on production. Of particular interest to Irish media academics is the in-depth, up to date and practical advice on issues of defamation law. While media law practitioners and researchers are still waiting on the new promised defamation legislation, it is inevitable that both legal and technical developments since publication and going forward will render certain sections out of date. However, Shire is at pains to flag this at the outset. In fact, his interrogation of legal concepts throughout the book, and the use of select case law to illustrate key points in the text offers a strong foundation for the understanding of new legal and technical concepts.

Part II opens with a number of chapters which will be of much interest to film academics in Ireland. Chapters 6 to 9 address the complex area of film distribution and financing of the sector from both the public purse (including Section 481, Screen Ireland and EU funding) and from the market, with a chapter on film distribution and private funding. These chapters will be of particular interest to anyone with an interest in the Irish film sector. It is clear that having an understanding of the complexities and practicalities of the intersection of law, policy and practice in the development and distribution of Irish film is of immense help in piecing together the background to Irish productions.

Shire then continues with the equally important topics of the value of and implementation of intellectual property rights for creators in Ireland, with chapters on copyright, performer rights, trademarks and passing off. Complex legal concepts are illustrated through fascinating cases such as that of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A chapter on data protection covers both influencer “shareting” impact and journalist rights – illustrating the convergence of media forms from film, tv, social media and traditional publishing forms. Chapters on employment of children and use of animal actors use some particularly insightful examples including the controversy around perceived animal cruelty in the Irish drama Love/Hate.

There is scope perhaps for more interrogation of the development of thorny aspects of practice in Ireland, e.g., on crew agreements. The chapter on royalties and residuals analyses, albeit in a relatively brief fashion, the Irish position on residuals which is not favourable to those working in the Irish industry. The dissonance between USA rights and Irish rights is of key significance to those working in this area, and in the increasingly complex co-production landscape. The crucial importance of residuals and music rights is of practical interest to many working in the precarious Irish creative industries.

Part III focuses in particular on music production and performance including the shooting of music videos.  Akin to the sections on film production, the nuances on authorship, royalties, the function of collection societies, copyright and music insurance for shooting videos brings to life the key role law plays in shaping creative performances. Part IV covers general entertainment including chapters on licensing of events, fire safety, regulation of busking and gambling. The following section, Part V, addresses content regulation and the impact of the new Media Commission and the implementation of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive. The section on content levies and regulation of video sharing platforms illustrates Shire’s grasp of the role of role of the state in funding content creation in Ireland. Part VI explicitly addresses aspects of law relating to journalistic content, including court reporting, injunctions, privacy and the role of the Press Council and Press Ombudsman. No doubt the second edition will pay close attention to the governance of RTÉ.

Given the vastness of the subject matter, it does not cover every aspect of law. For example, there is no specific or detailed coverage of social media content – albeit such issues are covered in certain aspects of copyright – Digital Single Market, and defamation to give some examples. Neither does it address issues of artificial intelligence in any detail, as flagged in the introduction which points out that it states the law as of April 2023. However, these observations are in no way a criticism.

Shire’s book is must-read for anyone who is teaching media law and practice, for anyone who advises content creators of all sorts, particularly performers, producers and the film industry in Ireland. There is no doubt that many practitioners and industry people will keep this close to hand to refer to on any aspect of entertainment and media law and practice. It is an important addition to the canon of informative, interesting, and thorough law books on aspects of Irish media law and policy.