This article identifies the world’s first copyright
case as also being the first case of infringement of an artistic work. It shows
how the case of the saint St Colmcille or St Columba has been misunderstood and
misconstrued up to the present day. Irish artistic copyright law is outlined and juxtaposed with that of the UK.
Progressive and restrictive aspects of the law’s development in both countries
are outlined and similarities and divergences noted. The article seeks to
establish whether either jurisdiction has anything to gain from knowledge of
the other’s laws and concludes that, regardless of positive and negative
features of the compared legal systems, the sale of artistic works is unlikely
to be affected by this mutual revelation, come what may. However, the
differences which emerge from the sources and understanding of the law make the
academic journey, if not the destination, very worthwhile.