I wish I could feel surprised at this, but no. I'm not.
Ireland is run by a large number of career politicians:
- some of whom effectively inherited their positions from their parents
- many of whom have no actual skills other than being personable
- with little to no concept of how the Internet works
- in an environment where corruption is rampant, excessive, and largely unpunished
- and surrounded by businesspeople who have a habit of seeing the government as a tool to be used to increase their profits.
Of course it was passed. Cronyism alone would ensure that. If the Irish government are not going to listen to the people when it comes to something like bailing out the defunct banking system - after it was run off a cliff by rich bankers with ties to the major political parties - then they will not listen now.
The chunk of Ireland that votes is largely the older population who view technology with deep suspicion. The major political parties are a choice between the deeply corrupt, the ineffectual and incompetent, and the so-small-they're-powerless. And the younger, college-educated generation (most of us, we can get close-to-free third level degrees) between 20 and 30 years old are emigrating in their thousands, in keeping with the long tradition of the Irish saying 'fuck this' and getting out of the country when faced with economic disaster.
In short: the only thing that'll have an effect on this is if the major tech companies (who base their European HQs in Ireland to take advantage of the ridiculously low corporate tax rate) start kicking up a fuss or bribing the right people. Nothing in Irish politics matters except money, and if they threaten to take all their money and leave for someplace less obviously crazy, the law will be struck down so fast your head will spin. But nothing - NOTHING - the actual populace can do will make a difference.
The Book of Kells wasn't printed - it's an illuminated manuscript, which was illustrated by hand by an order of Irish monks. It was the work of many people whose identities are unknown, so good luck figuring out who owns the copyright on that - if copyright were infinite, of course.
The Book is kept in Trinity College in Dublin, and the College has a trademark on the name so that they can use it for merchandise or whatever. Profits go back into the College and into the conservation of their collection of old books and manuscripts. As far as I know, they haven't claimed any copyright on the Book itself.
The facsimiles are perfect reproductions so they're not copyrightable, but there was a staggering amount of work put into creating them - they're not something you could just download off the net and print out yourself. Scholarly commentary on the Book is obviously copyrighted by the respective authors.
In short: the printer was probably being over-cautious, and if they didn't recognise the Book of Kells, it's not outside the realm of possibility that they'd refuse to print it in case it's a modern work. In Ireland, for example, I'm pretty sure any printer would be happy to do it because they'd know it on sight.
This raises the pretty rotten prospect, however, of someone's photos being printed depending on the printer's own knowledge of copyright law/art history/insert esoteric subject here. Anyone who thinks this is alright needs their head examined.
It is not the responsibility of the average person to teach a business about fair use and the public domain in order to avail of their services.
Not to pick any nits here, but I don't think it's fair to assume that Google nuked the sites entirely because they were being cautious or wanted to prove a point. Do we actually know what's involved in removing everything BUT the links from their servers, in such a way that they would be 100% sure that nothing left could be construed as articles, photos, or graphical representations to the court in question?
To be honest, this sounds more like they simply took the option that would be easiest to implement in the shortest possible time frame. When you're looking at fines of silly-money-per-day if you don't comply, it's entirely possible to have no reason to putz around and literally no time to implement a solution other than the nuke.
Sucks for the newspapers, of course, but considering how technologically tone-deaf many courts are, Google's actions are not surprising at all. I can't imagine what a judge would think if Google had to explain why they hadn't gotten rid of all the 'content' yet: "Sorry, we're trying to make sure they're still listed in our index - yes, we know you told us to remove all that stuff, it's not the same thing, trust us - no, really, you don't need to fine us..."
Much as I'd like to see fair use being introduced in Ireland, I really, really doubt it'll happen anytime soon.
The Irish government is characterised by corruption and close links to business; they're an old boys' club with the dial turned up to eleven, and many are supremely ignorant of modern technology and the Internet. This is the same government mentality, for example, that allowed a previous Minister to collude with businessmen in the sale of the nation's second mobile phone license, an act for which he still has not served any prison time - and he probably never will.
If a fair use clause was proposed, I'm reasonably certain that a few things would happen:
1 - any expert opinions will be provided by businesses who have an interest in it being permanently shelved.
2 - the government will spend a truly mind-boggling amount of time debating it, on the level of years if not decades.
3 - a staggering amount of money will be wasted in the debate, most of which will go to business associates of the politicians supervising it.
4 - in the end, nothing will actually be done and no changes will be made.
This might seem overly pessimistic, but honestly, it's about what you can expect from the Dáil these days. They tend to talk in circles rather than get things done, because if things are done, things can go wrong, and they don't want the blame.
That and considering how badly fucked the country is right now, it probably won't be long before the introduction of fair use will be the least of Ireland's problems.
If anyone here is looking at self publishing, google Zoe Winters and check out her blog - she's an indie author, publishes her own ebooks, and she's just released an ebook on how to self publish.
(Disclaimer: I hate her stuff. Paranormal romance is not for me. But I appreciate how she's making a living as a writer outside of traditional publishers.)
One other thing you should definitely know about - avoid places like PublishAmerica and iUniverse and the other random scam companies that will sell you overpriced marketing crap. Read the Writer Beware blog at http://accrispin.blogspot.com/. Victoria Strauss is pretty much the last word on whether someone is legit, and if you're still not sure you can ask on the Absolute Write forums.
TL;DR - Self pubbing is HARD LIKE ROCKS, and is just starting to turn into a viable alternative to mainstream. Make damn sure you know what you're paying for and research the hell out of everything.