What is Copyright?

Copyright is an intellectual property right given to owners of original works, e.g authors, artists, musicians, product developers etc...

Copyright does not last forever. The time period it lasts for depends on the type of work. For example, copyright in a literary or musical work lasts during the life of the author and for a further 50 years from the death of the author. By contrast, copyright in a product design lasts for 16 years.

While it is not a requirement, copyright is often indicated by the symbol © followed by the name of the copyright owner. This lets the public know there is copyright in a work.

How do you get it?

In NZ, you do not need to apply for copyright protection - it is automatic. It comes into existence when an original work is created, published or performed.

The owner of Copyright is generally the creator. However, there are a couple of exceptions, such as where an employee creates a work in the course of their employment, in which case the employer will be the owner. Also, if someone commissions and pays for a work, e.g pays a designer to design something, or pays a photographer to take photos, the person who commissions the work will be the owner.

What does it mean?

Copyright extends to original works that fit into the following categories:

•    literary works (e.g novels, song lyrics, compilations including multimedia works, computer programs)
•    dramatic works (e.g dance, mime, film)
•    musical works (e.g score and sheet music)
•    artistic works (e.g paintings, drawings, diagrams, maps, models, photographs and sculptures)
•    sound recordings
•    films
•    communication works (e.g radio and television broadcasts and internet webcasts)
•    typographical arrangements of published editions

If you have copyright in a work you have the exclusive right to copy the work, perform, play or show the work, communicate and adapt the work.

Copyright is governed by the Copyright Act 1994 and if someone infringes your copyright there are remedies available under the Act.

For more information on the basics regarding copyright, check out the Intellectual Property Office of NZ's website at

Written by Kylie van Heerden at 09:00




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