What is Copyright?
Copyright is an intellectual property right given to owners of
original works, e.g authors, artists, musicians, product developers
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
• 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
• artistic works (e.g paintings, drawings,
diagrams, maps, models, photographs and sculptures)
• sound recordings
• communication works (e.g radio and television
broadcasts and internet webcasts)
• typographical arrangements of published
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
For more information on the basics regarding copyright, check out
the Intellectual Property Office of NZ's website at www.iponz.govt.nz