Copyright applies automatically when something is published or created. It is about striking the balance between sharing published work and using it in an appropriate way.
Copy - the imitation or reproduction of an original.
Right - in accordance with what is good, proper or just - Collins World English Dictionary.
Copyright is about choice
Copyright balances the right of authors and creators to choose how their creations are used, with society’s interest in allowing people to access and use works of intellectual or creative endeavour. Under the Copyright Act 1994, the author or creator of an original work is usually the first owner of copyright in that work.
The basic premise of copyright law is that the creator of the works (in most cases, the creator is the person who creates a work) has the right to decide how their work will be used. Generally the creator is free to choose whether they retain, commercialise or authorise others to exercise one or more of their copyright rights.
The basic principle of copyright, and your obligations can be distilled down reasonably simply:
Basic principles of copyright
Copyright applies automatically when something is published
Copyright applies automatically when something is published. In New Zealand, you don’t need to register it like you do a trademark or patent. The © symbol only acts as a reminder. Even when the © is not displayed, copyright still applies.
Everything published is protected by copyright
- Print material
- Computer programmes
- Dramatic performances
- Page layouts
Copyright lasts more than a life time
Copyright lasts more than a life time. In New Zealand, copyright on literary, dramatic, artistic and musical works is in place for the lifetime of the creator of the material, and up to 50 years after their death.
Ownership of copyright
Copyright is a form of intellectual property right. It gives the person who creates an original work exclusive rights to copy, publish, publicly perform, transmit and adapt their material. Read more about the differences between copyright, IP and patent here.
In most cases, the author or creator is the person who creates a work and their fundamental right is to decide how their work will be used. During the term of copyright, anyone who wishes to copy or do another restricted act in relation to the relevant work must get permission from the copyright owner, unless the use is permitted under the Copyright Act.
Copyright protection arises automatically once an original work is written down or recorded in some way, such as on paper, on canvas or in digital form. Copyright applies to a broad range of material and applies to works available in hard copy or in digital form. The categories of works protected by copyright are: literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works; the typographical layout of published editions; sound recordings; films; and communication works (such as TV/radio broadcasts and internet transmissions).
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Copyright in Aotearoa
In New Zealand, copyright in literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works lasts for the life of the author plus fifty years from the end of the year in which the author dies.
Put simply, the Copyright Act 1994 is a set of guidelines that explains how published content can and can not be used. The general rule is: if it is published, it is copyright protected. The full text of the Copyright Act can be accessed at www.legislation.govt.nz. Our copyright law has many similarities with those in other countries, but it is important to remember that the use of any copyright works in New Zealand, including overseas material is governed by the laws of this country.
One of the reasons for copyright is to provide an incentive for the creation and dissemination of creative works that meet our social and economic needs, including the promotion of learning and education. Society places significant value on creative and intellectual content such as books, journals, newspapers, art works, music and films. So if creators are able to earn just reward for their efforts, this is likely to stimulate more creativity for the public benefit.
Modern copyright law originated in England in 1709 with a piece of legislation known as the Statute of Anne, which granted authors the exclusive right to print books for a limited period of time. Since then, copyright laws have been introduced into most countries around the world and along with significant advances in technology, copyright laws have been progressively developed and updated to adapt to modern times. You can read more about the origins of copyright here.
Copyright is not only about creators rights. Copyright balances the right of creators to choose how their creations are used, with society’s interest in allowing people to access and use works of intellectual or creative endeavour.
One of the most important ways the Copyright Act balances the various rights and interests, is by allowing people to use copyright works without the need to get permission. You can copy without permission from an original if it is for:
- Private study
- Criticism or review
- Reporting current events
The amount copied should be deemed ‘fair’. For example it might be fair for an individual to copy an entire poem or article if it is relevant to their study topic. On the other hand, it is unlikely to be fair to copy an entire book if only a section relates to the study.
In education, teachers and educators are permitted to copy the following from an original hardcopy:
- A single copy (for lesson planning purposes)
- Multiple copies to up to 3% or three pages (whichever is greater)
You can read more about copyright permissions and exclusions here.
Internationally there can be significant differences between the copyright exceptions in New Zealand and those under the law of other countries. For example, New Zealand does not have a general “fair use” defence as exists in United States copyright law (read more on this here). In addition, some other countries allow the use of third party copyright material for the purposes of parody and satire. There is currently no equivalent copyright exception in New Zealand.