What is copyright

Copyright information

What is copyright?

We hear the term used all the time, but what does it actually mean?

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 striking the balance between sharing published work and using it in a way that is ‘proper’ or ‘just’.

The basic principle of copyright, and your obligations can be distilled down reasonably simply:

1. Copyright applies automatically when something is published. In New Zealand, you don’t need to register it like you do a trademark or patent.

2. The © symbol only acts as a reminder.
Even when the © is not displayed, copyright still applies.

3. Everything published is protected by copyright including:

  • Print material
  • Computer programmes
  • Dramatic performances
  • Music
  • Art
  • Page layouts

4. 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.

Copyright is about choice

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.

The basic premise of copyright law is that the creator of the works (in most cases, the author is the person who creates a work) has the right to decide how their work will be used. Generally the author is free to choose whether they retain, commercialise or authorise others to exercise one or more of their copyright rights.

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Copyright’s purpose

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.

Source of copyright

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.

Copyright Act 1994

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

Copyright internationally

Our copyright law has many similarities with those in other countries. 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.

What is protected?

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).

Questions?

For in-depth answers for all your questions, visit our Knowledge Base

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What is copyright?

What is copyright?

We hear the term used all the time, but what does it actually mean?
Learn more
Ownership of copyright

Ownership of copyright

Under the Copyright Act 1994, the author of an original work is usually the first owner of copyright in that work.
Learn more
Copyright exceptions

Copyright exceptions

Copyright is not only about author rights. Copyright balances the right of authors to choose how their creations are used, with society’s interest in allowing people to access and use works of intellectual or creative endeavour.
Learn more
eLearning Copyright Basics

eLearning Copyright Basics

If you’re working or studying in secondary or tertiary education then you need to be aware of copyright. In just 45 minutes our e-learning modules can provide you with a comprehensive practical understanding of copyright in New Zealand.
Learn more
Knowledge Base

Knowledge Base

Visit our knowledge base to find accessible, comprehensive, up-to-date copyright information. We currently offer in-depth guides for publishers, teaching staff, researchers, and students who work in tertiary and secondary education.
Learn more
Resources

Resources

We have created these useful guides, videos and downloads to explain the ins and outs of various aspects of copyright.
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