Copyright Law


Avoid common copyright breaches – are you getting the basics right?

Copyright is becoming increasingly difficult to control in the face of technological advances and the easy and rapid distribution of information. Many organisations and businesses regularly face situations that require knowledge of copyright law – what can and what can’t be copied and used.

Failure to comply with copyright law can have adverse legal and PR consequences for organisations. Breaches of the law, if widely published in the media, may cause damage to your brand and result in loss of business.

Your staff might be plagiarising without realising it

It’s common for people to make minor changes to someone else’s work and pass it off as their own. What they might not realise is that it’s plagiarism. Oxford Dictionaries define copyright as “The exclusive and assignable legal right, given to the originator for a fixed number of years, to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material”. Plagiarism is defined by the same dictionary as “The practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own”.

What your staff don't know can hurt you

It's an accident waiting to happen if your marketing or retail staff don't clearly understand copyright law. Dacreed's online compliance platform trains your staff and allows you to keep track of their progress.



Be wary of adapting copyright material

Changing someone else’s copyright work without their permission is called adaptation, which the copyright owner controls. Making an adaptation of a work involves producing a different version of what is still substantially the same work, and this is not permitted. If you have merely looked at someone else’s work for inspiration and have created your own original work as a result, this is permitted. The courts have said that what matters is whether the intellectual content of the original work has been taken.

Is it illegal to deal with a copyright work without permission?

In certain specified circumstances a person may deal with a copyright work without permission from the copyright owner. These are called permitted acts under the Copyright Act and include:

  • Criticism, review and news reporting
  • Research or private study
  • Transient reproduction of work
  • Copying for educational purposes
  • Public administration purposes

Get the comprehensive guide to copyright law in NZ

Our copyright law guide gives you straightforward and practical guidance on issues relating to copyright. It covers copyright ownership and duration, permitted acts, dealing with rights in copyright works, and copyright infringement and remedies. Copyright licensing agreements are covered and copyright protection approaches.

Available on subscription, the guide provides:

  • Essential elements of copyright law for organisations
  • Key provisions of the legislation
  • Case studies and examples
  • Common risks
  • Tips for avoiding common traps

 Access to a selection of best practice tools is included, such as agreements, guidelines, checklists, templates and forms.



Licensing agreements permit some uses

A licensing agreement permits you to exercise specific rights in relation to a copyright work. Some of the practical benefits of entering into licensing agreements include not needing to apply individually for copyright permissions, and receiving the benefit of enhanced rights. Fees have to be paid as specified in the agreements and copying must still comply with the Act. Licensing schemes include:

  • Copyright Licensing New Zealand
  • Screenrights
  • Print Media Copyright Agency
  • Recorded Music NZ


Copying from the internet isn't exempt

Copyright applies to anything you might find on the internet. It is not safe to use online material unless you have the permission of the copyright owner, or the copyright notice on the site provides a licence stating the terms of use, or a statutory exception applies such as “fair use”. There is, however, no copyright in a hyperlink (a URL), so linking to a site won’t breach copyright.


Significant fines for copyright breaches

A person may be criminally liable for certain copyright infringements. Fines for breaching copyright can be significant depending on the circumstances, up to a total of $150,000 in some cases. They also face prison for up to 5 years. Organisations need to be careful to avoid copying and distributing something that they’re not allowed to. Directors and managers can also be convicted for an employee’s copyright infringement in some situations.

How can you reduce your risk?

With Dacreed's online compliance training you can train managers and staff on the copyright law they need to comply with to help protect you and your business from prosecution. Once completed, the training also enables you to demonstrate a lower risk profile to insurers. This results in lower premiums – saving you and your business money.



Automatic copyright protection

In New Zealand, copyright attaches as soon as you put an original work into a material form (created, published or performed), including being stored on a computer. It is not essential to use the copyright symbol © to protect your work. However, it is good practice to include in the work a copyright symbol and your name, followed by the year of creation (eg © [name] 2019).

Copyright doesn't last forever

In New Zealand, copyright in literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works lasts for the life of the author plus 50 years. Copyright in typographical layouts of published work lasts for 25 years. There are different periods of protection for other types of copyright work. It pays to check the details.

Beware of trademarks

Trademarks are a common trap. It is a criminal offence to falsely apply another company’s registered trademark to your goods or services, and an organisation faces fines of up to $150,000 and prison for up to 5 years. However, there are exceptions: for example a business can use a competitor’s registered trademark when comparing their goods or services.

Train your staff on copyright law basics

Make sure your employees and managers are aware of their obligations. Dacreed's online compliance training helps you grow and maintain safe business practices.