Enforcing copyright

Enforcing copyright

You are responsible for monitoring the way your creative works are used, and protecting these against infringement.

As a copyright owner, you should be prepared to communicate your legal rights to your creative works, and if necessary, defend them through legal action.

If your copyright has been infringed within New Zealand, we recommend that you get assistance from an intellectual property (IP) attorney to take civil action on your behalf.

Civil enforcement options

If you believe that your copyright has been infringed, you may choose to take legal action against the infringing party.

The courts have a wide range of civil remedies available to compensate copyright owners for proven incidences of copyright infringement. These include:

  • interim injunctions,
  • search orders for the preservation of evidence,
  • damages or orders to account for profits and
  • ‘mandatory’ injunctions, including orders to deliver up infringing goods.

If your successful civil enforcement actions do not lead to the infringement ceasing, the Copyright Act 1994 contains criminal offences for the infringement of copyright works for commercial gain. A person convicted for such activity may be imprisoned for up to five years or fined up to NZ$150,000.

Whenever a copyright infringement complaint is made to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), MBIE will determine whether or not a criminal investigation or prosecution is warranted as per its guidelines.

MBIE prosecution policy under the Copyright Act 1994

The Chief Executive of MBIE is empowered to prosecute the offences of manufacturing, importing and selling pirated works prescribed in the Act. MBIE’s prosecution policy guidelines set out the approach that MBIE, through IPONZ, takes in investigating and prosecuting those offences, and how MBIE will work with other agencies that have a role in copyright enforcement - particularly the New Zealand Customs Service, which also has prosecution powers.

View the current prosecution policy guidelines under the Trade Marks Act 2002 and the Copyright Act 1994 [PDF, 314 KB] 

International agreements and importation of goods

Internationally, New Zealand is part of several agreements that establish certain international standards for copyright protection. As in New Zealand, you don’t need to register for copyright protection in these countries; however, every country and situation is different. To find out your rights, discuss your particular situation with an IP attorney.

International copyright protection

If you consider that your copyright work is at risk of being unlawfully copied on goods imported into New Zealand, you can lodge an IP rights notice with the New Zealand Customs Service (Customs). You or your agent may give notice in writing to Customs requesting the detention of suspected infringing goods while the goods are subject to their control (the format of the notice is provided in the Schedule of the Copyright (Border Protection) Regulations 1994). Note that Customs’ detention authority doesn’t apply to goods imported by a person for their private and domestic use.

For more information about border protection notice procedures, please see the New Zealand Customs Service website. This includes a detailed list of IP rights and notices currently accepted by Customs.

Licence agency disputes and file sharing infringements

If you have a dispute with your licence agency or have a file sharing infringement, you can contact the Tribunals Unit within the Ministry of Justice to have your dispute heard by the Copyright Tribunal. There is a three-notice process for copyright owners to take enforcement action against people who infringe copyright via file sharing. Please refer to our file sharing infringement guide for a simplified overview of the process.

Administrative agencies within New Zealand

Before consulting with your IP barrister or patent attorney, you might like to look at the information available on these government agency websites:

Legal advice

The Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE) - including IPONZ and Trading Standards - is not able to provide legal advice. If you have concerns about your legal position, please contact your New Zealand barrister and solicitor or patent attorney.

Find intellectual property lawyers and patent attorneys on the:

Case law

New Zealand Copyright Tribunal Decisions are published online and can be searched using keywords and terms and by party name and year.