Ownership and protection

Ownership and protection

The person who created the works is usually the owner of any copyright unless the work is created in the course of employment or someone commissions and agrees to pay for it, in which case the rights will have been reassigned.

Copyright comes into effect automatically when an original work of a specific type is created, published or performed. Section 14 of the Copyright Act 1994  details the types of work to which this applies.

In New Zealand, there is no copyright register or application process to be granted protection. Instead, there are a few things you can do to protect your rights:

  1. Include a copyright indicator © on your work, followed by the name of the copyright owner and year the copyright work was first created. For example, © James Henare 2016. 

    Labelling identifies who owns the work and when it was first created. The year in which the work was created is important for calculating how long your works are protected for.

  2. Keep a record of more detailed information, which can include:
    • contact details of the owner or their legal representative
    • licensing terms and conditions
    • other intellectual property indicators for registrations and applications used or referred to in the copyright work
    • acknowledgements to those who contributed to the work
    • copies of electronic documents, letters, print editions, prototypes, moulds, drawings and log books supporting when a copyright work was first created.

  3. To further protect yourself, you can appoint a licensing agency to represent you, by producing contracts and granting licences to use your works and collect fees on your behalf.
  4. Be prepared to enforce your copyright against infringement. Find out more about enforcing your copyright.

New Zealand is a member of several international agreements for copyright protection. This means that copyright recognised in New Zealand is also automatically recognised in some countries.

What isn't protected

Copyright protects the expression of ideas or information − not the ideas or information itself. For example, if you write a novel, the text will be protected, but not the ideas or plot. Someone could write their own novel using your ideas, without necessarily infringing copyright. Similarly, if two authors independently create a similar work based on the same idea, without copying from each other or from someone else, there is no copyright infringement.

Some works do not attract copyright protection. For instance, names, titles, single words and headlines are usually too small or unoriginal to be protected by copyright.

Under the Copyright Act, a few types of public documents, such as statutes, court judgements and reports of official inquiries, do not have copyright protection.