Copyright – Protecting Original Artistic, Dramatic, Musical and Literary Works
Copyright is a proprietary right that inherently exists in works that meet the requirements under the Copyright Act 1994. Under this legislation, any unauthorised copying of an original work is prohibited.
To be “original” the work must not have been copied from anything else. It is not necessary that the subject matter of the work be unique or new. In New Zealand, copyright can exist in 2D and sometimes 3D embodiments of the design.
In New Zealand, there is no official registration system. Copyright comes into existence upon the creation of an original work. The owner of copyright can enforce this right and prevent others from producing similar works. In order to do this, the copyright owner must prove that they are entitled to copyright in the work and also prove that the other party copied from their work.
The first owner of copyright is generally the person who creates the work but there are exceptions to this. For example, where an employee or contractor is employed or commissioned to create the work (and is remunerated for this), the copyright in the work will be owned by the employer or the entity who commissioned the work.
It is recommended that all works attracting copyright are marked appropriately to indicate that the owner of copyright in that work does not authorise any copying. Suitable marking includes the copyright symbol ©, the name of the copyright owner, and the year of first publication, for example: © George Thompson 2005. By marking original works in this way, the copyright owner meets the requirements set out by the Universal Copyright Convention.
Copyright generally lasts for 50 years from the end of the year in which the author dies in New Zealand. However, where the work has been produced on more of an industrial scale, the term is only 16 years which is similar to that of a registered design.
There are differences in the law relating to copyright between individual countries so you should contact us if you require advice on the copyright laws of any specific country.
How Pipers can Help you
We can give you advice on how best to form records of the creation of your works so that you are in a better position to supply evidence proving your entitlement to copyright if you pursue an infringement action against a third party. In fact, we are happy to retain copies of original works on file for our clients for record keeping purposes. We can date stamp and sign the work acknowledging receipt of it when it arrives in our office. This may help to prove the existence of the work at a certain date if ever required in a copyright case.
We can also prepare copyright assignments transferring ownership of copyright to another party. Copyright can only be assigned by way of a written assignment. We can prepare license documents if you wish to license the use of your copyright to another party. We can also prepare copyright warning labels for different works.
We can assist you if you want to pursue a copyright infringement action against another party or if you have been threatened with legal proceedings by someone asserting their alleged copyright in a work.
Copyright Tip - keep good records of the progress of your work. Date stamp and store originals in a safe place.
For more on copyright please go to the FAQ’s section on the right.