Copyright Law in New Zealand

Get an overview of Copyright Law in New Zealand—including copyright protection and ownership, what it covers and the duration of copyright.

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Copyright protection

Original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, sound recordings, films, communication works and the typographical arrangement of published editions are protected under the Copyright Act 1994.

Copyright protection attaches automatically, there is no need to register. Copyright gives the creator the exclusive right to do certain acts (there are exceptions that allow others to do certain activities in relation to protected works).

Duration of copyright protection

Under the Copyright Act 1994 the term of copyright protection is:

Artistic
50 years from the end of the calendar year the author died

Musical
50 years from the end of the calendar year the author died

Literary
50 years from the end of the calendar year the author died

Dramatic
50 years from the end of the calendar year the author died

Computer generated works
50 years from creation

Communication
50 years from the end of the calendar year in which the work was first communicated to the public

Sound recordings and films
50 years from the end of the calendar year in which the work was made or 50 years after the work was first made available to the public via an authorised act

Typographical arrangements of published editions
25 years from the end of the calendar year the work was published

Crown copyright
100 years, but there is no copyright protection for New Zealand Bills, Acts, Regulations, Parliamentary Debates, Court and Tribunal judgments, reports of Select Committees, Commissions of Inquiry, or Government Inquiries

Works of unknown authorship
50 years from the end of the year in which the work first became publicly available. For unpublished works it is 50 years from 1995

Copyright ownership

The creator of the work generally owns copyright in the first instance. However, copyright ownership can depend on the type of work and whether the work was created in the course of employment or if it was commissioned.

Copyright is an intellectual property right and can be sold/bought/ given away and licenced for use.

There may be multiple types of copyright in a single work. For example in a published book, the text and the illustrations will be separately protected by copyright and can have different owners.

Refer to the Intellectual Property Policy pdf182KB that covers ownership of Intellectual Property (including copyright) created by staff and students at Victoria University of Wellington.