Copyright law of New Zealand

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The copyright law of New Zealand is covered by the Copyright Act 1994 and subsequent amendments.[1] It is administered by Intellectual Property Policy Unit of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

New Zealand is party to several international copyright agreements, including the TRIPS Agreement 1994, the Berne Convention 1928 and the Universal Copyright Convention 1952.

Scope of copyright[edit]

Copyright law grants the owner of the copyright exclusive rights to certain restricted acts, which include the following:[2]

  • copying the work
  • publishing, issuing or selling copies to the public
  • performing, playing or showing the work in public
  • broadcasting the work
  • making any work derived or adapted from the copyright work.

Copyright works[edit]

Copyright automatically applies (no registration required) to original works in the following categories:[2]

  • Literary works (novels, poems, song lyrics, computer programmes, compilations of data)
  • Dramatic works (scripts for films or plays)
  • Artistic works (paintings, plans, maps, photographs, sculptures, models, buildings)
  • Musical works (scores and arrangements)
  • Sound recordings (of musical, literary or dramatic works)
  • Films
  • Broadcasts (radio, TV, cable)
  • Typographical arrangement of published editions (this exists independent of copyright in the published work, if any).

Copyright does not apply to certain government works, such as Acts of Parliament, Regulations, Parliamentary debates, Court judgements and reports of Select Committees, Royal Commissions, Commissions of Inquiry, etc.

Copyright term[edit]

The copyright term is largely consistent with other countries, although it has not increased from 50 to 70 years as in Europe and the United States, and varies with the category of the work.[2]

  • Literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works; 50 years from the death of the author
  • Artistic works industrially applied; 16 years from when the work is applied
  • Artistic craftsmanship industrially applied; 25 years from when the work is applied
  • Sound recordings and films; 50 years from when it is available to the public
  • Broadcasts and cable; 50 years from broadcast
  • Typographical arrangements; 25 years from first publishing.
  • Computer-generated work; 50 years after being made.
  • Crown copyright: 100 years

Exclusions and fair dealing[edit]

The Act allows for certain permitted acts to be exempted from copyright restrictions.

  • Fair dealing; for purpose of criticism, review, news reporting, research, private study.
  • certain educational purposes
  • time shifting of TV programmes for viewing at a later time
  • format shifting of music
  • back up of computer programmes
  • making copies in Braille.

Moral rights[edit]

The copyright act also provides moral rights for the author. These attach to the author, and are not transferred by contract as economic rights can be. Moral rights give the author the right;

  • to be identified as the author (right of attribution)
  • to object to derogatory treatment of the work (right of integrity)
  • to not have work falsely attributed to them.

New technologies amendments[edit]

In 2001,[3] the Ministry of Economic Development initiated a major review of copyright law, in light of new technologies, such as media in digital form and communications via the internet.

Law changes were enacted in 2008, most notably the Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Act.[4] These changes were influenced by media corporations and aligned organisations (RIANZ, APRA, Artists Alliance, NZSA, AIPA, NZIPP, etc.) but opposed by New Zealand artists,[5] technology specialists,[6] ISPs,[7] businesses,[8] media commentators,[9] librarians[10] and members of the public.[11] The nature of the law changes attracted attention internationally.[12]

The New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, stated that the stronger copyright laws, including the controversial section 92a, were required for New Zealand to be able to negotiate a free trade agreement with America.[13]

In February 2010, a Bill repealing section 92a of the Act was introduced to parliament, replacing it with a three notice regime for copyright infringement via file sharing.[14] The bill also provides for the Copyright Tribunal to hear complaints and award penalties of up to $15,000.[15] The notice regime took effect on 1 September 2011.[16]

In 2013, the Copyright Tribunal decided 17 cases pertaining to illegal file sharing. In all 17 cases, the applicant was the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) taking action on behalf of the copyright holders against individual Internet account holders.[17] None of the account holders were infringing on a commercial scale for profit. In most cases the infringement concerned the uploading of music using bitTorrent file-sharing protocols.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Copyright Act 1994". New Zealand Government. 1 December 2008. 
  2. ^ a b c "Copyright Protection in New Zealand". MBIE. 18 February 2008. 
  3. ^ "Digital Technology and the Copyright Act 1994: A Discussion Paper". MED. July 2001. 
  4. ^ "Section 92a of the Copyright Act". New Zealand government. 
  5. ^ "Section 92 of the Copyright Amendment Act assumes Guilt Upon Accusation". Creative Freedom NZ. 
  6. ^ Wallace, Brenda (12 November 2008). "Say good bye to freedom on the internet - was nice while it lasted". 
  7. ^ Keall, Chris (21 January 2009). "ISPs: New copyright law puts business in the gun; scrap it". 
  8. ^ "Guilt Upon Accusation: New Zealand Businesses". Creative Freedom NZ. 
  9. ^ Jackson, Colin (7 October 2008). "Ministers: why we changed the Copyright Act". 
  10. ^ "Now librarians come out against copyright law". Computerworld. 20 January 2009. 
  11. ^ Pilcher, Pat (13 January 2009). "Is the new copyright law a lose-lose proposition?". New Zealand Herald. 
  12. ^ Gibbs, Mark (20 February 2009). "New Zealand gets insane copyright law". ComputerWorld. 
  13. ^ "Key: We still need a new internet copyright law". NZPA. 24 February 2009. 
  14. ^ Power, Simon (23 February 2010). "Section 92A bill introduced to Parliament today". 
  15. ^ "NZ Copyright Infringement Regime – Illegal File Sharing". LawDownUnder. 30 January 2013. 
  16. ^ Walls, Alex (4 August 2011). "'Three strikes' file sharing law coming sooner than you think". Retrieved 10 August 2011. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Copyright Infringement File Sharing". LawDownUnder. 28 December 2013. 

External links[edit]