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Making it big as a fashion designer will mean that your looks are shared far and wide. The idea of your fashion designs flourishing is exciting, but you should be aware of copyright to protect content and material. Having a good understanding of copyright can help you discourage copycats. Because copyright inherently protects most of the work you create, this article will give you a copyright guide for a fashion designer. It will also set out copyright licences for art so that you are aware of safe ways to let others use your work.

What is Copyright?

You can use copyright as an intellectual property tool to protect your rights. Under copyright, you will have:

  • exclusive use of your work;
  • the right to determine who else can use your work; and 
  • legal protection.

Copyright is not a registerable tool, and you gain copyright protection as soon as you create your work. There are many categories of copyright. These include:

  • literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works; 
  • the typographical layout of published editions; 
  • sound recordings; 
  • films; and 
  • communication works.

However, importantly, copyright in New Zealand also extends to fashion designs.

Once you have established that your work is copyright protected, you can use the © symbol to show this. However, if you decide not to use the © symbol, you will still have copyright protection. 

Copyright duration varies according to what kind of work the right applies to. For example, copyright duration for your artistic works is your lifetime plus 50 years.

Who Can Use My Copyright Protected Works?

As a fashion designer, your work will inherently fall under artistic works. So, when you create your work, it gains copyright protection. If you are a copyright owner, other parties have to seek your permission to use your work. For a fashion designer, this might look like another company trying to use a unique fabric print that you have designed. Another company may also want to sell your designs in their shop, for example. They must seek your permission before they do this.

It is best to have an agreement about your intellectual property in writing. This is so the terms and conditions of use are clear and you can avoid any conflict. There are a few ways to do this, including:

  • copyright licences;
  • licence agreements; and 
  • assignment.

There are a few circumstances where other parties can use your copyright-protected material without having to ask for permission. They must use your copyright fairly. Some circumstances that constitute fair dealing include:

  • research;
  • private study;
  • criticism or review; and
  • reporting current events.

Copyright Licencing 

Copyright Licencing New Zealand (CLNZ) is a government organisation that liaises between creators and users. They provide different licences for different copyright purposes. CLNZ is a licencing management service, so they can handle the entire process of seeking and granting the licence. As a fashion designer, you will most likely encounter a Visual Arts Licence. 

A Visual Arts Licence gives the user express permission to copy and use the art for promotional or commercial purposes. You can obtain a licence for New Zealand art or overseas art. As a creator, you will receive compensation for allowing others to use your work. 

Licence Agreements and Assignment 

You can enter into your own licence agreement without CLNZ. A licence agreement is a legal document where you can permit another to use your work. You will still maintain ownership over your fashion designs. Working with each other and an intellectual property lawyer, you can create a licence agreement that suits both parties’ needs. You can also determine how and when you would like your creations to be used. 

On the other hand, an assignment is a complete transfer of your ownership to another person. This would look like giving ownership of your designs entirely to somebody else, because once you assign your work to someone else, you are also assigning your exclusive ownership and rights. This means you will not have exclusive use anymore. An assignment agreement must have:

  • details about the material that you are assigning;
  • details about the new owners; and
  • signatures of both parties.

You can assign all of your work as a fashion designer or just specific designs. If you are entering into an assignment, it is best to seek legal advice to ensure you complete the process correctly.

Key Takeaways

Copyright protects your fashion designs. This means you have rights and protections over your work. If others want to use your fashion designs, they will usually have to ask your permission. Additionally, if you want to grant others the right to use your designs, you can create an assignment or licensing agreement with a lawyer. If you need further assistance in protecting your fashion designs, contact LegalVision’s experienced IP lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does copyright protect my fashion designs?

In New Zealand, copyright protects your fashion designs.

How long does a licence agreement last?

A licence agreement can be flexible to suit your circumstances. However, licence agreements need a renewal on a yearly basis.

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