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If you have copyrighted material, your rights and protections apply automatically. There is no registration system for copyright, meaning you are responsible for observing and controlling who else is using your copyrighted work. It also means you have to protect it from infringement. If you find that someone has infringed your rights and you cannot find a solution, you may even end up taking legal action. This article will show you three remedies you could receive if you take your copyright matter to court. 

Copyright

Your work is copyright protected if it is original and falls under these categories:

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

Copyright is an intellectual property tool that applies automatically to material of this kind. If you are a copyright owner, you have instant rights and protections. These are the rights you will need to enforce if someone infringes your copyright. They are:

  • exclusive rights to use your copyright material; 
  • exclusive rights to stop others from using your material; and 
  • legal protection. 

Copyright duration varies according to the kind of work it is protecting. You can mark your copyright material with the © symbol so that others know that it is protected. However, no matter how hard you try to protect your work, others may still infringe. 

Copyright infringement occurs when someone uses or copies a substantial part of your work without authorisation. There are ways for your rights to be altered to share your work with others. One of these is a licence agreement. A licence agreement is an agreement between a copyright owner and an individual wishing to use the copyrighted material. It is a way for you to permit them to use your copyrighted material. There are also a set of permitted acts in which people can use your copyrighted work without having to seek permission. These permitted acts are:

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

If others use copyrighted material in these circumstances, the use must be fair. 

When you are sure that somebody has violated your rights, you can complain to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). Upon receiving a complaint, MBIE will decide whether or not to pursue a criminal investigation or prosecution. 

Injunction

An injunction is a court order to stop doing an action. For example, regarding copyright infringement, the order would be to stop using your copyright material. This is a way for the court to recognise the infringement and enforce your rights as the copyright owner. You can apply for an interim injunction if the copyright infringement is immediately detrimental to your reputation. This will apply to the infringement until you can ultimately settle the matter in court with a mandatory injunction. 

Damages 

A court may also order the infringer to pay damages to you. This is financial compensation to you as punishment. It is another way to acknowledge the infringement and enforce your rights as the copyright owner. The court will determine the payment amount on a case by case basis. A court may order the infringing party to pay you for loss of profit if you have suffered financially because of the infringement or pay you all of the profit they made from the infringement. 

Further Punishment

If an infringer does not adhere to a court order, they could face further punishment. For example, if an infringement does not stop them from using your work and continue making financial gains, they could be fined up to $150,000 or face up to five years in prison. In addition, if the infringing party does not pay damages within the timeframe ordered, the court can take further legal action against the infringer and ensure you receive your compensation. 

Key Takeaways

If you find someone has infringed your copyright, you may need to take legal action. First, you will need to make a complaint to MBIE so that they can determine which step you can take next. If your matter goes further, a court may order an injunction to stop the infringement or order damages to be paid to you. Both of these remedies ensure that the infringement is acknowledged and your rights are upheld. It is a good idea to have legal advice at every step in this process. If you need assistance, contact LegalVision’s experienced IP lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is copyright?

Copyright is an intellectual property right. It allows creators of original works to have exclusive control over how others can use their works.

How can I obtain copyright protection?

In New Zealand, copyright protection applies automatically once you put your work into material form.

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