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Copyright may seem like a difficult tool to navigate. However, by understanding some key concepts regarding copyright, you will be in a better position to protect your original and creative work with copyright protection. This article discusses copyright ownership, the exceptions to copyright protection and moral rights, three key issues to consider regarding copyright. 


Copyright is an intellectual property tool that you can use to protect your original work. It applies automatically. Some kinds of work that copyright covers includes:

  • literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works; 
  • sound recordings; 
  • films; and 
  • communication works. 

The duration of copyright protection will depend on what kind of work it applies to. If you are the creator of any copyright protected material, you can use the © symbol to signal this to others. However, you do not need to use the © symbol to protect your work. 

Copyright protection includes:

  • the right to copy and use your work;
  • the right to halt others from copying and using your work; and 
  • legal protection.

Copyright Ownership 

Determining who is the copyright owner can sometimes be difficult. As a general rule, the creator of the copyrighted material is the owner. However, things can become more complicated when someone is employed when creating copyrighted material or after a copyright transfer.

If you create work for your employment, your employer may be the copyright owner. This is because your employer pays you to do that work. Therefore, your work will belong to your employer. Your employer should include further details about this in your employment contract. For example, an intellectual property clause should outline who owns what you create. If you are unsure about copyright ownership at your place of employment, it is a good idea to talk to your employer to clear it up. This will avoid confusion and conflict in the future. 

There are also ways to transfer your copyright as the owner. One way to do this is through an assignment. An assignment is the complete transfer of the copyrighted material and ownership rights to another. An assignment means that you will no longer have the rights and protections associated with copyright. On the other hand, a licence agreement allows another person to use your copyrighted work without transferring your ownership rights. You can alter licence agreements in each situation to suit how, when and where you want to authorise others to use your work.

Copyright Exceptions 

If you have established yourself as a copyright owner, then you have the right to decide who else can copy and use your work. However, you should be aware of certain circumstances where others can use your copyrighted work without having to seek your permission. Others can use your copyrighted work in the process of:

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

In these circumstances, others can use your work as long as that use is deemed fair. Fair dealing will depend on the nature and context of the work’s usage.

Teachers are also permitted to copy copyrighted work for educational purposes. They may copy:

  • one single hard copy for planning purposes; or 
  • 3% or three pages (whichever is more) as many times as they need. 

Moral Rights

A creator of copyrighted material has moral rights regardless of who ends up owning the material. Moral rights also apply automatically, and the majority are valid until copyright ends. 

The Right to Be Identified

Creators must be identified when their work is used by others. This is also known as a right of attribution. This means that others are obliged to credit your work wherever they use it. This means that anyone seeing, listening to or watching a creator’s work will be able to identify the creator.

The Right Against False Attribution

Secondly, there is a moral right not to have authorship or directorship falsely attributed to you as a creator. This can happen if the authorship or directorship is unclear or where there have been transfers of copyright. 

The Right to Object to Derogatory Treatment

Finally, creators have the moral right to object to derogatory treatment of their work. This is also known as the integrity of authorship. This stops a creator’s work from being subject to derogatory treatment. Derogatory treatment means anything that mutilates or harms the work or alters it in a negative way for the reputation of the creator.

You cannot enforce this moral right when someone else has simply changed your work in a way you do not agree with.

Key Takeaways

There are three issues around copyright that you should understand. This understanding will give you a greater sense of how to use copyright to your advantage. These issues are:

  • copyright ownership;
  • copyright exceptions; and 
  • moral rights.

If you need assistance with your intellectual property, contact LegalVision’s 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 that allows creators of original works to have exclusive control over how others can use those works.

How can I obtain copyright protection?

In New Zealand, copyright protection applies automatically from the creation date of the work.

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