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New Zealand copyright laws automatically protect any original works that you create, from educational literature to digital art or software. The copyright symbol © lets others know that you have exclusive rights over the work. Therefore, they must obtain a licence to reproduce, adapt or distribute it. When you make your original work public, you should include the copyright symbol and a statement that explains your rights. This article explains how the copyright symbol works in New Zealand. 

What Is the Copyright Symbol?

In New Zealand, you automatically get copyright protection when you create an original work. Including a copyright statement and the © symbol on your work will let others know that your work is original and, therefore, subject to copyright protection. It is best practice to use the © symbol, followed by your name (as the copyright owner) and the (first) year of publication. 

Do Copyright Laws Protect Your Ideas? 

New Zealand copyright laws, such as the Copyright Act, do not protect your ideas. Instead, you receive exclusive rights over the expression of your idea or written work, regardless of whether it has been published. For example, if you discuss a concept for a blog with someone else, your ideas will not receive protection until you start writing your blog. If your text is original, you receive automatic copyright protection as a literary work, for 50 years (from the time you die).

Names, titles, single words and headlines are usually too small or unoriginal to be protected by copyright. However, you can protect your business name and other brand assets by registering a trade mark with IPONZ.

How Long Does Copyright Last? 

Under New Zealand copyright laws, you gain exclusive rights over your work for a temporary period. The period will depend on the type of creative work or material. For example: 

  • literary, musical, dramatic and artistic works are protected for 50 years from the (end of the calendar) year in which you die;
  • sound recordings and films are protected for 50 years from the year in which you produce the work or make it publicly available (whichever one is the longest); 
  • communication works are protected for 50 years from the year in which you first communicate it to the public; and 
  • typographical arrangements of public editions are protected for 25 years from the (first) year of publication. 

You can find out more information on the IPONZ or MBIE websites.

Can You Licence or Assign Your Copyright to Others?

In New Zealand, there are multiple ways in which you can grant permission to others to use your work. These include: 

  • copyright licences; and 
  • Creative Common (CC) licenses. 

You may want to allow others to use your work for particular purposes in exchange for a licence fee or royalty. In this case, you can appoint a licensing agency (collective agency or society) to licence your rights under a collective licence. This agreement sets the terms and conditions under which others can use your work. The licensing agency will monitor how users or subscribers use your work and collect licence fees on your behalf. The IPONZ website lists several organisations in New Zealand and Australasian that have the authorisation to grant copyright licences. 

If you want to allow others to use your work for limited purposes without receiving payment or royalties, you can use a CC licence. There are six different types of CC licences. The licences are identifiable by one or more icons and acronyms that tell the users of your work how to acknowledge your rights and how they can use your work, including any limitations.

If you hold a CC licence, you should also use the copyright symbol to let others know:

  • who is the owner of the work; and 
  • when the work was first created or published.

There are some instances in which you can ask others to assign their copyright to you. For example, if you outsource the design or development of your website to a freelancer or agency, but you want to hold the copyright over it. You can ask the author to assign their rights to you by signing a Website Design and Development Agreement. 

Key Takeaways 

The copyright symbol allows you to tell others that you are the owner of an original work. Therefore, you have exclusive rights over its use. It is best practice to add a copyright notice to your work, along with the © symbol, your name and date of publication. To receive copyright protection, your work has to be of a certain length, and you have to complete it. For example, names, titles or ideas are not protected.

Your rights generally expire after a certain amount of time, depending on the category. While you are the owner, you can licence your copyright to others for free or in exchange for payment. In some instances, you can ask others to assign their copyright to you, such as when you outsource the design or development of your website. If you need help to understand your rights under New Zealand copyright laws or to draft a legal agreement, LegalVision’s intellectual property lawyers can help. Call 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use the copyright symbol?

If you are the author of an original work, you automatically receive exclusive rights over the usage of the work under New Zealand copyright laws. This allows you to use the copyright symbol, along with a notice, to let others know that they cannot reproduce, adapt or distribute the work without permission. 

Does the copyright symbol go before or after the name?

Usually, the © symbol is followed by the name of the copyright owner and the year of publication. 

How long does copyright last?

Copyright usually lasts between 25 and 50 years, from the year in which you complete or publish the work. However, this depends on the category of the work.

Should I copyright or trade mark my business name and logo?

Names, titles, single words and headlines are usually too small or unoriginal to be protected by copyright. However, you can protect your business name and other brand assets by registering a trade mark with IPONZ.

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