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As a business owner, you may be using material that is under copyright protection. If so, you should ensure that you stay within the limits of copyright law in New Zealand. Creators and copyright owners have rights that they can enforce. However, there are still ways for you to continue with business as usual when it comes to using copyrighted material. This article will show you how by setting out what material can be used without obtaining the copyright owner’s express permission. It will also guide you through how to obtain a copyright licence if needed. 

What is Copyright?

Copyright is an intellectual property right. You cannot register copyright under New Zealand law but it still has similar rights and protections to other intellectual property tools. Copyright owners determine if anyone else can use, copy or profit from their original work. Key points you should know about copyright are:

  • the rights and protections apply automatically when the material is created;
  • owners can use the © symbol to signal the material is copyrighted; and
  • copyright duration varies depending on the kind of work it applies to.

The categories of copyright material that are protected are:

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

How to Use Copyrighted Material Without Permission

As a general rule, you must seek the copyright owner’s permission before using any copyrighted material. However, there are some situations in which you may not need permission. These include where you are using the material for:

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

As a business owner, your work may fall under one of these categories. If so,you will not usually have to seek permission from the copyright owner to use their material. However, the use must be ‘fair’. What this means will depend on the context of your usage.

How to Get a Copyright Licence 

Copyright Licensing New Zealand (CLNZ) is the main organisation that can administer copyright licences in New Zealand. There are many different licences to cover all of the copyright categories and types of businesses that might need them. These are the:

Copyright licences help you as a user copy material you may need while staying within the limits of copyright law. As a business owner, you are likely to encounter a commercial licence. A commercial licence allows you to copy material for the purposes of your business. However, there are still restrictions on how much you can copy with a commercial licence. 

Restrictions on Copyright Licences

There are restrictions on what you can copy, which are:

  • hard copies of books, journals or magazines; or
  • a scanned copy or digital copy of the original hard copy.

There are also restrictions on how much you can copy, which are:

  • as much as 10% or one chapter of a book; or
  • the whole material for magazines or journals. 

You may copy magazines, journals and overseas articles five times per issue. 

Finally, there are restrictions on how you can share material with staff. Permitted mediums are: 

  • password protected intranet sites such as staff portals;
  • email;
  • hard copy or digital handouts; or 
  • interactive whiteboards or screens.

Once you have a commercial licence you will not need to seek permission each time you wish to copy material that is covered by your licence. Obtaining a licence is a good idea for you as a business owner because it assures you that you are acting within copyright law. In addition, if someone accuses your business of copyright infringement you will have a better position to defend yourself legally.

You can apply for a commercial licence from the CLNZ website which issues them for a one-year period from January to December. Pricing is a fixed cost based on the number of full time equivalent staff that you employ. They can also be easily renewed at the start of every year by providing them with your updated staff numbers.

How to Enter an Assignment Agreement

If you wish to have permanent use of copyright material and also gain the ownership rights that come with it, you may wish to enter an assignment agreement. An assignment is the full transfer of the copyright material and ownership to another person. Assignments are legally binding. They must set out:

  • the details of the material to be transferred; 
  • the new owner; and 
  • have the signatures of both parties. 

The assignment can be of all or some of the copyrighted material.

Key Takeaways

If you are a business owner who needs to use other people’s copyrighted material, you should be aware of how to do this within the limits of copyright law. There are some circumstances where you can use copyrighted material without the permission of the copyright owner. Additionally, if you have to seek permission, you can do so with a licence or an assignment. If you need further assistance with your intellectual property, LegalVision’s experienced IP lawyers can help. Call 0800 005 570 or fill out a form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to gain a licence agreement through CLNZ?

Each licence agreement cost is negotiated between the two parties by CLNZ and will vary depending on the type of licence agreement.

Is there any register of copyright owners?

No, there is no register of copyright ownership. Unfortunately, this means that it can be difficult to know where to seek permission. 

If the material doesn’t have the © symbol on it, can I use it without permission?

No, even if the material doesn’t have the © symbol on it it still may be subject to copyright law.

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