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When operating your business online, there can be various risks when sharing your intellectual property. If others use or share your content without your permission, they may be infringing on your intellectual property rights. Therefore, this article will provide some background and explain what your business needs to do about digital piracy.

What Is Digital Piracy?

When a person creates certain kinds of content, they usually gain automatic copyright in that content as its author. Digital piracy is a practice where third parties download or distribute copyrighted content online without the copyright owner’s permission. While ‘digital piracy’ itself is not necessarily a legal term in New Zealand, it can refer to illegal actions, such as copyright infringement. This action can incur losses for a business.

For instance, if someone downloads a piece of music without the owner or author’s permission, this could qualify as digital piracy and copyright infringement. 

The exact nature of digital piracy is broad, but its prevalence online has reduced in recent years. However, if someone is using your copyrighted content online without your consent, you may have legal options available to you. Additionally, you also need to be careful not to use other parties’ copyrighted content without their permission. 

What Is Copyright?

Copyright is a type of intellectual property right that exists in original works. If someone creates or authors copyrighted content, they gain the exclusive right to:

  • use it;
  • copy it;
  • perform it in public;
  • publish it;
  • commercialise it;
  • license it;
  • distribute it; and
  • sell it.

This means that the copyright owner can publicly use and profit from their copyrighted work by selling or distributing copies of their original content. They can also sell or license these rights to others with an appropriate contract.

Notably, copyright can exist in a work as long as it is original, meaning that it does not copy something else. This concept applies to different categories of original works, including:

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

These categories can be quite broad, with literary works ranging from novels and articles to computer programs and data compilations.

In particular, copyright protects how you express an idea or convey information, not the idea or information itself.

Copyright Within Your Business

You and your staff may create original works with copyright protections, and you will likely use other parties’ original works as well. This fact applies both online and in the real world.

For example, if you want to play pre-recorded music or music mixes at your business premises, you will need permission from the copyright owners to do so. Various copyright licensing schemes for businesses allow for this, and you need to find one that works for you.

However, you may also want to share copyrighted content online and use it on your business’ website. For instance, if you want to use photos that a photographer has taken of your business in your promotional materials, you will need their permission to do so.

File Sharing Infringement

File sharing refers to making digitally stored information available for other people to access online. Many people can share content over the internet, but there is the potential for copyright infringement to occur on these platforms. In New Zealand, file sharing infringement can include digital piracy and other kinds of online copyright infringement.

For instance, if someone distributed a film that your business created online, this could be file sharing infringement.

If you think that someone has infringed your copyright through file sharing infringement, gather evidence of them doing so. You can then contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP) with this evidence, and they have the power to issue up to three warning notices to the person sharing your copyright without your permission. Depending on the infringer’s response, you may have options for enforcement action against them. 

Outside of this, you also have more general remedies for copyright infringement available to you.

What Does My Business Need to Do About Digital Piracy?

To protect your online content against digital piracy, you need to develop a plan for managing your intellectual property online. An intellectual property specialist can help you tailor a plan that suits your needs and protects your business. Such a plan may involve:

  • labelling your intellectual property with appropriate symbols, such as © for copyright-protected work;
  • pursuing online copyright infringement when you see it; and
  • limiting what copyrighted content you share online.

However, the likelihood of digital piracy has reduced in recent years. If you offer your high quality copyrighted content to customers on your own terms, they may be more likely to purchase your content from you rather than access it illegally.

The success of streaming platforms like Netflix and Neon shows that you can discourage digital piracy of your content with the right business model.

Key Takeaways

If your business is the victim of digital piracy, you may have legal options available to you as the copyright owner of your work. However, with a robust intellectual property protection plan and attractive content distribution for your customers, you may be able to avoid online piracy.

If you need help with protecting against digital piracy, our experienced intellectual property lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 0800 005 570 or visit our membership page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is copyright?

Copyright is an intellectual property right that protects original works. Typically, the creator of an original work automatically gains copyright over that work.

What is copyright infringement?

Copyright infringement refers to when someone uses, copies, or distributes your original work without your permission. As the copyright owner, you have various legal options available to you in this case.

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