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Your creative material may be protected by copyright law. This means that you have the right to control who else can copy, use and profit from it. If someone is doing this without your permission, this is an infringement of your rights. It could damage your reputation and deprives you of the right to profit from your hard work. This article will take you through four ways to prove and enforce your copyright against infringement.


Material that enjoys copyright protection includes, among other things:

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

Copyright applies automatically, so you do not need to register it. You gain rights that you can use when somebody infringes your copyright. These are:

  • the exclusive right to use your copyright material; 
  • the ability to prevent others from using your work; and 
  • legal protection. 

You can mark your copyright material with the © symbol, to deter potential infringement. However, no matter how hard you try to protect your work, others may try to use it, so you need to be diligent against infringement.

If somebody uses a substantial amount of your work without your permission, they are likely infringing your copyright. You will need to establish that the other individual significantly copied your work. In this situation, you should begin enforcing your rights.

There are also a number of situations where someone can use your material without needing to seek your permission, as long as they use the work fairly. These scenarios include:

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

Enforcement Options

Copyright Infringement Notice

A copyright infringement notice is often the first step when you discover that somebody is infringing your copyright. If you know the infringer’s identity and can contact them, sending a copyright infringement letter can help you avoid complicated legal action. There are a number of requests you can put in a letter, and particularly in cases where the infringement is accidental, this can be an easy way to stop infringement. However, you may need to move to more severe steps if the infringement does not stop, or is of a particularly serious nature.

Copyright Tribunal

In New Zealand, you can take a copyright matter to the Copyright Tribunal. You might want to take this step if the copyright infringement occurred in the context of a licence agreement. The Copyright Tribunal will listen to disputes about:

  • copyright licences; and
  • illegal sharing of copyrighted material using file-sharing technologies.

The Copyright Tribunal works to promote sharing and use of copyright protected material with licence agreements. To do this, they will seek to ensure that the licence agreement has fair fees and conditions. If they are not satisfied with the licence agreement, they can amend the agreement to make fees and conditions more reasonable. 

The Copyright Tribunal can also help if somebody illegally shared your copyright protected material through a file-sharing website. They may order financial compensation.

Going to Court 

Another option is to take the infringement matter to court. The courts have a number of remedies available to you. These include:

  • injunctions. This is an order to the infringer to stop using your copyrighted material;
  • search orders for the preservation of evidence. This is an order to allow you to search the infringers documents for evidence;
  • damages. This is compensation to you from the infringer; and 
  • an order to return the copyright protected material and any copies to you. 

The maximum criminal penalty for copyright infringement is five years imprisonment or a $150,000 fine. It is best to seek legal advice when taking legal action and appearing in court. Additionally, going to court can be a large financial undertaking, so carefully consider if it is the right step for you.

Intellectual Property Rights Notice

Customs New Zealand has implemented an intellectual property rights notice that allows you to protect better and enforce copyright infringement. If you are a copyright owner, then you can notify Customs New Zealand of the copyright protected material you own. They can work to identify any illegally copied or pirated material of yours and detain it. This will stop these works from entering New Zealand. Customs New Zealand will then investigate the matter further and determine whether the goods infringe on your copyright. Intellectual property notices last five years. 

Key Takeaways

There are many ways to enforce copyright infringement, ranging in effort and cost. Regardless of which method you choose, you must ensure that you are enforcing your copyright. By doing this, you are protecting your reputation and avoiding further infringement. If you need assistance or want to enforce your copyright, LegalVision’s experienced IP lawyers can help. Call 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you receive copyright protection?

In New Zealand, copyright applies automatically to works created. You do not have to register anywhere, and copyright protection is free.

How long does copyright protection last?

This will depend on the type of work you have created. For example, the copyright for literary works lasts for the lifetime of the creator plus 50 years.

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