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Using other peoples copyright protected work can be beneficial to your business or your own work. It can have benefits for both parties concerning exposure or profits. However, when using other people’s copyright protected work, you must do it legally and correctly. One way to do this is with a licence agreement. You can obtain a licence agreement through licencing organisations, or you can enter into them yourself. This article will show you three steps you can take to obtain a copyright licence and ensure that you are using work legally.


There is a wide range of original and creative works that copyright can protect. These works include:

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

If you are a copyright owner, you automatically gain rights and protections, and you do not need to register your copyright. How long these last will depend on what kind of work you own the copyright for. You can mark your protected material with the © symbol if you want to, but it is not mandatory to receive the rights and protections of copyright ownership. With copyright protection, you gain:

  • the exclusive use of your work;
  • the power to decide who else can use your work; and 
  • legal protection.

If you are looking to use someone else’s work, a licence agreement is a good way to do this. This is because using copyright protected work without the copyright owner’s permission is, in most cases, not allowed.

Using copyright protected work without permission is infringement and could lead to legal action. 

Licence Agreements

A licence agreement allows a copyright owner to authorise another person to use the copyrighted material. Licence agreements are usually flexible. This means that the terms can suit your individual business’ circumstances. There are several different types of licence agreements. These are:

  • exclusive use, where the copyright owner will not use the material at the same time;
  • non-exclusive use, where the copyright owner may use the material at the same time; and
  • sole use, where only one licence agreement will be granted at a time.

Licence agreements do not make any changes to the ownership rights of your copyright protected material. If you wish to transfer the copyright ownership entirely, you will need to use an assignment

Copyright Licencing 

Copyright Licence New Zealand (CLNZ) is in charge of organising and approving copyright licences. There are several different types of licences to cover copyright categories and the types of businesses that might need them. These include:

Each of these licences exists for specific purposes. Once you establish which one is best suited for you, then you can take steps to get a licence from the copyright holder. 

1. Enquire About a Copyright Licence

CLNZ provides you with an easy enquiry form to complete so that you can begin the copyright licence process. You will need to include details about yourself or your organisation. You will also need to select which type of licence you wish to obtain. If you are not sure, CLNZ will help you if you pick the wrong one. However, even if you use this process, it is good to seek legal advice to ensure you create your copyright licence correctly.

2. Directly Communicate With the Copyright Owner

You may wish to contact the copyright owner yourself. They might not be a part of CLNZ, or you may want to write the agreement yourself. In any case, you should be sure to keep a written record of all of your communications with them. This can help you refer back to them if needed. When first contacting the copyright owner, be sure to include your details and the details of the material you want to use. 

3. Create a Licence Agreement 

From here, you can create a licence agreement. A licence agreement is a legal document, so you may want to consider seeking legal advice. Make sure your licence agreement includes clear terms, so both parties know their obligations.

Key Takeaways

You should enter a licence agreement to avoid copyright infringement when using other people’s copyright protected work. It is the best way to gain permission from the copyright owner to use their work. You can also tailor the agreement to suit both of your needs. You can enquire about the many copyright licences available through CLNZ, or you can contact the copyright owner yourself to create one. If you need further assistance with your intellectual property, LegalVision’s experienced IP lawyers can help. Call 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does copyright last?

How long copyright lasts will depend on the kind of work it applies to. For example, copyright on literary works lasts for your lifetime plus 50 years.

What is copyright?

Copyright is an intellectual property tool. It allows creators of original works to have exclusive control over how and when others can use their work.

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