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Overview of Copyright Law in New Zealand

This article is presented by the New Zealand firm of Baldwin Son and Carey, patent and trade-marks attorneys and solicitors. Balwin, Son and Carey has offices in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington. The WWLIA wishes to thank Baldwin Son and Carey for the use of this material on their site. Please note that this information is not legal advice but, rather, is a general statement of the law; legal information. If you have a real legal situation to resolve, you should seek the assistance of legal professionals. Baldwin Son and Carey maintains a web site at

Copyright in New Zealand is now governed by the Copyright Act 1994.

New Zealand adheres to the Rome version (but not the Brussels revision) of the Berne Copyright Convention, and is also a signatory to the Universal Copyright Convention. These two treaties provide that citizens of member countries are afforded protection in other member countries in respect of work that may be copyrighted.

Copyright may reside (as of right, without registration) in any original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, sound recording, film, broadcast, cable program or typographical arrangement of published editions. Literary works include tables or compilations (which includes multimedia products and databases) and computer programs. Artistic works include graphic works, photographs, models, sculptures or collages, architectural works and works of artistic craftsmanship. Layout designs or integrated circuits are specifically excluded from the Copyright Act 1994 but are covered by the Layout Designs Act 1994 which provides a 10- to 15-year term of copyright-style protection.

For example, the contents of this page are copyrighted to the New Zealand law firm of Baldwin Son and Carey (see "copyright" or © notice at the end of this page).

The Copyright Act 1994 specifies various circumstances in which reproduction of copyright material will not amount to an infringement, for example, if such material is used in fair dealing or for various research and educational purposes. It also stipulates that the making of an object in 3-dimensions which is copied from drawings included in a patent specification or a registered design, in relation to a patent or design that is no longer in effect, will not amount to an infringement of copyright.

Further, copyright in an artistic work that has been industrially applied is limited to a term of 16 years from the date of industrial application (25 years for works of artistic craftsmanship). The usual term of copyright (other than as indicated above) is the life of the author plus 50 years.

The Copyright Act 1994 also introduced to New Zealand law moral and performers' rights. Moral rights include the right to be identified as the author or director of a work and the right to object to derogatory treatment of a work.

There is a very broad range of activities which constitute infringement of copyright in New Zealand, but these include, in relation to a copyright work: copying, issuing copies to the public, performing, playing or showing the work in public, broadcasting the work, making an adaptation, and importing, possessing or providing the means for making an infringing copy, in the course of business, in the knowledge, or at least having reason to believe, that the work is an infringing copy.

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