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Relevant excerpts from the New Zealand Copyright Act 1994 – copyright council of New Zealand - are given below. Full details of the Act can be found on

Arts Canterbury accepts no responsibility for breach of copyright by any other person or agency.

In New Zealand, under the Copyright Act 1994, copyright comes into existence automatically when any original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, sound recording, film, broadcast, cable programme and published edition, is put into material form e.g. manuscript, audio/video recording. No registration is necessary (or even possible), nor is any other formality required for securing copyright protection.

Copyright in literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works continues for 50 years after the end of the calendar year in which the author died. Copyright in sound recordings and films continues for 50 years from the end of the calendar year in which they were made. However, if the work is made available to the public before the end of that 50 year period, copyright continues for 50 years from the end of the calendar year in which is was first made available. A publisher's copyright in the typography of a published edition lasts for 25 years from the end of the calendar year in which the work was first published.

Overseas protection

Generally speaking the copyright protection given in New Zealand also extends to work originating from countries that are party to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic works or to the Universal Copyright Convention.

That protection also extends to works originating from countries that are party to the GATT (Uruguay Round) Agreement. Part of the GATT Agreement concerns copyright protection.

Conversely, countries that are party to either convention or the GATT Agreement must give works originating from New Zealand the same protection that they give works produced by their own nationals. New Zealand is party to both Copyright Conventions and to the GATT Agreement. Most countries have acceded to the GATT Agreement and either one or both Conventions.

No formality is required for protection in member countries of the Berne Copyright Convention or the GATT Agreement. However, in a small number of countries that are only party to the Universal Copyright Convention, it is necessary to comply with certain formalities in order to claim copyright.

Who is the owner of copyright?

The first owner of copyright is usually the author or creator. However, if the author or creator was employed and made the work in the course of his or her employment then the employer is usually the first owner of copyright. If the author or creator of some kinds of work (e.g. sound recordings, films, photographs, and computer programs) was commissioned to make that work, the first owner of copyright is usually the person who commissioned the work to be made. In the case of works made by an employee or commissioned work, the parties can agree to vary the usual first ownership rule.

If the owner or creator assigns copyright in writing to someone else, then the person to whom it is assigned becomes the copyright owner.

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