What You Need To Know About Copyright in NZ


What is Copyright?

Copyright is the term used for the rights held by a rightsholder (such as an artist or record company) over a work, which allow that rightsholder to control the copying, distribution, performance, adaptation or broadcast of that work over a set period of time. Rightsholders may also choose to licence their copyright to others during that period. Copyright exists to encourage the creation of new works by providing financial and control incentives for artists and rightsholders by securing exclusive rights to those works.

In New Zealand, the relevant piece of legislation is the Copyright Act 1994. Copyright exists automatically from the moment of creation of a work (in a form beyond an idea) and does not require registration.


Who owns the Copyright in a piece of Music?

There is more than one copyright in a piece of music – the composer holds copyright in the song’s music and lyrics, and the maker of the recording is the rightsholder in that recording.


What are the Penalties for Breaching Copyright?

The penalties for breaches of copyright are set out in the Copyright Act. Special provisions relating to illegal file sharing were added by the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act. Under this ‘Graduated Response’ scheme, those detected infringing copyright by sharing files will be sent a detection notice informing the holder of the internet account used to infringe. If the infringement continues, a warning notice will then be sent. If infringement is still detected from that account after these notices are sent, an enforcement notice will be sent, leading to a hearing before the copyright tribunal, who may impose fines of up to $15,000 based on the extent of the infringing activity. More information can be found on the What You Need to Know About Notices and the Copyright Tribunal page.