As mentioned, copyright arises automatically as soon as a work is put into a material form. There is no copyright registration system and no other formalities required to get copyright protection in New Zealand
Copyright protection is automatic in most other countries including the United States. In the US, there is also a copyright registration system. If you plan to distribute your material in the US, there can be advantages in registering the copyright at the US Copyright Office if ever legal proceedings for copyright infringement need to be filed in that country.
It is good practice to ensure that a copyright notice is placed on or nearby all physical or digital copies of copyright material. As a minimum, the notice may be the universal copyright symbol, followed by the name of the copyright owner and the year, e.g.: © Pearl White Limited 2016. Although it is not necessary to use a notice to get copyright protection, it alerts the reader to the fact that the work is protected and that the person named claims to be the copyright owner. From a practical point of view, it also helps people who want to contact you to seek permission to use your work.
The use of digital technologies has added complexity to the protection of copyright, due to the ease with which material can be manipulated, stored, reproduced and transferred. The ability to use and share digital content without control or detection can lead to deliberate piracy in some cases. It can also lead to incorrect assumptions by digital copyright users that there is implicit permission to reproduce material found online.
Copyright Management Information
Some publishers embed copyright management information (CMI) into their content or attach it to content, so that the copyright material and the owner can be easily identified. CMI may also incorporate the copyright owner’s terms and conditions for use of their work.
The Copyright Act includes a provision to protect against intentional removal or alteration of CMI and commercial dealing in copyright material where the dealer knows that CMI has been removed or altered.
Technological protection mechanisms
Digital publishers use technologies such as locking devices, passwords and view-only documents to prevent unauthorised uses of copyright material. Incorporating technological protection mechanisms (TPMs) into digital publishing is helpful in controlling unauthorised use of copyright material online, by acting as a physical deterrent.
Copyright owners may take action under the Copyright Act against people who supply devices that are designed to circumvent a TPM for the purposes of infringing any of the copyright owner’s rights. Importantly, the act of circumventing TPMs to allow access to material is not itself an infringement. One rationale for not outlawing circumvention for access is that often users of copyright material may wish to circumvent a TPM for a legitimate purpose, such as fair dealing with a work. The Act provides a process to enable the exercise of statutory exceptions where TPMs have been applied.
As mentioned above, NZ law determines the rules that apply to use of copyright material in this country. Use of material outside NZ is governed by the copyright rules in the relevant country. Although every country’s copyright laws are different, there are minimum standards and cooperation achieved by a collection of international treaties and agreements that NZ and many other countries are signatory to.
A key international document is the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, which established the concept of “national treatment”. National treatment means that a member country extends the same copyright protection to works first published in, or created by, nationals of other member countries, as they do to works first published in their own country or created by their own nationals.
As a result of national treatment, if copyright in a NZ work is infringed in the US for example, the NZ copyright owner will be able to take action under the relevant US law and will be entitled to the same protection as a US copyright owner.
In all dealings with copyright material, including when works are commissioned, licensed, produced or distributed, as well as in employment agreements, it is good practice for publishers to ensure they establish clear and legally binding contractual conditions to protect their works. Although it is not necessary to have a written document to make a contract, it is preferable to put contracts in writing, so there is a record of what has been agreed between contracting parties.
The terms and conditions of a contract can limit or extend the protections available under the Copyright Act. A contract can also protect subject matter that is not protected by copyright, such as ideas and information. It is important to remember that contractual obligations are generally only enforceable against the person you have entered into the contract with, who has agreed to be bound by those terms.
It is prudent to get legal advice before signing contracts dealing with copyright.