Automatic protection for material expression
Copyright protection arises automatically under the Copyright Act once an original work is written down or recorded in some way, such as on paper, on canvas or in digital form. Material published on the internet is protected to the same extent as material recorded or published in other ways. There is no requirement that a work be published to obtain protection. Registration of copyright is not required and there is no formal system for recording copyright in New Zealand. It is not necessary under the Copyright Act for a copyright notice or symbol to be placed on a work for it to be protected (although it is common practice to include these).
No protection of ideas or information
Copyright is not intended to give anyone ownership or rights in ideas or information (although other laws may protect these things). It is the original way ideas or information is expressed or conveyed that is protected.
Original works only
Only original works are capable of copyright protection. The term “original” when used in the copyright context has little to do with literary or artistic merit. It is generally sufficient if the work is original to the author, meaning that it has involved some independent skill, labour or judgement by the author. A simple poem that took five minutes to write is just as eligible for copyright protection as a heavily researched academic article or a prize winning novel. To qualify for copyright protection, a work cannot be a copy of someone else’s work or infringe another work.