Copyright lasts for a limited time
During the term of copyright, anyone who wishes to copy or do another restricted act in relation to the relevant work must get permission from the copyright owner, unless the use is permitted under the Copyright Act. When the term of copyright expires, a work passes into the “public domain” and it may then be freely used without the need for permission.
What is the term of copyright?
Life of author plus 50 for most works
In New Zealand, copyright in literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works lasts for the life of the author plus fifty years from the end of the year in which the author dies. For a work of joint authorship, the fifty years runs from the death of the last surviving author.
Sound recordings, films and communication works
Copyright in sound recordings and films expires fifty years from the end of the calendar year in which the sound recording or film was made, or was legitimately made available to the public – whichever is the later. Copyright in a communication work lasts for fifty years from the end of the calendar year in which it is first communicated to the public.
Copyright in the typographical arrangement of a published edition lasts for 25 years from the end of the year of publication. This shorter period of copyright protection does not affect the duration of copyright in material contained in the published edition, such as stories, text and images.
Works covered by Crown copyright
Copyright protection for most material covered by Crown copyright lasts for 100 years from the end of the year in which the work was made. Crown copyright in typographical arrangements of published editions lasts for 25 years from the end of the year in which the work was made.
The period of copyright protection is longer in some other countries, including Australia, Europe and the United States. In these countries the copyright term is generally 70 years from the end of the year in which the author dies. This means that even if a work is in the public domain in New Zealand it could still be under copyright protection in another country.