Copyright and designs

New Zealand copyright law protects original works, including original artistic, literary, dramatic, or musical works (in all their various forms), from being copied. The period of protection for literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works under New Zealand law is the life of the author plus 50 years. Other works, such as sound recordings, films, communication works, and computer-generated works, generally are protected for 50 years from the end of the year in which the work was made or made available to the public.

For industrially applied works, protection lasts for 16 years (or 25 years in some cases), depending on the nature of the work. There is no form of registration of copyright in New Zealand.

In addition to copyright protection, the appearance of an article can be protected by registering a new and original design under the provisions of New Zealand’s design legislation. The maximum period of protection for registered designs is 15 years.

New Zealand’s copyright law is, however, now under review. The copyright regime was last reviewed in 2004, but the rapid development of the technological environment – impacting significantly the creation, distribution and consumption of content, and at times adversely affecting the rights of copyright owners – has meant further review is necessary. An initial consultation process was conducted in 2019, and a further process (based on an options paper) is expected sometime in 2020.

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