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Copyright Ownership and Third Party Content
28 Aug 2017 Post by: Kris Morrison

What is Copyright?

Copyright is the set of legal rights given to the creator/owner of an original work. It prevents other people from doing certain restricted acts in relation to a copyright work without the permission of the copyright  owner. These restricted acts include (among others) the right to:

There is no requirement to assert or register copyright in New Zealand. Copyright recognition in New Zealand arises automatically in various kinds of works if:

Who Owns Copyright?

The Crown is the first owner of any copyright in work made by a person employed or engaged by the Crown under a contract of service, a contract of apprenticeship, or a contract for services.
Subject to Crown ownership, and unless otherwise agreed, in most cases the author is the first owner of the copyright in a literary work.

However, unless otherwise agreed:


The author of a literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic work that is a copyright work has the right to be identified as the author of the work whenever the work is published or communicated to the public (section 94).  The right to be identified as the author is not infringed unless the author has asserted the right be identified as author (section 96).

Use of Third Party Content

Where a third party owns copyright in content, you will not be entitled to copy or adapt that content or a substantial part of it without the permission of the copyright owner or unless the copying or adaptation can be justified under an exception.

What is a Substantial Part?

What constitutes a substantial part of a copyright work is a question of ‘fact and degree’. The quality or importance of what has been taken is much more significant than the quantity. Copying a part of a copyright work that by itself has no originality will not normally be copying a substantial part of the copyright work.
Copyright protection is not focused on originality of ideas but on originality of expression. The importance of the copied part to the original copyright work as a whole is assessed to determine whether it forms a substantial part of the original copyright work.
Originality tends to lie in the detail with which the basic idea is presented. The greater the originality, the greater the protection that copyright law will afford it.

Objective Similarity

Even if another copyright work has been copied, the copyright won’t necessarily have been infringed unless the copy is objectively similar to the original. It is possible to take underlying ideas and concepts that are expressed in a copyright work and express those ideas in a significantly different way which therefore does not infringe copyright.

There is limited clear case law, though, on what counts as objective similarity. In one case, the Judge said ‘a copy is a copy if it looks like a copy’.

Causal Connection

It is also necessary to show that the infringing work was actually copied directly or indirectly from the original copyright work.

Altered Copying

Taking the ideas expressed in a copyright work and expressing those ideas in a different words and in a different format may produce new content that is not causally connected with or objectively similar to the original work.
However, copyright will still be infringed if the altered copy has ‘incorporated a substantial part of the independent skill, labour etc. contributed by the original author in creating the copyright work’.

Fair Use Exceptions

There are a number  of fair dealing and other exceptions under New Zealand’s Copyright Act 1994.



Every situation is unique so please discuss your situation with a professional advisor who can provide tailored solutions to you.


Kris Morrison - krismorrison@parryfield.com

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