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What you need to know about copyright

The Copyright Act 1994 grants copyright owners the exclusive right to do certain restricted acts in relation to their copyright works.

To prevent putting your school at risk it is best to assume copyright applies to all material that can be copied. The absence of the © symbol or a copyright statement does not mean the work is not protected by copyright. (Neither does the fact that the material was found on the Internet.)

For more information, go to:

The rights granted to owners are designed to encourage and reward investment in creative effort, by allowing copyright owners to obtain a return for their investment in their copyright work. It also grants users limited rights to do certain restricted acts, in certain circumstances. These exceptions are designed to permit public access to and use of copyright works in the public interest.

In addition, authors of copyright works are granted moral rights, and performers of some works are granted performers' rights. For more discussion on these, go to:

The Copyright Act meets New Zealand's international copyright convention obligations, and by and large uses the same principles contained in copyright legislation in other countries.

Permissions and exceptions

Permission to copy a work can come from:

  • General permission from the owner – such as a website statement like "Acknowledged and un-adapted use for non-profit educational purposes is permitted."
  • Specific permission for use of all or part of a named copyright work – special permission is obtained from the copyright owner in each case
  • General permission under a copyright licence – but only within the terms of that licence
  • Specific exceptions under the Act (Sections 42–57) – most relevant to schools are the exceptions to copyright infringement that permit copies to be made by students or teachers for research or private study, by educational establishments for educational purposes, and by prescribed (school) libraries for teachers' and students' research or private study.

What if your school does not own copyright?

If your school does not own copyright for the material that you wish to copy or use in any manner that is restricted by copyright, your activities must fall within the scope of one of these exceptions, in order to avoid risking liability for copyright infringement.

Copyright owners may enforce their copyright by bringing copyright infringement proceedings against users. Remedies for copyright infringement include damages or an account of profits and injunctions to prevent any further infringement. Some types of deliberate infringement may give rise to criminal liability, resulting in orders to pay fines and/or imprisonment.

The person (student, teacher or other employee) doing the restricted act is personally liable for copyright infringement, but in some circumstances their activity may also give rise to civil and criminal liability for the school's principal and the supervising board of trustees.

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Developing a copyright policy

There is a clear responsibility on the school management and trustees to ensure that copyright legislation is complied with within their school. One way to facilitate this is to develop a copyright policy and ensure that all members of the school community understand and follow it.

Its important that all members of the school community understand copyright and respect the rights of others.

Note on Ministry of Education and Crown publications

Ministry of Education and other government (Crown) publications (including websites) are like any other publication – you must have permission to copy or do any other restricted act in relation to them.

Some government publications include statements granting users permission to copy or do other restricted acts in relation to part or all of the publication for certain purposes. Examples of such permission statements are:

  • "Teachers may copy these notes/this DVD for educational purposes."
  • "You may copy this work for use in New Zealand schools."
  • "Teachers in New Zealand may copy and adapt these notes for non-commercial educational purposes."

In addition, the statutory exceptions to copyright infringement apply to government publications.

Information from data.govt.nz

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