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Overview of copyright issues


Teachers and contractors need to assume that copyright applies to all works created or used in the school environment – it is only in limited cases that copyright does not apply. The absence of the © symbol or a copyright statement makes no difference. (Neither does the fact you found it on the Internet.)

  • For a list of the kinds of work that are covered by the Copyright Act, see What is copyright?

Most published works, including books, films, newspapers, sound recordings, broadcasts and websites, include many types of work, the copyright in which may be owned by different people or entities.

To manage the risk that the use of works within the school creates, for both you and your school, you must ensure that you have obtained permission to use works in a restricted manner from the copyright owner.

Teachers' and students' use of copyright works in a restricted manner may be permitted by:

Note that the educational exceptions in the Copyright Act only apply in limited circumstances. They do not apply to any use you may make of works beyond those circumstances. The scope of the statutory exceptions to copyright infringement and various licences, is discussed below.


What is meant by copying?

The term 'copying' means reproducing or recording the work in material form, by any means whatsoever, and includes all forms of mechanical and manual reproduction, for example, making photocopies, scanning, re-typing, copying by hand, dubbing, recording, cutting and pasting, downloading, and printing.

For literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works, copying also includes storing the work in any medium by any means. In relation to an artistic work, it includes marking a copy in 3 dimensions of a 2-dimensional work and making a copy in 2 dimensions of a 3-dimensional work. In relation to a film, television broadcast, or cable programme, it includes making a photograph of a whole or a substantial part of any image forming part of the film, television broadcast, or cable programme.

For a more detailed discussion of making copies of works in electronic format or copying works from the Internet, see the section on Electronic copying and works on the Internet. Also see information resources on copyright.

Who owns copyright?

Who owns copyright in a teacher's or contractor's original work?

Do not assume that just because you created a work, you can necessarily do anything you like with it. Unless agreed otherwise, the school will own the copyright in any teaching materials that teachers (employees) create during the course of their employment.

However, if a contractor is commissioned to create a work, copyright in the work will usually be owned by the contractor unless agreed otherwise. In these cases, it would be necessary to get permission to use these works in a restricted manner after you leave the school or for private purposes (such as for publication). Check your employment contract and the copyright policy at your school. A Creative Commons licence may be an option.

Who owns copyright in another teacher's or contractor's work

You must get permission when you use works created by another teacher or contractor. While another teacher may have created the material (such as a unit plan), your school or another school could own the copyright.

You will need the copyright owner's permission to copy or change the work. In some cases, there could be more than one copyright owner.

While it is unlikely that use of works created within a school (that is, unpublished works) would be covered by the school's copyright licence, as explained above, the Copyright Act permits you to make a single copy of any literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic work for instructional purposes, or multiple copies of part of a work for educational purposes.

Who owns copyright in a student's original work?

Students own copyright for all the original work that they create, be it a story, a painting, a dance, or whatever. Treat students' work just like copyright material from outside the school. Good practice is to get permission from the student's parent or guardian and in the case of secondary students, the student as well, to copy, perform, record, publish, or exhibit any student's work or do any other restricted act in relation to that work.

Note on Ministry of Education and Crown publications

Ministry of Education and other government (Crown) publications (including websites) are like any other publication when it comes to copyright – that is, you must have permission to copy or do any other restricted act in relation to government publications.

Some government publications include permission statements granting rights to copy or do other restricted acts in relation to all or part 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 this material for non-commercial educational purposes."

Use of New Zealand Government data and information

The New Zealand Government Open Access and Licensing framework (NZGOAL)

NZGOAL is guidance for agencies to follow when releasing copyright works and non-copyright material for re-use by others. It aims to standardise the licensing of government copyright works for re-use using Creative Commons licences and recommends statements for non-copyright material.

Examples of material to which one can expect NZGOAL to apply include geospatial datasets; commissioned research reports; scientific datasets; collections of official statistics; datasets on government performance (financial and otherwise); photographic images; educational resources; archive film; out-of-copyright images, and other material in which, by law, there is no copyright.

On 8 August 2011 government approved new principles for managing the data and information it holds. These were developed to ensure high-quality management of information the government holds on behalf of the public.

In summary, government data and information should be open, readily available, well managed, reasonably priced and re-usable unless there are necessary reasons for its protection. Personal and classified information will remain protected. Government data and information should also be trusted and authoritative.

Find out more about these principles in the New Zealand Data and Information Management Principles section of the data.govt.nz website.