Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What about Copyright in Australia and New Zealand?

Well, both Australia and New Zealand have their own copyright laws. Australia has been a contracting party of the Berne Convention since 1928. New Zealand has also been a contracting party since 1928. To contrast, the United States only ratified the Berne Convention in 1988 and it did not go into effect until 1989. The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, usually known as the Berne Convention, is an international agreement governing copyright, which was first accepted in Berne,Switzerland, in 1886. As outlined in Wikipedia:
The Berne Convention requires its signatories to recognize the copyright of works of authors from other signatory countries (known as members of the Berne Union) in the same way as it recognizes the copyright of its own nationals. For example, French copyright law applies to anything published or performed in France, regardless of where it was originally created. 
In addition to establishing a system of equal treatment that internationalized copyright amongst signatories, the agreement also required member states to provide strong minimum standards for copyright law. 
Copyright under the Berne Convention must be automatic; it is prohibited to require formal registration (note however that when the United States joined the Convention in 1988, it continued to make statutory damages and attorney's fees only available for registered works).
Quoting from the Intellectual Property Australia website:
Copyright protection is free and automatic in Australia and protects the original expression of ideas, and not the ideas themselves. 
Common works protected by copyright are:
  • books
  • films
  • music
  • sound recordings
  • newspapers
  • magazines
  • artwork
Copyright also protects originally created:
  • typographical arrangements
  • databases
  • media broadcasts
  • computer programs
  • compositions of other people's work such as academic journals or CD compilations
Australian copyright is administered by the Attorney-General's Department.
The duration of Australian copyrights is:
Depending on the material, copyright for literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works generally lasts 70 years from the year of the author's death or from the year of first publication after the author's death. 
Copyright for films and sound recordings lasts 70 years from their publication and for broadcasts, 70 years from the year in which they were made.
Some other helpful websites include:
In New Zealand, copyright protects original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, sound recordings, films, communication works and the typographical arrangement of published editions.
For more information, see our information sheet An introduction to copyright in New Zealand prepared by the Copyright Council of New Zealand.

Quoting from the Copyright Council of New Zealand concerning the duration of copyright protection:
Copyright in literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works continues for 50 years after the end of the calendar year in which the author died.

Copyright in sound recordings and films continues for 50 years from the end of the calendar year in which they were made. However, if the work is made available to the public before the end of that 50 year period, copyright continues for 50 years from the end of the calendar year in which it was first made available. 
Copyright in a communication work continues for 50 years from the end of the calendar year in which it was first communicated to the public. Copyright in a repeated communication work expires at the same time as copyright in the initial communication work expires. 
A publisher's copyright in the typography of a published edition lasts for 25 years from the end of the calendar year in which the work was first published.
The text of the New Zealand Copyright Act can be found at

As I mentioned above, as is the case with the law in all contracting parties to the Berne Convention, there is no requirement for a copyright notice.


  1. There are provisions in the Copyright Act in Australia that allow educational institutions to use copyright material for educational purposes without permission from the copyright owner, it is probably worthwhile for large genealogy societies to examine the possibility of applying for staus as an educational institution.

    My rule for copying is "When in doubt don't."

    1. Thanks for that additional information.

  2. The following "Family Histories & Copyright" - a good concise guide from the Australian Copyright Council