It’s the Monday morning staff meeting
and you’re circulating photocopied feature on your company’s share performance from the morning paper. Bang! You’ve broken the law and you’re not even through your first coffee.
Copyright infringement is as easy as that. We’ll copy an interesting chapter from book or an article from magazine, often without thought to the broader copyright implications. While most copyright infringements are unintentional and relatively innocent, it pays to play safe, especially when it comes to commercial use of copyright material.
A share-advice firm was recently caught copying information from another company’s publication onto their website. Rather than go to court, the offending firm issued an apology and removed the article. However the other company was still unsatisfied and ran newspaper advertisements that named the offending company and its shareholders. The firm’s credibility was irreparably damaged. Its lax copyright policy failed to prevent copyright infringement.
If you get caught infringing the Copyright Act, you’ll be lucky to get away with an out-of-court settlement and tarnished reputation. So don’t get caught out – develop clear policy and avoid infringing copyright.
So if you’re wondering whether copyright is an issue for your business, perhaps you should ask yourself, how important is your firm’s credibility?
The first copyright law was introduced by Queen Anne in 1709 to protect the livelihood of creators and owners of copyright works; and it continues to be relevant with the development of the Internet. The Copyright Act 1994, which is the essential legislation behind copyright, has dual aims. Firstly, to protect creators and the income they receive, and secondly to allow society as whole to benefit from reasonable access to copyright works.
The Copyright Act means that whoever owns copyright has the exclusive right to publish that work and license its use. If your firm doesn’t own copyright in work, then you can’t copy it without permission unless your copying is allowed under one of the Act’s exemptions. The fair dealing section of the Copyright Act allows copying of copyright works for the purposes of research or private study. This means manager or employee may make single copies of reasonable proportions of work without infringing copyright. However, most other copying – including the use of scanners – is illegal without permission from individual copyright holders or through licence with Copyright Licensing Ltd (CLL).
CLL acts on behalf of authors and publishers by issuing licences, which permit the photocopying of extracts from copyright works to educational, commercial and governmental institutions. licence from CLL allows multiple copying from an extensive list of books, journals and periodicals from New Zealand and other countries with which CLL has reciprocal agreements.
As long as licensees copy in accordance with the licence, they are indemnified against legal action. This indemnity, and the ability to make extra copies, makes the transactional licence an effective means of copyright compliance.
It’s principle of the Copyright Act that there should be reasonable access to copyright works, but when you copy an article or chapter from book, you avoid purchasing the original work. This means its creators miss out on income; and without that incentive, they’ll be less likely to continue innovating and creating. The licence with CLL is mutually beneficial: It rewards the creators of copyright works, while allowing firms to make legal copies for internal use.
Management should work out clear list of procedures for making copyright compliance part of everyday working life. clear copyright policy is means of protecting staff and management from infringement and prosecution. Your policy should include ensuring employees are aware of how much they may legally copy according to the Copyright Act; and if your firm has licence, how this extends the allowable copying. It should also ensure they know how to get permission for extended copying. good practice is to fix notices near your photocopying machines to remind staff of their obligations under the Act. These are available to licensees from CLL. responsible copyright policy means that even in the event of inadvertent infringement, your firm will be seen as having taken reasonable steps to ensure compliance, and so should avoid prosecution.
It is important that your company’s copyright policy addresses one of the most common copyright pitfalls: staff training. While it increases morale, loyalty and productivity, training staff also opens new opportunities for inadvertently infringing copyright. This is because making multiple copies of copyright material can be extremely useful for educating. The good news is it needn’t be problem if you take proper precautions and develop an effective copyright policy that may include getting licence from CLL.
Whether you bring in education consultants or your staff training is in-house, you should make it your responsibility to ensure all your employees comply with the Copyright Act. Be sure that if multiple copies of copyright material are made, you have permission from the publisher or CLL.
If you run an education consultancy, it is particularly important to get clearance for multiple copying of copyright material, otherwise you’re likely to be infringing the Act.
The Copyright Act provides for action to be taken against copyright infringement. Penalties for commercial infringement are especially high, but often cases don’t come to judgment because court action is expensive for everyone concerned. Usually managers try to avoid publicity by settling out of court, although this may not have the desired effect.
Companies should appreciate the seriousness of copyright especially considering the lengths they go to protect their own work. Like patent and trademark law, the Copyright Act is in place to encourage industry and innovation in business. If, as UNESCO director-general Federico Mayor says, “Human creativity alone is the source and raw material of all cultural industries,” then we have responsibility not only to comply with copyright law, but to nurture and encourage it for the benefit of the economy as whole.
A copyright licence from CLL is an investment in peace-of-mind.

Ben Murtagh is the information services officer for Copyright Licensing Ltd – non-profit organisation that is responsible for promoting awareness of copyright and protecting the income of creators of written copyright work. For further information, phone 0800 480 271 or visit

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