Skip to main content

Why copyright is important for standards

Standards New Zealand’s Senior Advisor Copyright and Licencing David Riley explains why copyright protects standards so you know what you see is what was agreed.

Laptop users looking at the copyright web page

What is copyright?

Copyright is a set of exclusive rights granted to the author or creator of an original work. It includes the right to copy, distribute, license, and adapt the work, and to control copying of the work by others. It doesn’t protect an idea, but the expression of that idea. There is no registration system for copyright protection in New Zealand. Copyright is inherent in the work and exists automatically. It is different from other intellectual property (IP) rights, such as patents, trademarks, and designs, which can be registered. For example, the Standards New Zealand logo is a registered trademark and cannot be reproduced by third parties without approval, as it acts as an official seal or could be considered an endorsement.

Why is copyright important to Standards NZ

Copyright ensures integrity, control and protection of standards material is maintained. Most reproductions require permission from Standards NZ. One of the only times that material can be used by a third party without permission is for use within news reporting. TVNZ and Newshub often use third party copyrighted material without clearance, although I’m not sure standards are their usual fare. Where we see violations, we will act. Within the past several months I have requested several takedowns, usually an honest error, but some large document reading websites trawl through and upload material without any permissions being sought. Usually, they remove material when requested. Luckily, we have some eagle-eyed members of the team and public, who notify me when they discover occurrences.

Enquiries for licences are diverse and have included seeking the right to use text, figures, and imagery within a thesis, on a website (private and public), within a book, reproducing CAD drawings, pre-populating a label standard for one organisation, such as Nespresso, for training materials and access for private companies and potentially any other use where we retain copyright in material.

Apart from the editorial control provided by copyright protection, there is a financial value to standards. As we receive no government funding, licence fees are a good way of contributing to our cost recovery. There are times for personal study for example, where a licence fee may not be charged, but it is decided on a case-by-case basis.

Most popular standard

One of the most popular standards for which we receive licensing requests is NZS 4404:2010 Land development and subdivision infrastructure. Several councils and a water authority have licensed this standard (on a yearly basis) in full for their websites and added specific comments relating to their region. This is because the standard is cited in legislation for the National Code of Practice for Utility Operator’s Access to Transport Corridors. We have licensed the CAD drawings for modification, as enabling others to use material can be more cost effective than commissioning new drawings.

Need a licence? Get in touch.

If you ever need to use content within a standard for business or study needs, please get in touch to request a licence via our webform. I’m here to help and much prefer helping people to meet their needs than getting in touch about an infringement.

Copyright enquiry form(external link)

You can find more information on copyright here:

Introduction to copyright at Standards New Zealand(external link)