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Copyright: What it means for you as a seller

Owning and distributing unlicensed copies of music and videos is illegal – even if you're not selling them.

By Trust and Safety 8 June 2023

There are a bunch of things people might do without realising they're illegal. In the state of Western Australia, it's illegal to possess more than 50kg of potatoes. In Britain, it's illegal to 'operate a cow' while intoxicated. Yeah, we have questions too.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, like many other countries, it's illegal to make unauthorised copies of a published work. It's also illegal to possess or distribute them. This is all covered by the Copyright Act 1994.

Copyright infringement is the theft of the creator's intellectual property. It's important that artists and creators are paid their fair share for their work, so they can keep making great stuff for us to enjoy.

What does the Act cover?

It's not limited to just media. Virtually anything that's created by an individual or organisation and published is covered by the Act.

Common examples:

  • Movies
  • TV shows
  • Music
  • Art
  • Writing
  • Software code
  • Images (photos, brand logos, etc.)

This isn't an exhaustive list, as anything published is covered by the law.

How do I know if something is copyrighted?

Everything is automatically covered by the law, so if it's published, it's copyrighted. It's that simple.

There are a few exceptions though, such as research, reviews, and reporting.

What are the penalties?

Big fines and possibly even prison time. That's what happened to a Rotorua man who was found guilty of breaching copyright, by selling illegal copies of songs.

How do I avoid this as a seller?

Know your source. If you're a professional seller, do your research to make sure you're buying your items from a reputable source with permission from the rightsholder.

The rules apply to casual sellers too. That means if you're selling some of your used stuff, it's important to be sure that it's legitimate.

Keen to learn more?

Check out Copyright Licensing NZ's website for more info.

Want to know more about intellectual property?
Check out our help page for more info.
Learn more


Trust and Safety
Trust and Safety