What is copyright?

The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011 a�� wea��ll call it a�?the copyright
amendmentsa�? for short a�� added new material to New Zealanda��s copyright law. Copyright law hasA�existed in New Zealand in some form or another since 1842. Back then, only book authors couldA�have a copyright, or the right to make copies of their books. This right lasted 28 years. ThisA�meant that anyone aside from the author who printed, imported, sold or tried to sell a copy of theA�authora��s book without the authora��s permission in that 28 year period would face a penalty underA�copyright law.

Today, copyright lasts 50 years. In some countries it lasts much longer. More importantly,
copyright today exists in many more a�?worksa�? a�� as the law calls them a�� than just books. PrettyA�much anything printed or capable of being shown on a screen, played out on a stage, seen in aA�gallery or heard on the radio can be copyrighted. Computer programs like Microsoft Office canA�be copyrighted. Video games can be copyrighted. What cana��t be copyrighted? Inventions a�� thata��sA�what a�?patentsa�? do, or phrases or logos used in commerce a�� thata��s what a�?trademarksa�? do.

Who owns a copyright? The a�?authora�? of the a�?worka�? a�� as the law calls them a�� for example theA�composer of the song, the painter of the painting or the author of the book. But the author canA�sell or trade his or her copyright to another. For example, the record label that fronts moneyA�to produce an album with an artist will have an agreement with that artist — the label gets theA�artista��s copyright and, in exchange, the artist receives royalty payments. Movie studios haveA�these agreements with everyone involved in making the movie.

There are differing explanations for why copyright exists, but everyone agrees that unauthorizedA�copying has become easier than ever with digital technology. For example, in the 1980s youA�could copy a song on a cassette tape onto another cassette tape. But youa��d have to buy a blankA�cassette tape and find the right machine to make the copy. Plus, the sound quality wouldna��t beA�that great. Now you can make a perfect copy of a song in an mp3 file with the click of a mouseA�and immediately share it with someone on the other side of the planet.

While this technology has many benefits, it also makes it more difficult for copyright ownersA�to enforce their copyrights. The copyright amendments were made for this reason a�� to giveA�copyright owners a easier way to stop others from copying their works a�� movies, music,A�computer programs, video games, etc a�� through filesharing over peer to peer networks.