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Copyright and Copyright Transfer Agreements

This page addresses copyright as it applies to carrying out research and publishing that research.

What is Copyright?

‘The term “copyright” refers to a bundle of exclusive rights given to owners of original works... In New Zealand, copyright is an automatic unregistered right that comes into existence every time an original work is created, published and performed’. 
From IPONZ https://www.iponz.govt.nz/about-ip/copyright/

Copyright addresses the balance between the creator’s right to recognition and recompense for their work, and the recognition that new creative works are built on previous creative works.

Copyright belongs to the author at the time of creation – the work does not have to have been published or even be in its final form. As long as a work is original, it is covered by copyright. Copyright is also automatic; it does not need to be claimed in any way.

The term ‘works’ is broadly defined in copyright law; it includes:

  • Literary works (including standard academic publications such as conference papers, journal articles, book chapters, and books)
  • Dramatic works
  • Musical works
  • Artistic works
  • Films
  • Communication works (including webcasts, radio broadcasts)

Copyright resides in the expression of an idea rather than the idea itself; intellectual property deals with the ownership of ideas and inventions. To protect your intellectual property, you must be the first creator to express that idea, whether by writing (and publishing) an article, or by taking out a patent.

In general, Massey University’s intellectual property policy specifies that the University claims the benefits of intellectual property created at the University, but that staff and students retain the copyright over their work. We recommend that you read the full policy and understand how it applies to the works you create.

Massey University Policy Guide: Intellectual Property Policy

Copyright and intellectual property are based on the concepts of individual ownership and the eventual shift of knowledge into the public domain, both of which can be problematic when dealing with Māori traditional knowledge. Māori language and traditional knowledge are discussed in:

Publishing Your Research - Copyright Transfer Agreements

In academia (particularly in journal publishing) the author commonly transfers or assigns copyright to the publisher through an agreement. This means either the author gives up their copyright to the publisher, or the author grants the publisher an exclusive license for a specified length of time (although their moral right to be identified as the author is not affected).

The author transfers copyright by signing a legal document, usually called a Copyright Transfer Agreement (CTA). A CTA may stipulate various rights that the author does retain, such as whether the author can post the article in an open access repository and under which conditions.

What Rights Does a CTA Transfer?

Publishing a work requires the publisher to be able to exercise these rights:

  • To copy the work (others can still copy it under the limits of fair dealing and educational use)
  • To issue copies to the public, or publish the work (others can still do this under the limits of fair dealing and educational use)
  • Perform or show the work
  • Adapt the work

A CTA may transfer all of these rights to the publisher.

We recommend that you think about what you might want to do with your published article and therefore if there are rights you would like to retain as an author. Then read the CTA carefully. If you want to negotiate to retain stronger authors’ rights, some scholarly organisations have developed author addenda that can be added to copyright transfer agreements:

The publisher may be unwilling to negotiate over stronger authors’ rights, and you will then need to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of publishing with that particular journal. In pragmatic terms it will usually be more to your benefit to publish than to not publish.

You can also assign a non-exclusive right to publish through a Creative Commons licence.

Copyright and Massey theses

Please refer to the Guide to the Presentation of Theses to understand how copyright applies to your thesis. The Guide covers third party copyright included in your thesis and thesis by publications.

When you submit your thesis to Massey University, you retain the copyright over that thesis, as you have not officially ‘published’ it. However, if you later publish parts or all of your thesis elsewhere, you will transfer copyright to the publisher as stated above.

If you are unsure about the copyright status of your thesis or work within it, consult Massey University’s Copyright information for students, or email the Copyright and Open Access Advisor: copyright@massey.ac.nz; discuss with your supervisor; or seek other authoritative advice.

Learn more about submitting Massey theses.