Copyright and copyright transfer agreements , Te manatā me te whakawhiti manatā

Learn about copyright transfer agreements, copyright of Massey theses, and your rights as an author when you publish your research.

Understanding 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.

More about copyright from the New Zealand Intellectual Property Office (IPONZ)

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.

Works defined

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 and radio broadcasts.

Protecting your intellectual property

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’s intellectual property policy specifies that the university claims legal ownership of intellectual property created at the university, but 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.

Māori language and traditional knowledge

Copyright and intellectual property are based on the concepts of individual ownership and the eventual shift of knowledge into the public domain. Both of these concepts can be problematic when dealing with Māori traditional knowledge.

Māori language and traditional knowledge are discussed in Schedule Seven of Massey’s Intellectual Property Policy.

Waitangi Tribunal resources

The Waitangi Tribunal report ‘Ko Aotearoa tēnei: a report into claims concerning New Zealand law and policy affecting Māori culture and identity’ (Wai 262) also discusses Māori language and traditional knowledge.

View Volume One of the Waitangi Tribunal report online

View Volume Two of the Waitangi Tribunal report online

See details of the print copies of the Waitangi Tribunal report in all Massey campus libraries

Publishing your research

In academia (particularly in journal publishing) the author commonly transfers or assigns copyright to the publisher through an agreement. This means the author either:

  • gives up their copyright to the publisher
  • 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.

Rights transferred by CTAs

Publishing a work requires the publisher to be able to:

  • copy the work (others can still copy it under the limits of fair dealing and educational use)
  • 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.

Negotiating a CTA

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 author’s rights, these scholarly organisations and others have developed author addenda that can be added to copyright transfer agreements:

The publisher may be unwilling to negotiate over stronger author’s rights. In this case, you will 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

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.

You can understand how copyright applies to your thesis by using our thesis presentation guide. The guide covers third party copyright of material in your thesis and thesis by publications.

Go to the thesis presentation guide

If you are unsure about the copyright status of your thesis or work within it, you can:

Learn more about submitting Massey theses

Contact a subject or Māori services librarian

We're here to help you with your research or teaching. Contact a subject or Māori services librarian by email or book an appointment.

Related content

Student copyright guide

What you're allowed to copy and share online, and how to get permission to use images in your thesis.