Copyright and Creative Commons in New Zealand


  • Mark McGuire University of Otago



In 2001, Lawrence Lessig pointed out that, when considering of the ownership, regulation and governance of the virtual commons, we must take into account the “physical” layer, the “logical” or “code” layer, and the “content” layer, which includes the text, images, music, animations, movies and other digital material accessed over the internet. In an effort to free up the “content” layer, went online in 2002, allowing individuals to attach “some rights reserved” licenses to their work. This development was in response to changes in US copyright laws that the Creative Commons founders (including Lessig) argued hindered access to creative works. Since then, the Creative Commons Licenses have been ported to over fifty jurisdictions, including New Zealand. In this paper, I review institutional efforts to strengthen copyright in New Zealand through the Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Act in 2008 and the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act in 2011. I then discuss the use of Creative Commons licenses to share creative work with fewer restrictions, using examples drawn from education, the government sector and individual artists. Finally, I review critiques of the Creative Commons movement from those who point out that it supports the existing system that treats culture and communication as private, subject to property rights, and as a resource to be commercially exploited.