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Employers at risk of copyright breaches

June 19, 2003

Employers at risk of copyright breaches

Following a highly successful New Zealand Music Month, the local recording industry is reminding employers of their obligations to ensure staff do not use work computers to infringe copyright.

According to the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ), it is a growing problem not only with New Zealand music but also with the international repertoire and one that puts employers at risk.

Music copyright infringement includes illegally downloading from the Internet and using work computers to copy music to CDs.

RIANZ chief executive Terence O'Neill-Joyce says employers risk leaving themselves open to possible litigation and the remedies provided to the owners of intellectual property.

"Unfortunately some staff members of businesses and government bodies engage in unauthorised copying of music on work computer systems. It's not only a waste of time; it's also against the law.

"Employers do not tolerate downloading illegal pornography at work. We question why they would consider ignoring any other illegal staff activity occurring in the work-place," Mr O'Neill-Joyce says.

He says RIANZ has free copies of a publication called the Copyright Use and Security Guide, produced by IFPI, the organisation which represents the recording industry world-wide.

"This is a practical guide on how to minimise copyright risk," Mr O'Neill-Joyce says. "It includes information on setting company policy, keeping inventories, monitoring material and taking security precautions.

"It's also important to make sure all staff members - including company officers - know what the rules are."

He says company officers, including directors and managers, cannot turn a blind eye to the misuse of company computers that may result in infringement.

"The law says that where managers could be reasonably expected to know about copyright offending they can be as liable as the actual main offenders.

"That means any workplace with CD burners should ensure that uses that may offend copyright are not permitted, are prevented and if they are happening they must be stopped."

Mr O'Neill-Joyce says the information in the copyright booklet includes an example of a memo to staff and a sample copyright policy document.

"We're sure there are many employers who aren't aware of the risks they run by ignoring the copyright issue. We'd much rather alert them to those issues than have to institute legal proceedings."

He says there is ample anecdotal evidence that downloading and copying are occurring in New Zealand businesses nation-wide.

"I have had reports of computer servers slowing down considerably on Fridays as staff members download music and copy it to CDs for a weekend's free listening at the expense of musicians.

"And with New Zealand music creating such a name for itself in recent years, you can guarantee many of the artists being ripped off are Kiwis."

* Employers can get a free copy of the Copyright Use and Security Guide from RIANZ by e-mailing


The Recording Industry Association of New Zealand is campaigning to protect the livelihoods of people in the music industry by educating the public about the copyright law in New Zealand. The campaign is titled BRN>BRNT and involves an advertising, poster, sticker and PR campaign to raise awareness of a problem that is estimated to cost the country $114 million a year.


Issued for RIANZ by Pead PR

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