Copyright in compilations in New Zealand

The New Zealand version of the Yellow Pages is facing a fight similar to the one its Australian counterpart had recently, in which an Australian court ruled that there is no copyright in a White Pages or Yellow Pages telephone directory (read my post here). Together with the IceTV case, the Australian courts appear to have decisively moved away from the “sweat of the brow” type arguments favoured in the UK and (to date) New Zealand, instead re-focussing on key principles of originality and authorship. Previous cases involving Yellow Pages and other directories have been before the New Zealand courts (for example, YPG IP Ltd v Pty Ltd, Auckland High Court 2007; University of Waikato v Benchmarking Services, Court of Appeal 2004), however these have not conclusively settled the question.

The New Zealand case is due to be heard in the High Court in May. The clear and forceful Australian judgments will surely be influential on the Court’s ruling (assuming the Telstra case is not overturned – it is being appealled), bearing in mind that New Zealand’s Copyright Act does have some important differences to Australia’s.

It is quite possible that by years end New Zealand will be on the road to adopting the more tightly focussed copyright law that has found favour in Australia. However, it will likley require at least one appeal to the Court of Appeal (and ideally another appeal to the Supreme Court) to set an authoritative precedent.

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