A recent High Court decision has answered the question of whether the copyright interest in an artistic work can be relationship property.

The Court considered whether a copyright interest in original artworks created by one party during the marriage was relationship property, and found that it was.

Copyright law gives the owner of copyright the exclusive rights to ownership and control of their work. These rights are focused on the individual and protect their form of artistic and creative expression.  

In contrast, relationship property law recognises the equal contributions of partners to a relationship and classifies all the property acquired by the parties after their relationship began as relationship property.

The Court recognised that there was tension between the individual rights of copyright and the collective rights of relationship property. It determined that this tension did not prevent copyright interests from being considered relationship property within the category of “non-physical property”.

The Court held that copyright interests should be treated in the same way as any other property produced or acquired during a relationship, and therefore subject to equal division upon separation.

The Court noted that upon division of relationship property, an adjustment from the pool of assets may be made to compensate the partner or spouse who does not own the copyright for a share of the value of that copyright interest.

If you have concerns about how your property is divided upon separation, it pays to speak to an experienced professional who can advise you of your rights. If you are the owner or creator of copyright works, it is especially important that you take professional advice to best suit your circumstances.

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-price Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.


Please note that Rainey Collins is not contracted to provide Legal Aid, other than in the Treaty of Waitangi area.  We therefore are unable to take on any Civil or Family Legal Aid work. If you require Legal Aid in those areas, you can search the list of Legal Aid lawyers on the Ministry of Justice website.