First person fined under NZ three-strikes law

New Zealand's "three strikes" copyright-infringement law has claimed its first scalp.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The New Zealand Copyright Tribunal has made its first ruling under the three-strikes copyright-infringement law, fining a New Zealand resident NZ$616.57 for sharing two songs online.

The decision, first reported by The National Business Review, is the one of 12 that have been before the newly created Copyright Tribunal, all of which were brought by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ).

The law, which passed New Zealand parliament in 2011, sees copyright owners send evidence of alleged infringement to internet service providers (ISPs), which investigate and issue notices to the account holder. On the receipt of the third infringement notice, the copyright holder can then pursue the account holder through the Copyright Tribunal for damages of between NZ$275 and NZ$15,000.

According to the judgment, the Telecom New Zealand customer downloaded the Rihanna song Man Down and the Hot Chelle Rae song Tonight Tonight using the peer-to-peer BitTorrent file-sharing service uTorrent.

RIANZ sent its first notice to Telecom NZ regarding infringement of the Rihanna track in November 2011, and then sent a second notice in June 2012 about the sharing of the same track again. The third notice for the Hot Chelle Rae song came in July 2012.

The customer said in a letter to the tribunal that she was aware of downloading the first track, but was not aware it was being shared with other users through uTorrent multiple times. She denied sharing the second track.

The tribunal said that on the evidence, file sharing had occurred via the customer's account, and, on that basis, she must pay a fine.

The fine was worked out to be the cost of purchasing the Rihanna song twice, and the Hot Chelle Rae song once through iTunes for a total of NZ$6.57, plus part of the fee RIANZ paid to send the notices (NZ$50), the application fee (NZ$200), and then a "deterrent sum" that is designed to deter the user from infringing again (NZ$360, or NZ$120 per infringement).

The tribunal ruled that her infringement hadn't been "flagrant" because she said she "didn't realise it was illegal," and the tribunal noted that she had assisted the tribunal "rather than simply ignoring it."

The tribunal has still yet to hold a hearing; the first is set down for February. The decision reached this month is one that has been handled "on the paperwork."

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