Stupid Skynet snares serving soldier

If the fight against online piracy involves winning the hearts and minds of the general public, then I despair for the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand.
Written by Darren Greenwood, Contributor

The fifth copyright tribunal decision has just been publicised — and it involves a soldier who was on tour of duty in Afghanistan when the alleged piracy events took place.

I am sure that when the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) brought the case against the soldier under New Zealand's three-strikes "Skynet" law, it did not know that the alleged offender was doing his bit for "Queen and Country". But it does seem to highlight the blundering around in enforcing the legislation. If ever there was a more worthy and "innocent" offender, it would be someone risking his life for his country while it was his flatmates who were doing the offending.

In the debate that ensued following publicity of this latest case, commentators also rightly noted that it is the small guy who is being brought to book rather than any large scale pirates.

Offenders seem to be charged for a few downloads, and for this, they are fined hundreds of dollars — NZ$256 for the latest "offender", the lowest so far.

IT lawyer Rick Shera noted that the copyright offenders are being charged for downloading overseas artists' music too, as if the likes of Rihanna are so destitute that she and her record company need every cent they can get their hands on. Some may recall that when the Skynet Bill was going through its approval processes, one of its aims was to help New Zealand's struggling recording sector and our impoverished artists.

Yet no Kiwi music and artists seems to be involved in any of the cases brought to book so far.

And it all comes as we hear that peer-to-peer downloads are down, and legal methods of making money from online music sales are increasing and becoming mainstream.

You do have to wonder about how RIANZ is conducting itself with the cases it is pursuing. The type of cases that RIANZ is bringing in could well tarnish this law in the court of public opinion, a law it so desperately fought for.

At least there is one clear message to come out of this latest case. No matter how unjust or unfair it might seem, ISP account holders will have to be extra vigilant of those who use their internet.

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