"On 29 January 2013 the New Zealand Copyright Tribunal issued its first decision in relation to the file-sharing infringement provisions of the Copyright Act 1994. You can read the decision here.
In brief, the provisions are intended to give copyright owners – particularly in the music and film industries – a relatively quick and cheap way of dealing with unlawful peer to peer file sharing.
RIANZ). The respondent is not identified in the decision.
In the decision the Copyright Tribunal confirms that, if a person does not challenge an infringement notice, there is a presumption that the file-sharing identified in each notice is an infringement.
In this case the respondent did not challenge any of the notices that RIANZ issued. In fact, the respondent acknowledged that at least one of the infringements occurred. However, she denied any knowledge of the two other infringements.
On the evidence, the tribunal ruled that the respondent downloaded and uploaded two songs. The respondent was therefore found to infringe copyright.
The tribunal then had to determine the penalty that the respondent had to pay. The tribunal must order a penalty sum unless it is manifestly unjust to do that. Any penalty is capped at a maximum of NZ$15,000.
The tribunal calculated a penalty of NZ$616.57 as follows.
• The damages component was based on what the respondent would have paid for lawfully downloading three tracks – NZ$6.57.
• The contribution to the ISP's fees for processing the three notices was set at NZ$50 – the actual fees were NZ$75.
• The applicant's NZ$200 official fee.
• A deterrent sum calculated at NZ$360.When calculating the deterrent sum, the tribunal took into account
• the flagrancy of the infringement
• the effect of the infringing activity on the market for the work
The fine, in European terms, works out at about 380 euro, or US$ 520. Is it a meaningful deterrent? Is it excessive in relation to the infringement, or inadequate in relation to the complexity and bureaucracy of the procedure which leads to it? And how is it distributed? Readers may have further questions. This is a good time and place to ask them.• whether the other sums awarded in the penalty are a sufficient deterrent to future infringing.The tribunal held that the infringing was not flagrant and that there was no evidence that the respondent's uploading had any detrimental impact on the market for the works. The tribunal ruled that because the other penalty sums were modest, the respondent should be fined a deterrent sum of NZ$120 per infringement.
There has been a mixed reaction to the decision, including comments that this is a bad law as the onus is primarily on the defendant. There is also some speculation that the sum awarded is too low to be effective.
In relation to the latter point the decision sends a clear message to internet users that they can be penalised if they breach the provisions of the Act. At first blush NZ$616.57 may not seem like a high penalty. But for the majority of people, having to pay that fine would be a burden. Certainly, it is far more than the NZ$6.57 that the respondent would have paid if she had downloaded the songs lawfully".