Copyright 'three strikes' first infringer?

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 05:00 18/04/2012

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A TelstraClear customer may be the first to be hauled in front of the Copyright Tribunal and fined for internet piracy under the controversial "three strikes" copyright regime that came into effect in September.

TelstraClear spokesman Gary Bowering said it issued a third and final "enforcement" notice to a customer on Thursday for allegedly pirating music, after being instructed to do so by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand.

Bowering said TelstraClear could not comment further as the matter was now out of its hands.

The alleged pirate will have until Thursday week to dispute the enforcement notice.

If they fail to do so, or if Rianz rejects their challenge, the association will then have 35 days in which to decide whether to ask the Copyright Tribunal to take action.

The tribunal can impose a fine of up to $15,000 for serious, flagrant offences under the law, which was designed to discourage people from pirating music and movies using file-sharing services.

However, the Government signalled in a Cabinet paper last year that in some cases it might be sufficient punishment for offenders to reimburse rights holders for the $275 in fees they will have had to incur bringing a case to the tribunal. It has no powers to cut off people's internet access.

Rianz would not confirm whether it intended to make an example of the TelstraClear customer. Esmee Dunlop, of its public relations company, Pead PR, said the association would "not normally comment on anything copyright related".

The association is understood to have issued hundreds of infringement notices to internet users for music piracy, and a Justice Ministry spokeswoman said last month that it believed "a number" of people had received second "warning" notices.

But this is believed to be the first time the association has scored a vital "third strike".

Unlike Rianz, the New Zealand Federation Against Copyright Theft (NZfact), which is owned by the United States Motion Picture Association and represents movie studios, has decided against asking internet providers to issue infringement notices to customers on behalf of its members.

That is because of the $25 fee they must pay internet providers to issue each notice. There is an additional $200 fee to bring a case before the tribunal.

Those fees are now being reviewed by the Economic Development Ministry. NZfact chief executive Tony Eaton said they should be done away with.

Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Paul Brislen said it was "vitally important" people lobbied the ministry not to reduce the fees.

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WALKING THE PLANK

Step 1: Copyright owner detects an infringement and sends the internet protocol (IP) address to the relevant internet provider, which forwards a "detection notice" to their customer.

Step 2: A second infringement between 28 days and nine months later against the same owner or one represented by a shared body triggers a "warning notice".

Step 3: A third infringement between 28 days and nine months later will result in an enforcement notice and the internet provider must forward the customer's details to the Copyright Tribunal if asked to do so by the copyright owner, who then has five weeks to decide whether to take action.

Internet users can challenge notices, through their internet provider, adding an extra step and delaying the process slightly, but notices will stand unless withdrawn by the rights holder.

Step 4: The Copyright Tribunal can impose a fine of up to $15,000 after examining written evidence, or after a hearing if that is requested.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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