Illegal downloaders get off scot free, as Copyright Tribunal process too expensive
Illegal downloaders are escaping punishment as record companies give up chasing them through the courts.
Just one complaint has been laid, and upheld, with the Copyright Tribunal this year, compared with four last year and 18 in 2013.
The recording industry say the process, which takes too long and costs too much, is stopping them from holding people accountable.
To get nabbed for illegally downloading, rights holders such as film studios or record labels have to identify an illegal downloader and file a notice with their Internet Service Provider (ISP). The ISP then passes the notice to the account holder with each notice costing $25. Three notices are required within a 12-months before a complaint can be laid with the tribunal.
At that point, the complainant has to pay $200 to formally lodge it.
Tech Liberty spokesman Thomas Beagle said the industry had more or less given up on filing complaints because of the cost.
"My understanding is that the Copyright Tribunal process is too expensive and a lot of people are switching to streaming services," he said.
"It's about $25 a notice and you have to send a whole bunch of them and even then you don't know if it's getting to the right person."
The industry wanted the ISP companies to foot the bill, or at least get the Government to subsidise the fees, Beagle said.
"They [ISP's] are the ones that make the profit from their subscribers, so maybe they should pay.
"While $25 seems like a low cost, it turns out to be quite expensive considering they are losing so much money to piracy."
Record Music NZ general counsel Kristin Bowman said the recording industry lost millions of dollars every year to people who illegally downloaded music.
"We haven't got rid of it [piracy] as the regime, unfortunately, is too costly.
"It's really disappointing."
As a result, the association had stopped filing cases to the tribunal and had stopped sending as many notices, she said.
This meant a lot of people were probably escaping punishment.
"Every time we send a notice it costs us $25. We would love to do 1000 of those a week, but we just can't afford it.
"We definitely won't give up though, because we constantly want to get the message out there that piracy is illegal."
Bowman also wanted ISP and the Government to front up with some money, however, in a perfect world, she wanted to educate illegal downloaders, rather than prosecute them.
InternetNZ chief executive Jordan Carter said while New Zealand had one of the most "permissive and easily accessed means for enforcing copyrights", rights holders had long been concerned that the regime was too slow and costly.
"The reasons why that is the case though is because the Government has correctly insisted upon fair process in these matters, and expected Rights holders to meet the costs of enforcement...
"When rights holders allege that they suffer many thousands of dollars in damages for copyright infringement, it seems strange that a $25 charge is too much to prevent that."