Rianz drops music piracy case

The Recording Industry Association of New Zealand has withdrawn one of the eight "Skynet" music piracy cases it is taking to the Copyright Tribunal, according to Wellington digital rights collective Tech Liberty.

However, the size of the penalty Rianz had initially called for - $2669 for the illegal downloading of just five music tracks - looks set to send shock waves through New Zealand's internet community.

It is understood the case was the only one in which the copyright-accused had elected to request a formal hearing in front of the Copyright Tribunal.

All the other seven internet users who are being pursued by music industry body Rianz after receiving their "third strike" for allegedly illegally accessing music over file-sharing networks have asked for their cases to be dealt with on the paperwork.

Tech Liberty said it had helped the defendant with her submission and to get "pro bono" assistance from lawyers and others.

Spokesman Thomas Beagle said the woman was flatting and was the account holder for the flat's shared Telecom account but never used file-sharing software herself and had no knowledge of how it worked.

That would not be a defence under the Copyright Act, which was controversially amended last year to make it easier for rights holders to pursue internet pirates.

But Tech Liberty said there were legal problems with the infringement notices that were issued, including the fact the third "enforcement notice" had been issued for an alleged offence that occurred within a 28-day "stand-down period" that followed the second "warning notice", making the third strike invalid.

Rianz dropped the case - without stating its reasons - after initially claiming $2669 in penalties for the illegal downloading of five tracks worth a total of $11.75, which it estimated might then each have been shared by as many as 90 other file-sharers, Tech Liberty said. Included in the claim was $1250 Rianz had sought as a "deterrent", Tech Liberty said.

Beagle said Rianz' claim for losses that might have resulted from further sharing of the files by people other than the defendant was unfair. While it was happy for the woman that the case had been dropped, it would have liked to seen how the Copyright Tribunal would have treated the case, including the size of the claim, he said.

"I think it is very controversial. I think it is very unlikely the tribunal would have gone along with that." Damages should be limited to the retail price of the products that were pirated, he said. The tribunal has the power to make awards of up to $15,000 .

The Dominion Post