Skynet law gets put to test

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 09:51 11/01/2013

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The first hearing under the "Skynet" anti-piracy regime is scheduled to be heard by the Copyright Tribunal in Christchurch next month in what may become an important test case.

A Justice Ministry spokesman said the Recording Industry Association (Rianz) was seeking an award against an unnamed internet user in Christchurch who had received their "third strike" for allegedly pirating music through a file-sharing service.

Rianz, which represents major record labels, has applied to bring 17 cases in front of the Copyright Tribunal and issued thousands of warning notices since the Copyright Act was amended in 2011 to provide "streamlined" justice for internet pirates.

Six of those applications had been dropped, including two recently, the spokesman said, leaving 11 cases still live.

All the other alleged pirates are understood to have asked the tribunal to reach a decision on their cases based on the paperwork, without a full hearing. The spokesman could not say whether any of those rulings might be out before the February hearing.

The tribunal can make awards of up to $15,000 against pirates and Rianz had sought awards of several thousand dollars in at least two of the dropped cases. They included one in which Rianz sought about $2700 from a Wellington student whose internet account was allegedly used without her knowledge to download five songs worth $11.75. That case had also appeared destined for a formal hearing.

Rianz estimated each song might have been uploaded 90 times by other internet users after they were illegally downloaded to the woman's computer, resulting in $1075 in damages, and asked for an additional $1250 "deterrent" plus the reimbursement of fees.

However, copyright experts say the ability of Rianz to claim for unproven losses that could have resulted from the uploading of pirated songs has yet to be tested. The Justice Ministry has said that is one of the matters that will have to be decided by the tribunal.

Law firm Baldwins said last month that it had acted for the Wellington student and another alleged pirate against which Rianz had sought an award of $4675 for illegally sharing 11 songs. Both those cases appear to have been dropped because of technicalities.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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