A NEW ZEALAND WOMAN has become the first person to suffer under that country's three strikes law for downloading media content and has been hit with a fine.
The case was won by the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ). RIANZ accused the unnamed woman of downloading a song by Rihanna called "Man down". The woman must pay $616.57 as a fine.
NZ$616.57, which works out to around £326, is considerably more money than anyone might expect to pay for one song. iTunes has it for 99p. We had a listen. We would describe it as a reggaefied version of Bohemian Rhapsody mashed up with Little Drummer Boy.
Green MP Gareth Hughes said that the punishment meted out under the Skynet three-strikes law raised a number of questions, including the issue of whether a Kiwi rights organisation should work as an enforcer for a non-Kiwi artist.
Hughes said that the woman was effectively being punished because she did not understand how to use a computer properly, and was railroaded into court despite there not being much evidence against her.
"The first thing that jumps out is the acknowledgment that there is insufficient evidence for the tribunal make detailed findings on her defence but that the Act creates a statutory presumption that an infringement notice constitutes an infringement of the rights holders work," he said.
"This 'guilty until proven innocent' approach written in the legislation along with internet termination as a remedy was one of the main reasons the law was so derided. At least it wasn't the $15,000 maximum penalty and her internet account wasn't terminated."
According to Hughes the defendant argued that she did not realise that downloading the song was illegal, adding that another song downloaded at the same time was not downloaded by her or anyone else that she knew.
She said that although she had used file sharing software, she had made a mistake and was happy to apologise and delete the file.
"It looks like she is being punished for not being able to uninstall the software and possibly for having an unsecured wireless account or anonymous file-downloading house-guest," he added, before suggesting that the tribunal had taken a dim view of software that can actually have legitimate uses.
"Chillingly the Tribunal notes the use of downloading software was 'a deliberate act'. While this is so, as the Megaupload case has highlighted these types of file sharing sites can be used for legitimate lawful purposes and shouldn't automatically be considered proof of online copyright infringement."
Hughes said that whatever happened in the case, the first of its kind, it hasn't really proved anything. He called for Skynet to be shut down and for legal forms of digital music to be embraced.
"It's hard to argue the Skynet law has been effective at reducing infringing or supporting artists," he said.
"I support Kiwi artists and think legal forms of access like Spotify and Quickflix will be more effective at reducing online infringement than punitive laws like this. With the growth of these legal sources, and a looming copyright review I think it's time to terminate Skynet and think about smarter ways to reduce copyright infringement." µ