The Copyright Tribunal has issued its first decision relating to the file-sharing provisions of the Copyright Act, the so-called Skynet or three-strikes law.  A Telecom account holder has been ordered to pay $616.57 to the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ).  The account holder was held to have downloaded Rihanna's track 'Man Down' twice and a track called 'Tonight Tonight' once.  The award is made up of:

  • The iTunes purchase price for the tracks downloaded - $6.57
  • A contribution towards the IPAP's (Telecom's) fees - $50
  • The cost of the application fee to the Tribunal - $200
  • A 'deterrent sum' of $120 per infringement - $360

The account holder admitted some wrongdoing and the Tribunal noted she did have the BitTorrent application 'uTorrent' installed on her computer.  The Tribunal considered that downloading and installing such p2p software is a deliberate act requiring direct action by a computer user.  The account holder claimed she was unaware that this program both downloaded songs and made them available to other BitTorrent users while it was running, although she took steps after some time to delete the Rihanna song from the application.  She claimed no knowledge of downloading the other track. 

The Tribunal found that it was unknown how many third parties may have downloaded the Rihanna track made available through the account holder's copy of uTorrent but accepted that uploading of works such as these tracks would have a detrimental effect on the relevant market.  In light of all the factors, including the modest nature of the other sums ordered to be paid by the account holder, the Tribunal ordered the account holder to pay a deterrent sum of $120 for each track involved.  This modest amount is a far cry from the comparatively large sums ordered against illegal downloaders overseas, especially in the United States.

In two other Copyright Tribunal decisions just issued, following complaints brought by RIANZ:

  • An account holder has been ordered to pay a deterrent sum of $100 for each of three tracks which he claimed his 12 and eight year old children had downloaded without his knowledge.  In that case the Tribunal was unmoved by RIANZ's argument that  the deterrent sum be based on the size of penalties for driving without a licence, or using a disabled car park
  • The Tribunal has ordered another account holder found to have unlawfully copied Elton John and Coldplay tracks to pay a deterrent sum of $797.17.  RIANZ had sought a penalty of $3,931.