Eight ‘Music Pirates’ To Face Copyright Tribunal, One To Defend In Person

New Zealand rightsholders have come under fire for failing to fully utilize the so-called "three strikes" mechanism after they sent out less than 3,000 notices to alleged pirates in a year. However, it's now been revealed that eight individuals are now just one step away from the most serious punishments available, just six shy of the French total after they sent out a massive 1.1 million warnings.

The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act was implemented in New Zealand last year but in July 2012 it was revealed that far from sending out large quantities of warnings to deter would-be file-sharers, rightsholders have been playing a cautious game.

RIANZ, the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand, sent out just 2,766 notices between October 2011 and April 2012. The movie industry sent none at all.

In contrast, in France, where a similar “3 strikes” scheme is operated, rightholders have been in overdrive. Between October 2010 and last month they had monitored 3 million IP addresses, had 1.15 million “first strike” notices and nearly 103,000 second warnings sent out.

The problem, Kiwi rightsholders insist, is that it costs too much to send a notice, a problem not experienced in France. But interestingly, and despite the huge difference in the number of warnings sent out, when it comes to summoning individuals to face their final punishments, the two countries are not that far apart, even though the French scheme has been running a year longer.

France has sent out more than a million first strike notices and almost 103,000 second strikes, ultimately sending just 14 cases to French prosecutors. New Zealand has sent out less than 2,800 notices in total, yet as revealed today is already sending 8 people to face the country’s Copyright Tribunal.

All of the individuals are targets of the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ). Their alleged offenses have not been detailed but it is presumed that they were monitored sharing music either on BitTorrent or another similar file-sharing system. All will have already received three “enforcement notices” against their ISP account but failed to modify their behavior.

Three of the individuals are customers of the ISP Telecom, while the remainder are customers of TelstraClear and Slingshot, Fairfox reports.

Seven of the accused have asked the Copyright Tribunal to consider their case on paper based evidence alone. An eighth took up the opportunity to appear before the Tribunal in person, a Justice Ministry spokesman said.

The punishments faced by the eight are more harsh than those faced by their French counterparts. The Tribunal can hand down a NZ $15,000 (US $12,337) fine, in France the maximum is 1,500 euros (NZ $2,368 / US $1,948)

In August the first French conviction was handed down. A 40-year-old man was given a 150 euro fine after he ended up taking the blame for his ex-wife’s file-sharing habits. Punishments in New Zealand are not expected to exceed a few hundred dollars.

The New Zealand notices, at NZ $25 (roughly $20 USD) per shot, are too expensive to send in large numbers and should be around NZ $2 each, rightsholders say. The ISPs, on the other hand, say that they costed their systems to handle large amounts and are now out of pocket. They want the cost of notices to increase. Last month the government said the prices would stay put.

And that might indeed be a good idea. The French send just over 0.0011% of notice recipients for punishment, currently the Kiwis are sending 0.29%, a huge difference.

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