by Joe Mullin
In the US, when illegal downloaders have actually gone to trial, they have faced massive six-figure penalties, like the damages figures against Joel Tenenbaum ($675,000) and Jammie Thomas-Rasset (first $1.92 million, down to $222,000).
Now New Zealand is starting to see results from the copyright tribunals it set up under a controversial 2011 law, which allows for copyright owners such as RIANZ (the New Zealand equivalent of the RIAA) to go after users, but for a maximum of $15,000.
Turns out, it’s going to be very tough for them to get even that amount in New Zealand. The first confessed music pirate has been nailed under that law, and she’ll have to pay $616.57, or about $512 in US dollars.
Plenty of voices in New Zealand are speaking out against the law, arguing it puts defendants in a situation in which they’re basically guilty until proven innocent. Still, compared to the giant trials and huge damage figures that have come out the US, the New Zealand system looks comparatively rational.
The confessed music pirate, who was unnamed in New Zealand press reports, was repentant about her downloading of “Man Down,” by Rihanna, but pled ignorance. “I accept responsibility for this,” she wrote, according to the New Zealand Herald. “I downloaded the song unaware that doing so from this site was illegal.”
She said she didn’t know how another song, “Tonight, Tonight” by Hot Chelle Rae, ended up being downloaded via her connection. According to an account of the case in New Zealand’s National Business Report, the defendant had trouble deleting uTorrent from her computer, and inadvertently re-downloaded “Man Down.” That was her third strike, putting her before the tribunal.
An earlier New Zealand copyright case went to trial in October, but the record companies lost. The NZ tribunals report they have 11 more cases before them currently.