New Zealand record industry flubs its first three-strikes prosecution

The first of eight prosecutions brought under New Zealand's three-strikes copyright law (passed as a rider to the emergency legislation freeing up money to provide relief for the Christchurch earthquake) has fallen apart.

The RIANZ (Record Industry Association of NZ) withdrew its case against a student in shared accommodation without saying why.

However, as Torrentfreak reports, NZ activists at Tech Liberty point out that the notices sent to the student, and the damages claimed, were all badly bungled and unlikely to withstand legal scrutiny.

The recording group asked for just over NZ $370 (US $303) to cover the costs of the notices and copyright tribunal hearing, plus NZ $1,250 (US $1,024) as a deterrent. However, eyebrows were certainly raised when it came to their claim for the music involved in the case.

The infringements were alleged to have taken place on five tracks with the cost of each measured against their value in the iTunes store, a total of NZ $11.95 (US $9.79). This sounds reasonable enough, but RIANZ were actually claiming for $1075.50 (US $880.96).

“RIANZ decided, based on some self-serving research, that each track had probably been downloaded 90 times and therefore the cost should be multiplied by 90,” says Tech Liberty co-founder Thomas Beagle. “There is no basis in the Copyright Act or Tribunal regulations for this claim.”

I don't think we can count on this kind of cack-handedness in the future. The RIANZ will perfect its procedures soon enough, and we'll start seeing punitive fines and even disconnection based on mere accusation of living in a house where the router is implicated in an unproven allegation of copyright infringement.

Music Biz Dumps First Contested Copyright Case After Botched 3 Strikes Procedure


  1. One minor correction Cory, it’s earthquakes, not earthquake. There have been two separate big quakes and quite literally hundreds of aftershocks between and since.

      1. Man… I didn’t realise there had been quite so many aftershocks. I get regular verbal updates from my mother in law who’s house is one of only a few left occupied on her street in Lyttleton. 

        I guess not all the aftershocks are felt by everyone as she reports about “5 a day’. When she last visited us in Melbourne she said the fact that there were no aftershocks was starting to stress her out. Like she was constantly waiting for a little one and when it kept never arriving the anxiety kicked in and she kept worrying when “it” eventually came it would be big. 

  2. I guess it’s nice to see that politicians in countries other than the USA will do scumbag things to legislation.  This is why I firmly believe in one item per bill; no riders, no earmarks, nothing. 

    1.  Actually, Cory got that bit wrong, and we typically do not see those sorts of shenanigans here in New Zealand. The copyright legislation was not passed as a rider on aything else, although it was initally reported in a way that created that impression. The bill was passed under urgency due to parliament having been put behind schedule by quake related issues. As a result it was not subject to the debate it deserved, but all indications are that it would have passed anyway, despite public opposition.

  3. “that each track had probably been downloaded 90 times and therefore the cost should be multiplied by 90”

    Doesn’t the RIAA do the same kind of guesstimate here in the US and has it not withstood court scrutiny? If anything, given what I remember of RIAA court cases here, the number RIANZ claimed was a bargain.

  4. Imagine that… the tech can’t do what they claim it does.
    They turn their “damages” into a laughing stock by inflating the numbers to make it look more serious.

    With this kind of math at play, one wonders if the billions the **AA’s claim to have lost are more like $19.95

  5. i’m fairly sure this law was passed well before the quakes. i have one strike against ‘me’ already and that was a couple of years ago now.

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