$600 fine for first NZ music pirate prosecuted

The first music pirate stung under new file-sharing laws has been fined $616 but said they "didn't realise" the actions were illegal.

The Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) - which represents music studios - took an unnamed offender to the Copyright Tribunal last year for sharing songs on the internet - a track by Barbadian pop star Rihanna on two occasions and the other by Nashville band Hot Chelle Rae.

In a decision released today, the tribunal found in RIANZ's favour and ordered the offender (who was a Telecom customer) to pay a penalty $616.57.

The ruling was the first of its kind under a 2011 copyright law change that allows rights holders - such as movie studios or music companies - to issue notices to users believed to be illegally downloading or uploading copyrighted content.

After a third notice, rights-holders can bring a case before the tribunal, which can fine an offender up to $15,000.

Although only two songs were involved in this case, RIANZ sent a second notice about the Rihanna song to the offender about seven months after the first.

In a submission to the tribunal, the music pirate claimed ignorance to the illegality of the offending.

"The first song downloaded was a song called Man Down by Rihanna. I accept responsibility for this. I downloaded the song unaware that in doing so from this site was illegal," the submission said.

However, the offender did not claim responsibility for the Hot Chelle Rae track.

"It wasn't [downloaded] by myself or anyone in this household," the submission said.

While the pirate referred only to downloading the songs, RIANZ claimed the offending was for uploading the music.

This was accepted by the tribunal, which also said it was possible the pirate only intended to download the music over the file-sharing network where the offending took place.

The tribunal ordered the pirate to pay the costs of purchasing the tracks ($6.57), $50 towards the costs RIANZ inccured for sending the notices and $200 for the cost of bringing the case to the copyright body.

The offender was also ordered to pay a deterrent sum of $360 ($120 per infringement).

- Hamish Fletcher of the New Zealand Herald

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