The First Fine Under the New Copyright Law Has Been Given

The NBR (National Business Review) has recently reported that the first fine under the new copyright law in New Zealand was given recently to someone who downloaded and shared 2 songs, one of them twice. The law requires that 3 notices be sent to someone who has allegedly been caught file sharing before any form of punishment can be given. The accused says that the downloading of the Hot Chelle Rae song “was not done by myself or anyone in this household”, though the law holds the account holder responsible for any alleged file sharing. 

What’s significant about this?

As the copyright law in question, known as the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011, passed into law in 2011, it’s still quite a new law. Because of this, the early cases taken to court are likely to set a precedent or guideline for the court cases that will come later. One such case is when RIANZ, the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand, sought NZ$4675 in damages from a women who allegedly downloaded 11 songs. While that isn’t as crazy or extreme as seeking US$1.92 million in damages, as was the case in the second trial of the Capitol vs Thomas case in the USA, it is a bit under 1/3rd of the upper limit of what companies can seek in damages, which is NZ$15,000.

In this particular case, there was a limited amount of evidence to prove the guilt of the accused. This likely had an impact on the final payment that the accused has been ordered to pay, which was $616.57. As this article from Torrentfreak mentions, that is likely nowhere near as much as RIANZ may have hoped to have received.


The number of cases of alleged file sharing that come before the courts in the future could be impacted by the earlier cases to go before the courts. The damages awarded so far in New Zealand haven’t been anywhere near as ridiculous as the damages awarded in other countries, like the USA, which I believe is very good. That is because I believe that the awarded damages in countries like the USA have been far, far out of proportion to the alleged crimes, and have been far more than likely damages as well as a reasonable deterrent.


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