New Zealand fines its first illegal file sharer

New Zealand's Copyright Tribunal has slapped down its first "three-strikes" penalty — the guilty party must pay a NZ$616 fine for sharing a Rihanna song.

Rihanna at the 2012 Australian premiere of Battleship.
(Battleship Premiere - Rihanna image by Liam Mendes, CC BY-SA 2.0)

This is the first time that a person has been fined under the Copyright Tribunal's three-strikes rule, and the case actually dates back to 2011.

The guilty party — a Telecom ISP customer — reportedly shared the Rihanna song "Man Down" via the BitTorrent client uTorrent. The first "detection notice" was sent in late November 2011. Subsequently, a "warning notice" was sent in June 2012, when the person was found to have uploaded the song again, and a third and final "enforcement notice" was sent at the end of July.

The final fine of NZ$616.57 (around AU$495) was arrived at by the tribunal after some truly byzantine calculations — TorrentFreak has an extended rundown of the deliberation proceedings.

It's hard to tell whether this is a success for the three-strikes rule or not; while no one wants to pay $500 for a Rihanna song (not even "Umbrella"), it's hardly the book-throwing result that the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (RIANZ) would have wanted after 15 months of waiting. Whether it will function as a deterrent or fodder for Kiwi comedians remains to be seen.

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