‘Three Strikes’ Warnings Too Expensive

New Zealand in 2011 became one of the first countries in the world to adopt a “three strikes” warning policy against illegal downloaders of music and movies.

Up to 41 percent of Internet users were infringing copyright. Those who refused to stop after a series of warnings faced fines of between NZ275 ($174) and NZ$15,000 ($9,490). But in its fourth anniversary, the scheme seems a disappointment to copyright holders. It took a year before the first 12 cases were taken to the Copyright Tribunal. A downloader was fined only NZ$616.57 ($390.20) for sharing two songs because the woman “had not realised what she was doing was illegal,” the tribunal ruled. In 2015, only one offender was punished, compared to four in 2014 and 18 in 2013.

The cost of pursuing infringers has proven too expensive. The Motion Picture Association refuses to be involved in chasing illegal downloaders, leaving the music industry’s peak association Recorded Music NZ to take on the brunt. In the first six months, it issued 2,766 infringement notices and wanted to increase that to 5,000 a month. But the problem is that copyright owners have to pay Internet service providers NZ$75 ($47.45 ) toward issuing the three warnings. Two years ago the music industry asked to reduce it to NZ$2 ($1.25) per warning.

The ISPs argue it should be raised. One of them, Telcom, stated the copyright owners’ contribution should be raised to NZ$104 ($65.75) as it had spent almost NZ$534,416 ($338,102) since the laws came into effect. An official complaint to the Copyright Tribunal is an extra NZ$200 ($128.65), so filing cases to it have been scaled back.