Parents of teenage downloaders could be in for a shock with fans of female pop stars Lady Gaga and Rihanna the first targets of new attempts to crack down on internet piracy.
Telecom, Orcon, TelstraClear and Vodafone all confirmed yesterday that they had received their first notices under the Government's new copyright regime, which came into effect on September 1.
The "three strikes" law requires internet companies to issue warning notices to customers suspected of illegally downloading copyright content - such as movies or music - if a rights holder requests it and pays a $25 fee. After a third notice, rights holders can bring a case before the Copyright Tribunal, which can fine an offender up to $15,000.
All the notices received so far appear to be from the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand (Rianz).
Telecom received 42 notices - 35 for alleged download of songs by R&B star Rihanna, six for Lady Gaga tunes and one for British recording artist Taio Cruz.
All three artists are associated with subsidiaries of the recording giant Universal Music Group.
Neither Universal nor Rianz would comment on the notices.
Orcon received six notices - five of which were for downloading Rihanna songs.
TelstraClear got 27 from Rianz, but would not say what the alleged offending related to. Vodafone confirmed it had received notices, but would not reveal the number.
All four internet companies said they would be processing the notices and forwarding them to customers within the next seven days.
Given that Rihanna and Lady Gaga have a strong teenage fan base, parents responsible for home internet accounts may be in for a shock.
This is because the account owner is the one liable under the new law for any offending over an internet connection, regardless of whether they downloaded the content or not.
Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Paul Brislen said parents had paid the price for their children's downloading in other jurisdictions.
"That's the case overseas, we've seen grandmothers prosecuted for things that have been completely outside their sphere of understanding."
Brislen said the downloaders had no excuse, given the raft of services online where music could be bought and downloaded legally.
"[Accessing music legally online] is relatively cheap and it's easy to do so really I have no sympathy if they want to download stuff that is readily available legally. They have no leg to stand on."
Orcon chief executive Scott Bartlett said it was curious that the music rather than the movie industry had fired the first shot as it was believed the Motion Picture Association was keen to go after copyright infringers.
Like Brislen he had little sympathy for those downloading music, but said there was an issue of a lack of legally available video content.
"Obviously if you're downloading songs by Rihanna illegally, it's pretty black and white that you shouldn't do it - iTunes is a fabulous service where you buy a song for $1.99 and they've got all her songs. But there is still a fundamental of a lot of content, particularly video content, there is no place to go buy it. That for me is part of this which is quite bizarre, issuing notices to people for infringing something that you can't actually legally get here."
HOW IT WORKS
* Internet companies issue warning notices to customers suspected of illegally downloading content, like movies or music.
* After a third notice, rights holders can bring a case before the Copyright Tribunal and fines of up to $15,000 can be imposed.
* The owner of the offending internet account, not the actual downloader, is liable under the law.