Jailed for internet music copyright breach

By Katie Holland, katie.holland@dailypost.co.nz

The owner of a Rotorua karaoke business has been jailed for selling songs online that breached copyright - one of few convictions of its kind in New Zealand.

Desmond Robert Adams, 40, also known as Heremia Adams, appeared in the Rotorua District Court yesterday after previously pleading to a charge under the Copyright Act 1994 of making for sale an object that was an infringing copy of a copyright work. He was sentenced to four months in prison and ordered to pay reparation of $784.

Adams is the owner/operator of 1st Choice Karaoke, on Te Ngae Rd, which provides karaoke and DJ equipment and services throughout New Zealand.

The complainants were the owners of Auckland-based Sundown Karaoke, which creates karaoke recordings from scratch, burns them to disks and sells them around the world for $2 to $3 per song. Sundown Karaoke then pays appropriate royalties.

According to the police summary of facts, in March 2011 Adams advertised karaoke and DJ equipment, including 37,000 karaoke songs, for sale on auction website Sella. The complainants contacted him and Adams sent them a list of songs, telling them he had sold the library to more than 50 clients worldwide.

The complainants made a $200 deposit and on March 28 one of them travelled to Rotorua. She met with a team from TVNZ's Close Up programme, who fitted her with a covert camera and microphone to complete the sale. She paid Adams another $584, and was given the 37,000 songs on two external hard drives.

Police examined the hard drives and found a sample selection of songs were the copyright property of the complainants. The court heard it was not known exactly how many of the 37,000 songs belonged to them.

A search warrant executed on Adams' address on December 11 found a large number of data storage devices along with 13 Sundown Karaoke DVDs.

Adams told police he copied the hard drives to make some extra cash and at the time didn't know he had breached copyright, the summary said.

Rachelle Cavanagh, Adams' lawyer, asked the judge to impose community work and a fine, as recommended by a pre-sentence report.

Judge Munro said there had been few convictions of this type under the Copyright Act. She said there had to be serious consequences for those that breached commercial copyright in order to deter others.

"This is all too common and all too easy in this internet age," she said. "For many in recording and entertainment their livelihoods depend on what they produce."

She said when people used others' recordings without paying it put people out of business and had a huge impact on the whole industry.

Judge Jocelyn Munro said the complainants, in their victim impact statement, estimated they had lost in excess of $1.5 million in sales because of illegal behaviour like Adams'.

"It [piracy] has destroyed them. Their income virtually disappeared."

She said with more than 50 sales admitted, the offending had clearly taken place over time. By selling online, there was potential for Adams' operation to be on a huge scale.

"This is a large commercial operation you have embarked on. For that reason nothing less than a term of imprisonment is adequate [to provide] deterrence."

Adams was also convicted and discharged on a charge of selling alcohol to an underage person.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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