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Music pirate gets nine months jail

August 23, 2006

Music pirate gets nine months jail

A major victory today for copyright owners with a South Auckland man getting nine months jail for illegally copying music and selling it at weekend markets in Auckland.

Seti Tofaeono (also known as Vile Felafoai) was found guilty in July of copying music of various artists including The Five Stars, a Samoan music band, the rights to which were owned by Kiwi Pacific International Records Ltd.

In the Manukau District Court today (Wed. Aug. 23, 2006) Judge David Harvey sentenced Tofaeono to nine months imprisonment. He was also ordered to forfeit the computer equipment he used to copy the music and pay $8,500 reparation to the copyright owners he stole from. The counterfeit CDs are to be destroyed.

The sentence has been warmly received by creative industries whose businesses are under attack from widespread piracy.

Mr Mark McCall, director of anti-piracy at the Recording Industry Association of New Zealand Inc. describes the case as “landmark”.

“This is a very good win for music in particular and the creative industries as a whole,” Mr McCall said. “We now have a clear message from the courts that this sort of theft will not be tolerated and will in fact receive the full weight of the law.

“This case sets a benchmark for the future. We are very pleased with the result.”

In sentencing Tofaeono judge David Harvey said his actions not only deprived the rightful copyright owners of income they also damaged the cultural heart of the community.

“It is particularly sad for Pacific Island music in that the defendant’s activities infringed against his own culture. Those engaged in commercially based copyright infringement will feel the consequences and be dealt with severely.”

When Police raided the defendant’s Chapel Downs home last November they found the master bedroom contained computer equipment with CD burners, empty CD cases, printed material and more than 1,800 CDs in various stages of completion.

The owners of the rights to the content of the Five Stars’ CDs verified that none had been authorised for reproduction by the defendant. He had been selling the ‘burnt’ music CDs at the Otara and Avondale Markets in South Auckland and his sales records showed he had been doing so for at least three years.

Mr McCall estimates the defendant – who had a full time job – had been making $50,000 a year selling various CDs most of which contained in whole or in part, copyright infringing tracks.

“This man has his own record company so he would have been well aware of the rules.”

The Five Stars expressed regret that someone would deprive them of their rightful property.

“We are honoured that people for 30 years have wanted to enjoy our songs and we will never forget those who have supported us,” said band leader Afoa Tuuga Stevenson.

“However, it isn't fair when others disrespect the hard work and many sacrifices we have put into producing our own music. It is really disappointing when others use our intellectual knowledge for their own personal and financial gains.

“Music is to be enjoyed by everyone but piracy is theft. It's a blatant lack of regard for the talent and dedication we have put into building our long standing, hard earned reputation in the music industry. It's easy to enjoy music by simply using the basic values of respect for others’ property."

Illegal copying and distribution of music CDs together with other intellectual property is a significant problem in New Zealand estimated by RIANZ to cost the music industry $45 million a year and taxpayers $5.5 million in GST not collected by the government.


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