[For InternetNZ, (CC-BY)] The local copyright enforcement arm for the “Big Three” record labels (Sony, Universal and Warner*) has won two cases at the Copyright Tribunal. One account holder was a Telecom customer, the other with TelstraClear, and now they owe the Big Three $616.57 and $557.17, respectively. Both were caught illegally uploading songs. The specific “wrong” here according to the Copyright Act is that only the copyright owner can “communicate the work to the public”. The law appears to presume that when your BitTorrent client allows other P2P users to download from you, then you are communicating that work to the public, even though that “public” could in fact be one person — more on that one later.
In law, you have the rule, and then you have the exception to the rule. The rules in copyright law have, and always have had, exceptions that serve the public interest. Given that the rights granted under copyright law have become incredibly strong (e.g. the copyright term has gone from 14 years to lasting successive lifetimes), their exceptions should be reinforced in order to maintain the “balance” in copyright law that everyone talks about when they talk about copyright. (More on what that “balance” is between, and the actual broader context in which it sits, later).