ZHENG Wang of South Auckland has been jailed for 15 months after being caught selling pirated DVDs.
This is the first time someone in New Zealand has received a jail sentence for a copyright-related crime.
Wang admitted a charge of using a forged document. He also admitted a charge of escaping from custody.
Judge David Harvey sentenced Wang to 15 months’ jail on each charge at Manukau District Court. The two terms will run concurrently.
The sentence took into account a conviction for a similar offence only weeks earlier.
Wang was arrested outside Otahuhu markets in September in possession of ten illegally copied movies.
Alex McDonald, an Auckland-based barrister and intellectual pro-perty specialist, says the Copyright Act of 1994 provides for criminal liability for making or dealing with pirated copies of products.
“To obtain a conviction the police have to prove actual knowledge of infringement. This can include actual knowledge and deliberately shutting eyes to an obvious means of knowledge,” she says.
“In previous cases, the court has decided that a distributor of pirated adult videos sold for $10 a unit instead of the usual $39.95 could not plead that he did not have knowledge that the copies were pirated. This view was based on the combination of the videos’ low price, inferior get-up and an absence of spine labels.” The court is not concerned with the knowledge of a reasonable person but with reasonable inferences to be drawn from the actual situation.
McDonald says that in a 1997 case, the manager of a central Auckland retail outlet was charged with two offences involving the sale of 110 CDs containing software applications from a haul worth over $1 million. He was sentenced and fined $15,000 on the two charges under the Copyright Act when the court took into account that he had pleaded guilty immediately and had shown remorse.
In the Otahuhu case, Judge Harvey noted that Wang showed no remorse for his actions and was possibly part of much larger piracy operation.
Arresting officer community constable Bryan Ward says Wang was caught selling the DVDs in person just outside the markets. “Accor-ding to the new legislation, Wang was using a forged document. A lot of people don’t realise that when you burn a disc, you’re forging a document.
“He wasn’t selling the discs cheaply, the prices ranged from $20 to $40. In many cases these pirated discs only run for 20 minutes or so,” he says. Ward said there have been a number of complaints about DVDs purchased at the markets. “Genuine market traders are upset.”