Rihanna performs during the Rock in Rio Music Festival in Arganda del Rey on the outskirts of Madrid, Spain, Saturday, June 5, 2010.
Rihanna performs during the Rock in Rio Music Festival in Arganda del Rey on the outskirts of Madrid, Spain, Saturday, June 5, 2010.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so sorry for a Rihanna fan before.

I certainly feel sympathy for anyone drawn in to her Carribean charms – despite the awful tunes – but yesterday’s first fine under the Skynet laws will hopefully cast a skeptical eye over prosecuting music fans.

One poor lass had the princely sum of $616.57 removed from her for downloading one Rihanna song, and another from some kind of ‘musical’ group called Hot Chelle Rae.

This is all thanks to the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011which established a Tribunal to try internet users who ignore a three-strike warning system for using peer-to-peer file sharing services.

(In English: people downloading songs and films without paying for them, using a particular piece of software to do it.)

The spoils of battle were then divvied as follows: “a deterrent of $360, reimbursement of the application fee to the tribunal of $200, $50 towards the fees paid by Rianz to Telecom, and the $6.57 it would have cost to buy the songs legally.”

But there are some inherent problems within this case, and it does not bode well for the future.

In her submissions to the Tribunal, the woman accused of downloading these two songs details how her computer automatically installed uTorrent (a P2P program). Because of how these programs work, the Rihanna song was downloaded once, before ‘seeding’, or being uploaded back for other peers to use.

If we’re to believe this person, she downloaded uTorrent by mistake, and not knowing how the program worked, allowed that one song to download, then upload again, resulting in two of her three strikes.

It’s worth pointing out that neither artist whose music was downloaded was from New Zealand, instead the deterrent fee is headed for the coffers of Def Jam Records and RCA Records.

Even more frightening though, is that RIANZ sought to squeeze as much cash as humanly possible from this woman, insisting that because she allowed the song to be uploaded, any number of other P2P users could have nabbed it too (though thankfully the Tribunal saw through this).

All of this over a Rihanna track? It’s obscene!

Similar laws around the world have been created with the simple aim or recouping costs, but it’s a high form of hypocrisy to establish internet piracy laws as protecting entertainment industry income whilst proclaiming that this saved income is going to the lowly artist.

I would understand if the fines handed down by this process went straight to the artist in question, but this law is pathetic and punitive – punishing people for crime for which there is no victim, save for the lighter pockets of a few record execs.

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