Two movie pirates sentenced to jail in NZ

Mumbai: On 9 May, 39-year-old Hi Jan Wee and 24-year-old Sun Lei were sentenced by Judge Josephine Bouchier in Auckland District Court on charges related to the manufacture and sale of pirated movie DVDs.

Both defendants, overstayers from China, were sentenced to six months imprisonment and ordered to be deported from New Zealand after serving their sentences.

Hi and Sun both pled guilty to one count of each of the following offences:

(a) Making an object that the person knows is an infringing copy of a copyright work (section 131(1)(a) Copyright Act 1994).

(b) Selling an object that the person knows is an infringing copy of a copyright work (section 131(1)(e) Copyright Act 1994).

(c) Accessing a computer for a dishonest purpose (section 249(1)(a) Crimes Act 1961).

The charges arose from raids on two residential premises in Auckland’s CBD conducted by officers from the Asian Crime Unit on 5 March this year. The raids were the culmination of a joint investigation by the Police, supported by investigators from the New Zealand Federation Against Copyright Theft (NZFACT) and resulted in the seizure of over 6,000 pirated DVD movies, four computers and eight DVD-R burners. The burning operation had a capacity to burn 430,000 pirated discs per year, potentially generating NZ$2.6million ($ 2 million) for the criminals.

The operation was identified by NZFACT investigators, who discovered advertisements for pirated discs being offered for sale via an Internet trading site in September 2007. NZFACT investigators contacted the trader, who used the name White Pig, and over the course of the investigation bought a number of DVDs containing infringing movies at a cost of NZ$6 ($4.6) each.

Movie titles burned on the seized discs included Sweeney Todd, No Country for Old Men, Juno and Michael Clayton, all either currently in release or yet to be released in New Zealand cinemas.

"New Zealand is very aware of the importance of the creative industries for economic growth," said Motion Picture Association president and managing director, Asia-Pacific Mike Ellis. "But creative industries have to be protected and nurtured and that means punishing people who steal movies and other intellectual property. Anyone in New Zealand thinking of pirating movies should take note of the message being given by the New Zealand courts – piracy is no longer an easy option."

"This is the third conviction of a movie pirate this year, and the custodial sentences awarded to Ji and Sun confirm that movie pirates face a very real prospect of imprisonment in New Zealand," said NZFACT executive director Tony Eaton. "The recent conviction of another defendant operating in Levin just underlines that it doesn’t matter whether those who steal our members companies’ movies in major cities or in smaller rural communities, NZFACT investigators will find them and they will be arrested and sent to prison."

The unauthorized distribution and manufacturing of films on DVD or other media is an infringement of New Zealand’s Copyright Act.  Anyone who commits an offence under the Act faces up to five years imprisonment or a fine of up to $10,000 for every infringing copy (up to a maximum of $150,000 in respect of the same transaction). Reparation may also be ordered where the offence involves the making of a profit or gain.