‘A PR gift’: Sky wins piracy legal battle in lead up to Parker fight

Just a day before boxer Joseph Parker’s next big match, Sky is celebrating its victory against the illegal live streaming of his July bout against Solomon Haumono as it was announced today that seven individuals have been found guilty of online piracy.

The judge was satisfied that each defendant had infringed Sky’s copyright, and ordered that any copies held must be deleted and/or destroyed, including those on Facebook. The judge also granted an injunction restraining any further infringement of the copyright work and ordered the defendants to pay nominal damages of $100 as well as costs of $2,670.

The timing of the announcement is notable, with the ruling coming just a day before Parker’s next big fight in the ring—also being aired on Sky—against American-Mexican Andy Ruiz for the WBO World Heavyweight title in Auckland.

Deborah Pead of Pead PR says although the announcement doesn’t appear to be calculated due to the nature of legal proceedings, Sky has—in some respects—received “a PR gift”.

“Every now and then you get a PR gift and the fact that the ruling was announced just days, even hours, before the fight is just exceptionally good luck and good fortune,” she says.

Asked whether this could be considered a landmark case in the battle against online piracy in New Zealand, Pead says that “to me, this is the first case that’s got so much attention in a long time, and signals a flag that the wild west days of the internet are over”.

“Back in the early days, you didn’t have too many options. Now, there are so many options to watch and to stream content legally that there’s no excuse for stealing it anymore,” she says. 

Sky chief executive John Fellet says, “It’s a good result to have this unlawful behaviour confirmed by the courts. We have more claims in the judicial system that we await further positive results from in the coming weeks”.

In November, Sky filed High Court action against TVNZ, Fairfax and NZME. They allege that the three media companies breached Sky’s copyright in their use of rugby video footage.

In an article on StopPress following Sky’s High Court action, Receptive.tv’s Sam Aldred made the argument that although Sky’s actions were “fair and reasonable”, the real battle was against users posting videos on social media, not local media companies. 

This was the case with Parker’s last match against Haumono, with Facebook users such as ‘Beastmoze’ broadcasting the fight to tens of thousands of viewers using the platform’s live function. 

Piracy has become a huge revenue drain on the media and entertainment industry over the past decade. In Recorded Music NZ’s annual report this year, it attempted to gauge the impact of piracy on the New Zealand music industry and uncover the revenue lost between 2001 and 2014. The study found that the recorded music industry had lost up to $1.5 billion over that period.

“[Pead PR] have represented the recorded music industry for years and we’ve been trying to educate New Zealanders around the legality around using music you don’t have the license for,” says Pead. “We’ve tried the ‘carrot’ in explaining how much the New Zealand music industry contributes to the economy and showing the success of artists, and we’ve tried the ‘stick’ in the taking of illegal downloaders to court.”

“But when you see people being penalised for the very thing you know is wrong and might be guilty of doing yourself, it’s a big wake up call. There will certainly be some that feel it’s their god-given right to steal content, but I think a ruling like this will be a big wake up call for the majority of people.”

Commenting on the ruling, Duco Events’ chief executive Martin Snedden says this was a “good result” for the promoter, and says that both Duco and Sky have a larger team than ever working on this weekend’s fight to find anyone unlawfully streaming Parker v Ruiz.

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