An importer and seller of pirated DVDs was sentenced to nine months in gaol (with three months to serve), a recognisance of $1500 and a five year good behaviour bond.
On 2 June 2004, the Brisbane Magistrates Court found Sydney Priscott guilty of 28 charges relating to importing, possessing and exposing for sale pirate DVDs. He was sentenced to nine months in gaol (with three months to serve), a recognisance of $1500 and a five year good behaviour bond.
The investigation commenced on 23 September 2003, when the Brisbane Customs Office intercepted audio speaker stands containing approximately 800 pirate DVDs which were being sent from Malaysia to a suburban Brisbane address. Subsequent inquiries by the Australian Customs Service and the Australian Federal Police revealed that this was a false address.
On 6 October 2003, after further investigations, the AFP executed a search warrant at another suburban address, where they uncovered further pirate DVDs. At the time, Mr Priscott was arrested and charged with various offences under section 132 of the Copyright Act. He appeared before the Brisbane Magistrates Court and was granted bail. However, despite the conditions of his bail, Mr Priscott continued to sell pirate DVDs at a stall in a local market. On 6 March 2004, the AFP executed another search warrant at the stall and further pirate DVDs were seized. Mr Priscott was arrested on 9 March 2004 in relation to this additional seizure.
In a press release, Senator Chris Ellison, Minister for Justice and Customs, stated that Mr Priscott’s custodial sentence gave a clear message that "attempts to flout Australia’s copyright laws will be detected and punished".
This is not the first time that criminal sentencing options have been used in copyright matters. In November 2003, three university students from Sydney were given suspended sentences, good behaviour bonds and community service by the Sydney Local Court for their roles in creating and operating a website MP3WMALand which allowed users to download music without permission from the copyright owners.
The scope of criminal offences in the Copyright Act is currently being reconsidered as part of Australia’s proposed obligations under the Free Trade Agreement with the United States. It is yet to be seen whether these new provisions will result in more criminal prosecutions of those who are involved in such large-scale copyright infringement. More information is in the article on the FTA and copyright in this edition.
* Legal Officer at the Australian Copyright Council. Catherine is on leave from Clayton Utz, Sydney.
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