Magazine article Information Management

New Zealand Supreme Court: Digital Files Constitute Property

Magazine article Information Management

New Zealand Supreme Court: Digital Files Constitute Property

Article excerpt

The New Zealand Supreme Court has determined for the first time that digital files constitute property under the Crimes Act. The case, involving a bouncer who released video from a Queenstown bar, has changed the law in New Zealand. Previously, information and software were not considered property. In light of the recent decision, some incidents of information theft, as well as copyright infringement, now might be considered criminal acts. Taking non-confidential information in digital form may also be considered a crime as a result of the decision.

During the Rugby World Cup 2011, the English rugby team spent a night out in Queenstown. According to media reports, at some point that night, player Mike Tindall, whose wife is Queen Elizabeth II's granddaughter, had an encounter with a woman. A bouncer at that bar, Jonathan Dixon, took a copy of the CCTV footage of Tindall from the bar and tried to sell it. When he was unable to do so, he uploaded it to YouTube.

Dixon was convicted of accessing a computer system for a dishonest purpose under section 249 of the Crimes Act, which makes it a crime to "directly or indirectly, [access] any computer system and thereby, dishonestly or by deception, and without claim of right, [obtain] any property, privilege, service, pecuniary advantage, benefit, or valuable consideration. …

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