Houston jailed for two years.

The first New Zealand jail sentence for DVD piracy under the country's Copyright Act was handed down Friday (Aug. 25).

John Houston was jailed for two years after pleading guilty to 21 charges related to pirating movies, an activity that is estimated to have earned him $NZ150,000 ($96,000) annually for each of the last five years.

He also was ordered to pay $NZ5000 ($3,200) in reparation to the NZ Federation Against Copyright Theft, which reckons video piracy is costing Motion Picture Assn. members $47 million a year in revenue.

Chief executive Tony Eaton said that the latest research shows 25% of all DVDs and movies shown in New Zealand are illegal -- double what the industry thought. "We didn't realize it was that high. We have been saying it was between 10% and 12%."

This month, NZFACT appointed a director of operations for digital activities who will be working with Internet service providers to crack down on the illegal downloading of movies in New Zealand.

Eaton said the public's awareness of DVD piracy has been heightened by publicity over its impact on the release of the hit Kiwi movie, "Sione's Wedding," because it was no longer just Hollywood studios being affected "but normal New Zealanders who are trying to make a dollar."