Canadian Government Goes After Pirates

By | September 8, 2003 | Feature

The Canadian government is working on legislation that would clamp down on individuals and companies who steal satellite TV signals as well as those who make devices designed to illegally decode signals. According to industry figures, illegal decoding costs the Canadian broadcasting system as much as C$400 million (US$291.5 million) per year.

Industry Minister Allan Rock and Canadian Heritage Minister Sheila Copps are currently drafting amendments to the country’s Radiocommunication Act that would curb illegal imports of satellite equipment, beef up penalties for pirates, and expand rights for companies to take legal actions against pirates.

This action follows the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision last year (Bell ExpressVu vs. Richard Rex), which confirmed that Section 9(1)(c) of the Radiocommunication Act protects both Canadian and foreign signals from unauthorized decoding.

In that ruling, the Supreme Court said that the act “prohibits the decoding in Canada of any encrypted subscription programming signal, regardless of the signal’s origin, unless authorization is received from the person holding the necessary lawful rights under Canadian law.” This means that only a lawful distributor in Canada may supply encrypted satellite programming via a satellite receiver. The only direct-to-home services holding the necessary lawful rights in Canada to decode these signals, at this time, are Star Choice and Bell ExpressVu.

Device Sellers Targeted

The government wants to beef up the act’s protections by working with the broadcasting industry and law enforcement authorities in drafting amendments that focus on stopping the sale and distribution of devices designed for unauthorized decoding.

In addition to strengthening the Radiocommunication Act, the ministries are providing information to protect consumers and public safety networks from satellite piracy’s dangers. The use of pirated receiver cards has been found to create signal interference with licensed communication systems, including those of police and search-and-rescue services.

Canadians who purchase pirated equipment should be aware that they face a substantial financial loss as their service may be terminated without notice or recourse, the ministers said. Consumer protection laws do not apply to purchases of illegal goods, they added.

“Satellite piracy is an illegal activity that strikes directly at the integrity and competitiveness of the Canadian broadcasting system and the industry’s ability to offer new, innovative services to Canadians,” Rock said. “The Radiocommunication Act must be strengthened to better deter pirate dealers who view current penalties as merely an acceptable cost of doing business. We are drafting these changes in order to protect the jobs supported and investments made by the broadcasting industry, which have evolved to provide more competition and choice for consumers.”

Copps added, “With this action, the government is simply moving to prevent the erosion of our broadcasting system The illegal activities of satellite pirates take millions of dollars out of the broadcast industry each year, and that means less funding for Canadian producers, writers, artists, camerapersons, technicians and other tradespeople who work on sets.”

–Fred Donovan

(Mylene Dupéré, Office of Minister Allan Rock, 613/995-9001; Sonya-Kim St-Julien, Office of Minister Sheila Copps, 819/997-7788)

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