Broadcaster

Court decision says seizures can continue

7/7/2003

OTTAWA - Last week the Federal Court of Canada handed the Canadian television industry another win in its fight against satellite signal theft.

In a decision released on June 27, Madam Justice Judith Snider upheld an earlier order allowing the seizure of satellite reception equipment and access cards from certain defendants. She also made an order prohibiting these defendants from continuing to deal in such equipment until the trial in the matter is concluded. The following defendants, all located in Ontario, are subject to the order: Dawn Elizabeth Branton, 1254719 Ontario Inc., (c.o.b. as Tech Electronic Services), Halton Sight & Sound Inc., and Atilla Gyurko (c.o.b. Sat-Toys).

The equipment seizures were made in connection with a major lawsuit launched in April by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, Canadian Cable Television Association (CCTA) and Vidéotron ltée which alleges that a number of dealers in Ontario and Quebec are engaged in the illegal sale of black market satellite reception equipment.

Last week's Federal Court decision, "is a victory for our industry," said Glenn O'Farrell, CAB president and CEO. "The verdict affirms that the aggressive actions taken to date by private broadcasters are on target. The judgment stated clearly that not only do the plaintiffs have a very strong prima facie case but the defendants are knowingly engaged in an illegal activity."

"This is very positive," said Janet Yale, president and CEO of the CCTA. "It confirms that the sale of black market satellite equipment causes real harm to our businesses. This sends a powerful message that the sale of unauthorized satellite equipment has serious legal consequences."

"Signal theft is a serious issue," added Pelmorex executive Luc Perreault, who is chair of the CAB Signal Theft Task Force. "This decision, along with the enforcement activities by the RCMP and provincial police forces and the work being done with the CRTC and the Departments of Canadian Heritage, Industry and Justice will ensure that businesses that engage in illegal activities will be prosecuted."

"In our predominantly Francophone market, consumers mainly pirate signals from Canadian satellite services, in order to receive French-language programming not carried by U.S. satellites," noted Robert Dépatie, newly minted president and CEO of Vidéotron ltée, in another shot at Bell ExpressVu. "According to a Léger Marketing survey, one out of five Quebecers knows someone who is pirating specialty channels. Naturally, we are very pleased by the Federal Court of Canada decision."

Judge Snider refused to order return of the equipment or records to the defendants. The judgment confirmed that the Radiocommunication Act remains in full force and effect. In addition, Judge Snider said, "the public interest must be weighed along with the interests of the parties" and held that "the public has an interest in maintaining the integrity of the Canadian broadcasting system."

A copy of the judgement can be found on the CAB, CCTA and CASST web sites: www.cab-acr.com, www.ccta.com, or www.caast-ccvss.ca.

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