Backgrounder — Proposed Legislative Amendments to the Radiocommunication Act

Satellite piracy is theft that denies millions of dollars to legitimate Canadian broadcasters and content production funds. Piracy puts thousands of Canadian jobs, and the ongoing viability of the Canadian broadcasting system, at risk. The bill to amend the Radiocommunication Act seeks to fight satellite piracy on the following three fronts: toughened penalties, the establishment of statutory damages, and equipment import control.

Penalties

For corporations convicted of manufacturing, modifying, importing, or distributing equipment capable of decoding an encrypted subscription programming signal without authorization, penalties will be increased from a maximum of $25 000 to a fine not exceeding $200 000. For individuals convicted of the same, penalties will be increased from a maximum of $5 000 and/or a maximum of one year in jail to a fine not exceeding $25 000 and/or a maximum of one year in jail.

For corporations convicted of decoding an encrypted signal, or modifying equipment for this purpose, penalties will be increased from a maximum fine of $25 000 to one of $200 000. Individuals convicted of the same will be subject to a fine of $25 000 and/or a maximum of one year in jail, up from a maximum $10 000 fine and/or a maximum of six months in jail.

Corporations convicted of the retransmission of an encrypted subscription programming signal that has been decoded without authorization will be subject to a $500 000 fine, up from the current $200 000 penalty. Individuals convicted of the same will be subject to a fine of $50 000 and/or a maximum two year jail sentence, up from a $20 000 fine and/or a one year jail sentence.

Statutory Damages

Those persons who have suffered harm from this illegal activity will have the right to seek statutory damages of up to $100 000 against an individual or corporation committing signal theft for commercial gain.

Equipment Import Control

The new provision will prohibit the importation of satellite decoding equipment, unless an importer has first obtained an import certificate issued by the Minister of Industry. This will better enable the government to stop the importation of illegal equipment by those who wish to sell it in Canada.

Those eligible for import certificates will include licensed Canadian satellite service providers such as Bell ExpressVu, Star Choice and their agents. As well, certificates will be available to companies that import decoding equipment in order to take advantage of Canadian expertise by improving their products before exporting them for sale elsewhere.

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