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Studios get $52 mil in cable piracy case

AllStar descrambled by Col, Par, Disney, others

WASHINGTON — A New York magistrate judge awarded Hollywood’s biggest studios a total of $52.3 million in a case against a manufacturer of cable TV descramblers that allowed people to view pay-TV channels for free.

The devices, made by AllStar Electronics Equipment Corp., allowed people to watch HBO, Showtime, STARZ!, The Movie Channel and pay-per-view services for free.

The lead studio on the case is Columbia Pictures Inc., but others also taking part are: Disney Enterprises, Inc., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Paramount Pictures Corp., Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, United Artists Corporation, United Artists Pictures Inc., Universal City Studios, Inc. and Warner Bros., a division of Time Warner Entertainment, L.P.

In addition to the financial penalty, the court also issued a permanent nationwide injunction barring AllStar from selling or making cable decoders or related equipment, according to a statement released by the MPAA.

MPAA topper Jack Valenti hailed the decision. “While legitimate video, pay television and cable businesses are obviously damaged by these illegal activities, consumers are also an indirect victim because they, ultimately, pay more for their entertainment,” said Valenti.

According to one estimate, the cable industry loses up to $6 billion a year to piracy.