Studios sue Shaw units

Cabler beamed movies and TV without permission

TORONTO — The major U.S. studios have banded together with ABC, Fox and CBS to sue units of Shaw Communications, Canada’s second-largest cabler, accusing them of beaming movies and TV programming to cable operators in the Caribbean and Central America without permission.

The movie and TV studios — including Sony’s Columbia and TriStar, Disney, MGM, Paramount, Time Warner, 20th Century Fox and Universal, as well as Miami TV stations WFOR and WPLG — filed a federal copyright and trademark-infringement lawsuit Oct. 11 in Miami against Canadian Satellite Communications Inc., (Cancom), a division of Shaw Communications, and its Barbados-based Gulfcom unit.

The suit accuses Cancom, through a satellite uplink in Miami, of transmitting “thousands of hours” of TV programming outside the U.S., including popular TV shows such as “The Simpsons” and “60 Minutes.” The plaintiffs are seeking a permanent injunction against redistribution of their signals from Miami, as well as Cancom’s profits on the venture and C$150,000 ($96,000) in damages for each infringement as well as punitive damages.

Calgary-based Shaw posted a year-end loss Tuesday of $94 million caused in part by a writedown of $104.3 million on its investment portfolio.

Shaw posted revenues of $1 billion for the year ended Aug. 31, up from $620.8 million for the previous year. The loss for the period was $94.3 million, compared to earnings in 2000 of $85.6 million.

On the upside, Shaw reported bullish numbers for its digital cable and Internet service subscriber pool, with an increase of 98,000 digital Internet customers and 92,000 digital cable customers for the quarter. Close to 50 digital channels were launched across Canada in September.

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