Politicos crack down

Offenders may face five year sentence, $128,221 fine

HONG KONG — The noose is tightening around pay TV pirates in Hong Kong, where a new law is set to allow civil action against viewers.

The bill, introduced into the Legislative Council on Tuesday, would also see civil remedy and criminal sanction against the possession of unauthorized decoders for commercial purposes. Offenders would face a fine of $128,221 and imprisonment for five years.

“The Government has taken into account the adverse impact of pirated viewing on the pay TV industry as well as the practical enforcement difficulties and privacy issues,” said Marion Lai, the Deputy Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology. “We will closely monitor the situation and will not rule out the option of imposing end-user criminal liability as the last resort if pirated domestic viewing is still rampant.”

The Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Assn. (CASBAA) welcomed the news.

“This is a great start, but it will require political will as well as public support,” said Simon Twiston Davies, the CEO of the 120-member body. Last week, CASBAA settled civil actions against two defendants for allegedly importing and trading in unlicensed satellite TV signal decoding equipment. Five more cases brought by plaintiffs Star, CNN, Turner Entertainment Networks Asia, ESPN Star Sports, Discovery Networks Asia and NGC Network Asia are underway in the courts.

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