The Toronto Star
Tuesday, November 12, 1996

Lawyer blasts Mounties over satellite cases delay

-- Courts support small dealers in cases heard so far --

by Robert Brehl,

When it comes to those popular mini satellite dishes imported from the United States, the Mounties are having a tough time getting their men.

It's been almost five months since cross-Canada raids of two dozen satellite entrepreneurs were carried out and money and computers seized, but still no one has been charged with an offence.

A lawyer representing three Canadians who were raided said he's tired of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police acting like lapdogs for a major U.S. corporation, DirecTV.

"The Mounties have sold their marketing rights to Disney and sold their soul to DirecTV", said Ian Angus, a lawyer specializing in broadcasting and satellite law.

DirecTV has argued in court documents that Canadians have hacked into computer files to create smart cards that allow thousands of people to pick up the company's signals without paying for them.

At the behest of DirecTV, the Mounties were put on the hunt a year ago, and that has Angus fuming.

"This goes way past satellite dishes. It's a fundamental infringement on Canadians' rights by an American company that has no offices here and pays no taxes here.

"They are not even a lawful distributor of the programming they feel is being taken from them."

The RCMP spokesperson for the case could not be reached yesterday. In a previous interview, the RCMP did say that DirecTV has offered to pay an undisclosed portion of the escalating costs associated with the investigation.

Canada now has an estimated 200,000 DirecTV dishes. Most of these Canadian customers have U.S. billing addresses to which payments for monthly programming are sent.

This is called a "gray market" because it is legal to bring the dishes into Canada, but court battles are raging over whether it's legal to receive U.S. signals not authorized by Ottawa. Other squabbles are over copyright infringement.

Angus said judges in New Brunswick and Alberta have already sided with satellite dealers and returned most of the seized material.

And he is now arguing in British Columbia and Saskatchewan courts that the same should happen there. (No raids were carried out in Ontario, even though this province is one of the hot spots for DirecTV dishes.)

The RCMP argues it needs an extension for hanging on to the seized materials.

Angus, on the other hand, said several aspects of the case should make Canadians wonder, including:

Copyright © 1996 by The Toronto Star. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.