Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to express my support for Bill C-2, an act to amend the Radiocommunication Act.
Let me remind members of this assembly what this bill deals with. Signals that are transmitted via direct communication satellite, which are called DCS, are encoded. Authorized users receive “an access control module” or a memory card, as well as a decoder, which are provided to them by the DCS signal distributor.
However, hackers are able to develop a technology that allows them to decode signals. Thus, distributors regularly change their signal code to keep away users who are illegally accessing their programming. But hackers respond to this by continually creating new technologies that allow them to thwart the new code. We find ourselves in a cat and mouse situation, where distributors are constantly trying to keep ahead of hackers, while the latter find ever more creative ways to access the new code.
Stealing signals is illegal. The RCMP is now stepping up enforcement measures. The bill before us supports these efforts by suggesting penalties that would discourage repeat offenders. This is the remedy for criminal activities.
There is another way of discouraging DTH signal piracy. It is to encourage distributors themselves to take civil action. The bill before us will help us to encourage authorized distributors of DTH signals to take such action, which will help reduce law enforcement costs.
Let me first explain that, under the current civil law system, victims of DTH signal piracy, that is authorized distributors, must prove they have incurred losses. However, satellite piracy is an underground activity. Thus, it is difficult to prove the actual harm done.
In the context of this bill, victims of commercial hacking can be awarded statutory damages that will help to compensate them for the loss of their intellectual property.
In the case of hackers who steal signals for commercial gain, the courts will have the option of imposing statutory penalties of up to $100,000. This is a huge fine and the idea is to ensure that this penalty is not viewed as a mere cost of doing business by those who pirate DTH signals.
However, in the case of individuals who are found guilty of stealing signals, the amount of damages remains the same, with a maximum penalty of $1,000. This is a significant amount for an individual. This penalty must continue to be a deterrent if distributors of DTH signals decide to take civil action against an individual.
I stress the fact that the bill before us does not put the emphasis on individuals who break the law but, rather, on those who start a business that contravenes the act for commercial gain. We want to deter the sale of illegal devices to decode satellite signals.
Nor does this legislation put the accent on the pirates that develop the pirating technology. Pirates are individuals who are usually not business people. More often than not, they are motivated by the challenge of decoding a secret encoding system, rather than by profits. They are unlikely to be deterred by the threat of a financial loss.
Again, we can make sure that the businesses that buy the products of these individuals and use them for commercial gain are fined. This is what the bill proposes to do by providing for criminal convictions and for damages when a civil action ends up with a guilty verdict.
The businesses that provide television programming must be able to make a profit on their investments. When they suffer losses because of pirating, their profitability is threatened, which results in the loss of jobs and investments in the broadcasting sector.
Signal distribution companies and cable companies want fair competition.
They cannot compete against free television.
This bill will not only deter those who would compete unfairly through illegal means, but also allow the victims of piracy to recover part of what they lost because of illegal activities.
This bill will create an open and fair market in one sector of the broadcasting industry in Canada, which will be good for the industry and, in the long run, for Canadian viewers.
I hope members of this House will support this bill which, I repeat, deals with the growing problem of piracy of direct-to-home satellite broadcast signals. It aims at enhancing our ability to protect one of the most important components in our cultural industry. God knows how much money is invested in this sector and, if our broadcasting services cannot be profitable, culture will be dealt a hard blow.
The theft of satellite signals deprives broadcasters, program producers and authorized Canadian programmers of millions of dollars annually. Money is being stolen from an industry that provides thousands of jobs. Anyone who steals signals is destroying jobs.
The existing legislation is simply not adequate to solve the growing number of problems we now have. Broadcasters and those in charge of enforcing the law lack the means they need to deter criminals from importing, designing and selling illegal equipment.
This bill will counter this illegal activity. We do not want to target the Canadian inspectors, as has been said, but business people who are guilty of piracy. They are the ones we should go after.