Canadian TV bosses have been dealt a blow by a Quebec court which has given the nod to viewers who watch US satellite TV.

Until now Canadian audiences have been told that descrambling foreign satellite signals is illegal. The law was passed in 2002 by the country's supreme court to protect the national TV industry.

However, the Court of Quebec has ruled restricting access to these signals is a breach of the country's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

As a result, says lawyer Alan Gold who represented satellite distributors: "A Canadian commits no offense by getting a subscription to a foreign system."

Many viewers north of the Canada-US border use illegal technology to receive signals from channels such as HBO, ESPN and MTV for free or they use an address in the US to subscribe to services.

If the Quebec court's ruling is accepted nationally it could take effect next year and could open the way to further challenges of TV restrictions.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff