The reception of US (and any foreign) satellite-TV signals in Canada has been declared illegal under a new ruling by the Canadian Supreme Court.

Up to 700,000 homes north of the border access broadcasts from American operators such as DirecTV and EchoStar Communications, which do not have licences for the Canadian market. Many Canucks use decoding equipment bought from independent outlets, while others pay the US firms via addresses in the states provided by dealers.

Canadian broadcast law is designed to promote the country’s programming. However, ambiguity in the wording – now removed by the Supreme Court – has hitherto prevented Canada’s broadcasters from successfully taking legal action against dealers vending technology for accessing US satellite-TV.

The ruling prompted calls for a swift crackdown on satellite piracy from representatives of the nation’s broadcast companies. Cable firms such as Rogers Communications have blamed the reception of US transmissions for a drop in subscribers.

However, satellite-TV dealer Richard Rex (the defendant in the case before the Supreme Court), whose 3,000 customers buy American satellite-TV via addresses in the US, vowed to fight the ban by invoking Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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