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Casbaa & Fifa take legal action against unlicensed airing of World Cup '06

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MUMBAI: The Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (Casbaa) has announced that the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (Fifa) and Hong Kong Cable Television Limited have instituted legal proceedings against a number of public venues for allegedly airing unlicensed pay-TV broadcasts of the World Cup 2006 matches.

Speaking on behalf of the plaintiffs and 110 companies engaged in the regional pay-TV industry, Casbaa confirmed that writs had been served on five high-profile bars along with cease and desist letters served on an unspecified number of public venues across Hong Kong, informs an official release.

Thus, Fifa, Hong Kong Cable along with Casbaa are seeking monetary damages for the copyright infringements.

Casbaa CEO Simon Twiston Davies said, "Although the industry reached out to the Hong Kong food and beverage industry in the run up to the World Cup, stating that pay-TV signal theft is not to be tolerated by government or industry, many bars blatantly screened unlicensed pay-TV broadcasts. We have had no choice but to take the matter to the courts."

As an indication of the pay-TV industry's commitment to the Hong Kong sporting community, Davies noted that the plaintiffs and Casbaa would donate any proceeds received from the defendants after costs to local sports charities. Casbaa believes it is important to return the funds to where they belong - the support of sports development.

"The issue of intellectual property rights protection requires concerted efforts on all fronts between the government, industry, bar and club owners and the general public, especially as we run up to other global events such as the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and recurring high value events such as the English Premier League. The sports leagues who stage major events need a fair return on their investment," adds Davies.

The release also states that under Hong Kong law, bars and clubs may only display pay-TV channels under an appropriate subscription from Hong Kong licensed pay-TV operators such as Hong Kong Cable, now Television and TVB Pay Vision. For several years Casbaa has urged that the distribution of satellite-based pay-TV services from overseas should be given the same criminal protection as signals illegally tapped from local pay-TV operators.

Overseas pay-TV operators such as Dream of the Philippines, MultiChoice of South Africa and UBC True of Thailand are authorised to offer pay-TV subscriptions in their respective jurisdictions but they cannot, and indeed do not, offer subscriptions in Hong Kong. The display of overseas pay-TV channels in Hong Kong by bars and club owners, using special decoders is illegal, adds the release..

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