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1067. Unauthorized Reception of Cable Service—47 U.S.C. § 553

The Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984 added a new section, 47 U.S.C. § 553. This section prohibits receiving cable communications service without permission of the operator, thereby prohibiting the theft of commercial cable communications. The sale or distribution of equipment that would enable a person to receive, without authority, the reception of communications services offered over a cable system also falls within the proscription of this provision.

The Act provides for both criminal and civil penalties for violations of this section. The victim of an interception may bring a civil action in federal court for an injunction, damages, and costs, including reasonable attorneys' fees. Since there is a civil remedy for violations of 47 U.S.C. §  553, United States Attorneys should consider whether this civil remedy is an adequate alternative to prosecution.

[cited in JM 9-60.200]

Updated January 21, 2020