Cablevision Piracy Award Overturned

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A $30 million damage award assessed against cable pirates in favor of
Cablevision Systems Corp. has been reversed by a federal appeals court in
Illinois.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit faulted the lower court for
refusing to compel Cablevision to produce security chief Bob Astarita for a
deposition. Other security workers testified, and the court said Astarita's
testimony was 'not relevant,' according to the ruling issued Oct. 29.

The case will be retried even though the defendants -- Frank Redisi Sr. and
his son, also Frank -- are well known to piracy investigators. They helped to
found a short-lived cable-pirates' lobbying group and have operated as Teleview
Distributors and Omega Holdings. Their assets will remain frozen during the
continuing court proceedings.

The eventual amount of the award is questionable. The appeals panel also
faulted Cablevision's methodology, which was based on 1999 'Optimum Gold'
package rates. The court noted that the thefts dated back to 1991, when the
programming package was not available.

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