Delaware Bolsters Telecom-Theft Law

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Add Delaware to the list of states that have toughened their telecommunications-theft laws.

This session, the Delaware Legislature revised and expanded the state's Unlawful Telecommunications Devices Act to protect against cable signal theft, cellular phone cloning and computer hacking.

The changes also impose tougher penalties and, most importantly, specify that fines are to be levied on a per-device basis, rather for each prosecution.

That change makes a huge difference in the amount of money that a victim can reclaim and could eliminate much of the capital that pirates commonly use to move and restart their businesses.

The statute bars the assembly, distribution, sale and transfer of telecommunications devices for the purpose of receiving, disrupting or transmitting information without the knowledge or consent of the telecommunications provider. It also bars the distribution of information on the manufacture or assembly of such devices as descramblers.

These plans have become popular fodder on the Internet, where Web pages offer instructions on how to build pirate devices using parts that can be obtained in electronics or hobby stores.

The bill establishes a tiered set of penalties that will punish the end user, but not as severely as professional pirates. Signal pirates may be found guilty of an "unclassified misdemeanor" and subject to a year of jail time and a $10,000 fine, if they have no record of telecommunications crimes.

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