Prompted by a Motion Picture Association of America Inc.
probe, a federal magistrate has ordered a distrubitor of cable set-tops to pay $53.2
million in statutory damages to 10 studios.
Almost as important, New York magistrate court judge John
Caden issued a nationwide permanent injunction against AllStar Electronics Equipment Corp.
of Queens, N.Y., preventing the company from selling, modifying, making or distributing
cable decoders or related equipment.
It marked the first time the studios have taken such action
against makers of pirated cable boxes.
Jack Valenti, president and CEO of the MPAA, vows further
action against content pirates. In a prepared statement, he said, "Regardless of the
form of thievery, [the MPAA] will find you and we will pursue legal action against you.
AllStar challenged this pledge and today AllStar is out of the piracy business."
The suit was a result of the first civil seizure initiated
by the studios -- including Columbia Pictures Industries, Disney Enterprises Inc.,
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.; TriStar Pictures Inc., Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.,
United Artists Corp. United Artists Pictures Inc., Universal City Studios Inc. and Warner
Bros. -- against a black box distributor. AllStar advertised its wares nationally in such
magazines as Popular Science and Popular Mechanics, according to the MPAA.
One of the MPAA's Los Angeles employees noticed the New York firm's ads and
brought it to the attention of association investigators.
After the MPAA investigated the firm's activities, it
sought the civil seizure order, which was executed Oct. 2, 1997. Evidence indicated
AllStar had sold more than 5,000 boxes in the previous two years.