TITLE 47 - TELEGRAPHS, TELEPHONES, AND RADIOTELEGRAPHS
CHAPTER 5 - WIRE OR RADIO COMMUNICATION
SUBCHAPTER V-A - CABLE COMMUNICATIONS
Part IV - Miscellaneous Provisions
Sec. 553. Unauthorized reception of cable service
(a) Unauthorized interception or receipt or assistance in
intercepting or receiving service; "assist in intercepting or
(1) No person shall intercept or receive or assist in
intercepting or receiving any communications service offered over a
cable system, unless specifically authorized to do so by a cable
operator or as may otherwise be specifically authorized by law.
(2) For the purpose of this section, the term "assist in
intercepting or receiving" shall include the manufacture or
distribution of equipment intended by the manufacturer or
distributor (as the case may be) for unauthorized reception of any
communications service offered over a cable system in violation of
(b) Penalties for willful violation
(1) Any person who willfully violates subsection (a)(1) of this
section shall be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned for not
more than 6 months, or both.
(2) Any person who violates subsection (a)(1) of this section
willfully and for purposes of commercial advantage or private
financial gain shall be fined not more than $50,000 or imprisoned
for not more than 2 years, or both, for the first such offense and
shall be fined not more than $100,000 or imprisoned for not more
than 5 years, or both, for any subsequent offense.
(3) For purposes of all penalties and remedies established for
violations of subsection (a)(1) of this section, the prohibited
activity established herein as it applies to each such device shall
be deemed a separate violation.
(c) Civil action in district court; injunctions; damages;
attorney's fees and costs; regulation by States or franchising
(1) Any person aggrieved by any violation of subsection (a)(1) of
this section may bring a civil action in a United States district
court or in any other court of competent jurisdiction.
(2) The court may -
(A) grant temporary and final injunctions on such terms as it
may deem reasonable to prevent or restrain violations of
subsection (a)(1) of this section;
(B) award damages as described in paragraph (3); and
(C) direct the recovery of full costs, including awarding
reasonable attorneys' fees to an aggrieved party who prevails.
(3)(A) Damages awarded by any court under this section shall be
computed in accordance with either of the following clauses:
(i) the party aggrieved may recover the actual damages suffered
by him as a result of the violation and any profits of the
violator that are attributable to the violation which are not
taken into account in computing the actual damages; in
determining the violator's profits, the party aggrieved shall be
required to prove only the violator's gross revenue, and the
violator shall be required to prove his deductible expenses and
the elements of profit attributable to factors other than the
(ii) the party aggrieved may recover an award of statutory
damages for all violations involved in the action, in a sum of
not less than $250 or more than $10,000 as the court considers
(B) In any case in which the court finds that the violation was
committed willfully and for purposes of commercial advantage or
private financial gain, the court in its discretion may increase
the award of damages, whether actual or statutory under
subparagraph (A), by an amount of not more than $50,000.
(C) In any case where the court finds that the violator was not
aware and had no reason to believe that his acts constituted a
violation of this section, the court in its discretion may reduce
the award of damages to a sum of not less than $100.
(D) Nothing in this subchapter shall prevent any State or
franchising authority from enacting or enforcing laws, consistent
with this section, regarding the unauthorized interception or
reception of any cable service or other communications service.
(June 19, 1934, ch. 652, title VI, Sec. 633, as added Pub. L. 98-
549, Sec. 2, Oct. 30, 1984, 98 Stat. 2796; amended Pub. L. 102-
385, Sec. 21, Oct. 5, 1992, 106 Stat. 1498.)
1992 - Subsec. (b)(2). Pub. L. 102-385, Sec. 21(1), substituted
"$50,000" for "$25,000", "2 years" for "1 year", "$100,000" for
"$50,000", and "5 years" for "2 years".
Subsec. (b)(3). Pub. L. 102-385, Sec. 21(2), added par. (3).
EFFECTIVE DATE OF 1992 AMENDMENT
Amendment by Pub. L. 102-385 effective 60 days after Oct. 5,
1992, see section 28 of Pub. L. 102-385, set out as a note under
section 325 of this title.
Section effective 60 days after Oct. 30, 1984, except where
otherwise expressly provided, see section 9(a) of Pub. L. 98-549,
set out as a note under section 521 of this title.
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