Maryland Extends Piracy Law

Maryland legislators joined their Pennsylvania counterparts in passing a bill that broadens the statutory protection afforded telecommunications products.

House Bill 715 makes cable antipiracy laws applicable to wireless communications, direct-broadcast satellite and access-code theft. It also expands the penalties for violators.

The measure's backers included the Cable Telecommunications Association of Maryland, AT&T Corp., Verizon Communications, MCI Communications Corp. and Cingular Wireless, as well as the Motion Picture Association of America. Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening is expected to sign the bipartisan measure.

The new law would apply to pirates who hack into Web sites or enter a system through other unauthorized means, as well as those who modify set-top boxes. It protects computer circuits, smart cards, security modules and software, as well as electronic serial numbers, mobile ID numbers, service access cards and personal identification numbers.

It extends the protection to wireless phones, two-way radios and a variety of video content providers. Anyone who owns or alters any of the specified components will constitute a misdemeanor. Punishment is a $2,500 fine, three years in prison, or both. If 100 illegal telecommunications devices are involved, the crime becomes a felony. Punishment is then a $10,000 fine, 10 years in prison or both.