Cable piracy is a costly crime

On Behalf of | Aug 7, 2023 | Criminal Defense, Theft |

Streaming services may be incredibly popular nowadays, but some still watch cable TV. And although cable TV has remained relevant in this age of Netflix and Disney+, the industry still suffers from piracy.

Cable piracy is illegal in Nebraska. But what counts as piracy? And what sort of penalties can you expect to face if you’re charged?

State law on theft of telecommunications service

According to state law, it’s illegal for anyone to make or possess any device designed to fraudulently obtain telecommunications service from a cable TV franchisee. The devices referred to can include any equipment or instruments that can tap into a cable TV service’s line, as well as any instructions on how to make or assemble such devices.

The provision effectively bans converter boxes, which are used to fraudulently obtain premium channels from cable providers without needing to pay for them.

The law also prohibits anyone from tampering with a cable service provider’s wires, converters, or other distribution devices, with the intent to obtain cable service. This counts for analog and digital cable services, so hitching a wire to an older distribution box is illegal.

Penalties for telecommunications service theft

Violating Nebraska’s law on telecommunications service theft is a Class II misdemeanor. If you’re convicted, you face a maximum six-month prison sentence or up to $1,000 in fines.

Cable piracy is also a federal crime, and you may face separate charges for copyright infringement.

Nebraska has a very broad definition of what counts as cable piracy. So even if you tapped into a relative’s cable box under the condition that you’d split their cable service costs, you might still be on the hook for theft. Cable TV may not have the mass appeal of streaming, but the rules on its use remain.