July 2013
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Et tu, Massachusetts?

The Massachusetts house is considering a bill to outlaw unauthorized transmission in the AM and FM broadcast band. The bill, H.1679 is included here for your reading pleasure:

SECTION 1: The General Laws, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after chapter 93I, the following chapter:-


Section 1. As used in this chapter the following words shall, unless the context clearly requires otherwise, have the following meanings:—

“Emission”, radiation produced, or the production of radiation, by a radio transmitting station.

“License”, a radio frequency assigned by the Federal Communications Commission for use by amplitude modulation (AM) radio stations between the frequencies of five hundred thirty kilohertz (kHz) to seventeen hundred kilohertz (kHz), or frequency modulation (FM) radio stations between the frequencies of eighty-eight megahertz (MHz) to one hundred eight megahertz (MHz).

“Person”, a natural person, corporation, association, partnership or other legal entity.

“Radio telecommunication”, any transmission, emission or reception of signals and sounds or intelligence of any nature by wire, radio, optical or other electromagnetic systems

Section 2. Any unauthorized radio telecommunication or emission to, or interference with, a public or commercial radio station licensed by the Federal Communications Commission are prohibited.

No person shall (a) make, or cause to be made, a radio telecommunication in the Commonwealth unless the person obtains a license or an exemption from licensure from the Federal Communications Commission under 47 U.S.C. s. 301, 47 U.S.C., s. 605, or other applicable federal law or regulation; or (b) do any act, whether direct or indirect, to cause an unlicensed radio telecommunication to, or inference with, a public or commercial radio station licensed by the Federal Communications Commission or to enable the radio telecommunication or interference to occur.

Section 3. The attorney general may bring an action pursuant to section 4 of chapter 93A against a person or otherwise to remedy violations of this chapter and for other relief that may be appropriate.

Section 4. A person may assert a claim under this section in superior court, whether by way of original complaint, counterclaim, cross-claim or third-party action, for money damages, injunctive relief, and forfeiture of any property used in violation of this section. Said damages may include double or treble damages and attorneys’ fees and costs.

No forfeiture under this section shall extinguish a perfected security interest held by a creditor in a conveyance or in any real property or in any personal property at the time of the filing of the forfeiture action. Said forfeiture action shall be commenced in superior court.

This legislation is slightly different from the anti-pirate laws in NY and Florida as it appears the unauthorized operators would be liable for civil and not criminal penalties.  That is an interesting twist; potentially, a commercial broadcaster could sue an interfering pirate operator for loss of revenue, etc.  At least that is my interpretation of the above text and as I am not an attorney, I could be wrong.

It is also interesting to me that very few pirate operators in NY have actually faced a non-FCC law enforcement agency as of yet.  I have heard about only one, which was in NYC.  Is the criminalization of unauthorized broadcaster really affective in curbing pirates?  A quick tune around the NYC FM dial says no.  There are more pirates than ever and the NYPD seems to be too busy with other issues to go after them.

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5 comments to Et tu, Massachusetts?

  • Alan

    Next time I visit Massachusetts, I have to remember to bring my camera to take a picture of that 70-foot-tall continuous copper mesh fence they’ll be building all along the borders of New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont and Rhode Island.
    You know, to keep those unlicensed stations people will be building just over the state line from beaming their evil subversive low-power signals into the Bay State without fear of reprisal.

  • It does indeed seem that the NYPD spends way too much time pursuing dangerous and violent criminals, when it *should* be out there chasing those pesky, annoying pirate radio operators… or so their state legislature seems to think. 😀

    Problem for them is, most local police departments don’t have the necessary expertise or equipment for direction-finding pirate radio transmitters without enlisting help from the FCC– and the FCC is pretty overwhelmed with that already

  • I agree, pirates are a problem for those using the radio spectrum in a responsible manner but state gumshoes are hardly in a position to differentiate things such as a legal, Part 15 radio enthusiast from a blatant pirate radio operator. Also, why should state taxpayers foot the bill for something that should be handled by the federal government agency that is responsible for policing the RF spectrum? Anybody remember the Federal Communication Commission? Yeah, those guys!

    I can only guess the state’s police departments don’t have enough “crime” to go chase after. All it’s going to take is for a police department to “bust” a Part 15 radio enthusiast with sufficient knowledge to go after both the police department and the state. The first time they are made an example of they’ll realize they are in no position to be in the radio policing business

    Bill DeFelice

  • Robinsmark

    FM Pirates. This is interesting that a state government would bother to do this considering that the FCC some years ago tried to silence a San Francisco Cal. pirate and requested that the city police go along on the raid, and the city refused!

  • Erik Bagby

    Just a thought, but maybe if the Mass State Police weren’t so busy chasing down “Edward Teach” and his Ramsey FM-100B, they would have found the Boston Bombers before they mangled and murdered people at the Boston Marathon….nothing like a corporate sponsored government who ALWAYS have our (their) best interests at heart.

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