The Quebec Court of Appeal has ordered Bell ExpressVu to pay $137 million, including interest, to Quebecor  subsidiaries Videotron and TVA for failing to prevent the piracy of its satellite signal between 1999 and 2005.

The unanimous ruling by Quebec's highest court upheld a lower court decision that said the Bell satellite TV division harmed competitors such as Videotron by deliberately neglecting to implement appropriate security systems to prevent piracy.

Bell must pay $82.3 million to Quebec network Videotron GP  and $404,000 to French-language network TVA Group Inc. 

That settlement was raised from $600,000 awarded by a lower court.

Pierre Dion, president and CEO of Quebecor, called it a "landmark decision" for the telecom industry.

"We welcome this judgment, which condemns practices by Bell that had the effect of depriving its competitors, including Videotron and TVA Group, of customers and substantial revenues over a period of more than six years," he said.

Quebecor has been fighting BellExpressVu in court for nine years, saying it knowingly allowed illegal decoding of satellite television signals to gain advantage over competitors in the market.

By gaining free access to Bell, viewers could watch Videotron programming at no cost, reducing the number of paid Videotron subscribers and royalties paid to specialty channels of the French-language TVA network that had been distributed by Bell since 1998.

With files from the Canadian Press