Appeals Court Says That Just Buying A Smart Card Reader Doesn't Mean You Pirated DirecTV Signals

from the well-that's-good dept

While we often talk about the extortion-like tactics of the RIAA in going after file sharers, people sometimes forget that it was DirecTV that really pioneered this practice on the corporate level. Well before the RIAA started suing music fans, DirecTV sued a company that had been selling a device that would let people hack smart cards, and as part of the suit, DirecTV ended up with the company's customer list. They then set out to sue most of the folks on that list, without any evidence that those customers actually used the equipment to make smart cards for unauthorized access to DirecTV signals. The lawsuits snagged innocent folks who had plenty of legitimate reasons for wanting to program smart cards -- but DirecTV found the process so profitable that it pushed its "anti-piracy" team to do many questionable things in trying to convince people to settle -- even if they were completely innocent. Eventually, the company was accused of extortion and was told to stop threatening people if it didn't have any evidence.

However, there were still some people who were found guilty of unauthorized access, even though DirecTV's only evidence was that they had purchased these smart card devices. Reader jedipunk lets us know that an Appeals Court has now tossed out one such decision, noting that simply possessing the device is not evidence of unauthorized access. The court notes that the defendants can still be found guilty if there's proof that they were accessing DirecTV signals with unauthorized equipment -- but simply possessing the smart card hacking device is not illegal and is not proof that they were doing anything illegal with it. Slowly, but surely, it appears that judges are picking up the details on some of these tech cases.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Jason Hartzog, Sep 13th, 2007 @ 2:06pm

    Direct TV

    Don't get me wrong, I have direct tv and love it. However, If those sons-a-bitches tried to strong arm me because I had a card reader, I think I'd have to call uncle Ted.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2007 @ 2:37pm

    So who has a good price on these programmers :)

     

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    Stute, Sep 13th, 2007 @ 3:01pm

    Didn't they...

    Didn't the ban mod chips for consoles because it would be possible to pirate games with them? Well, couldn't you say just because you have one doesn't mean you're pirating games, and lift the ban?

     

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    Roamin' Noam Chomsky, Sep 13th, 2007 @ 3:26pm

    There are plenty of...

    Government employees that have smart card readers to access their email and other services from the outside...I think it would be pretty damn funny if Direct TV called the wrong person and found themselves under a little more scrutiny than they could bear...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2007 @ 6:11pm

    DirecTV = Corporate IP-Theft ? ? ?

    Several years ago when I did subscribe to DirecTV, similarly I was very interested in learning more about new security-hardware tech (no coincidence, just your average 'security-geek'). I did all sorts of research on USB drives, fingerprint readers and smart-cards (along with the other card alternatives). It wasn't until I finally got rid of DirecTV (and, DSL w/ a POTS) and moved to cable TV (along with Cable Internet and Cellphone-only).

    About two months after the switch away from DirecTV, my company authorised the purchase of card-readers for security. It took quite a long time to find a company that still sold these - so we skipped on that idea.

    The end result: At the time, DirecTV took new tech to use in their devices then issued lawsuits to legit consumers of that new tech and then killed it for everyone else to use except themselves... which sounds much like Corporate IP-THEFT, does it not?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 13th, 2007 @ 8:48pm

      Re: DirecTV = Corporate IP-Theft ? ? ?

      The end result: At the time, DirecTV took new tech to use in their devices then issued lawsuits to legit consumers of that new tech and then killed it for everyone else to use except themselves... which sounds much like Corporate IP-THEFT, does it not?
      Hey, a patent alternative! Same result, lower cost!

       

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    James, Sep 14th, 2007 @ 6:58am

    I tend to think...

    ...if DirectTV (and their kind, read cable) weren't trying to rob you blind then they wouldn't have so many people trying to cheat.

     

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    MikE, Oct 18th, 2007 @ 5:16pm

    SCR30 USB

    Anyone have a program they'd like to share with me that will work on my new card reader?

     

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    Gene, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 5:32pm

    Directv sued me and government did nothing

    Directv sued me and broke criminal laws I believe in doing this. Directv had stolen my programming. The government how ever stood by and did nothing. Where government sleeps with the bad guy, the public has to be counter to a government which buys into corruption. The next time I serve on a jury, government will take the place which they did when I was the crime victim of this law suit. If government is to be anti-public and not protect, then people has to be pro-government and give them the same treatment. The ramifications are far reaching when government subordinates itself to that of corrupt corporations. People have to change the way they think of government and oppose them.

     

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