Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Press Picking Up On DirecTV's Guilty Until Proven Innocent Claims

from the some-of-them,-at-least... dept

For all the press attention the RIAA has received for suing their customers, the DirecTV story has been mostly ignored. A few publications have picked up on it, but, for the most part it's been pretty quiet. We last mentioned it a month ago, when someone from DirecTV tried to suggest that if DirecTV suspected you of something then the burden of proof was on you to prove your innocence. Now, however, it appears that a few more people are picking up on the story - though, they're not always getting it right. The Chicago Tribune (registration required, unfortunately) has a pretty balanced piece that includes the story of people who bought smart card readers for completely legitimate purposes (including one who was designing computers for medical research), but are still being sued because, as far as DirecTV is concerned, there's no reason to buy a smartcard reader, except to try to access their signal. The article also reports that many people who settled already are receiving the legal threat (pay DirecTV $3,500 or they'll sue) a second time. As the article points out, it appears they're filing lawsuits by computer - just spitting them out without bothering to actually see if there's any real evidence that the law has been broken. It also mentions (and this is the first I've seen of this), that some of the cases have been thrown out of court, as judges have pointed out that DirecTV has no proof. Now, the question is whether or not those who are falsely accused can sue DirecTV back for suing them without any proof. Meanwhile, DirecTV stands by their typical line that they're doing this to stop "theft" and (just like the recording industry) insisting it's the same thing as stealing a car. That, of course, isn't addressing the real issue, which is how can they sue someone simply for buying a product that has completely legitimate uses that have nothing to do with DirecTV? Their only response so far has been to deny it's possible to use a smart card reader for any purpose other than to access DirecTV's signals - which is simply untrue. Meanwhile, not all the articles on this topic are so well done. An article in Cincinnati discusses the same topic, but doesn't even explain smartcard readers, and simply calls them "piracy equipment."

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    nopass, Nov 25th, 2003 @ 10:03am

    preserve your privacy

    Helpful souls often "register" the user nopass (pw: nopass) for stupid content sites that require registration. Looks like it's been done at the Chicago Tribune. When will these people realize that they're not really getting any useful gains from forcing people to register for free content?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Steve Sanderson, Nov 25th, 2003 @ 11:08am

    Sorry Mike, wrong again!

    While accessing Directv's signal may not be stealing in the conventional sense, you simply cannot say that theft of a service does not equal theft. Directv is out of line by accusing people of theft without grounds, however, their actions are grounded in a desire to protect their investment. As much as Mike would love for every and all kinds of information to be free (and freely copied and superdistributed), it quite simply cannot, otherwise the engines of content creation and distribution will shut down, forever. And once you've downloaded every mp3 that exists, and played every video game as well (during work hours - it actually increase productivity!), what's left???

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Mike (profile), Nov 25th, 2003 @ 11:39am

    Re: Sorry Mike, wrong again!

    Steve, please read what I actually wrote before writing such things. I'm pretty clear in pointing out the point was about those being improperly accused.

    Second, the point is that accessing the signal illegally is against the law and I don't condone it in any sense (nor do I, as you continue to assume, download MP3s illegally). However, accessing a signal illegally and stealing a physical product are different things. In one case, something is missing and no one else can use it. In the other, that's not true. It's a pretty big difference.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Frank, Nov 26th, 2003 @ 5:51am

    Re: Sorry Mike, wrong again!

    RE: "their actions are grounded in a desire to protect their investment."
    Sorry, I think I'd still like some real proof of illegal usage of the device in each case. An argument of 'their heart must surely be in the right place, because they're a corporation' just isn't compelling enough to establish liability. Even in criminal law, you still need to find some drug residue on the crack pipe before you can find someone guilty of possession of drug paraphenalia. Even with a civil standard, I don't see the necessary preponderance of evidence here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 26th, 2003 @ 6:37am

    ...beware the coroporate jabberwocky

    Crazy companies and their silly ideas.

    The RIAA et. al should be very careful that tort reform doesn't require that the legal industral complex raise the bar for civil suits. I've never really understood why there's a double standard, other than to employ lawyers.

    If companies really had a clue, they would realized that all this money that they're spending fighting these battles would be better spent on increasing their market share. Unfortunatly, corporate lawyers just turn these issues into cost centers and then sick their newly hired, hungry minions upon the unsuspecting masses in a break-even effort to "educate" the public. Until the legal system adjusts (which it probably won't), nobody is really safe.

    If someone were really smart and were willing to spend the money, that might have to pay to the RIAA/Direct TV/whomever, they should probably consider filing a "maintaining an attractive nusience" counter suite... after all, we're talking about civil court here; all you need is "preponderance of evidence" for the burden of persuasion... basically it all boils down to he-said, she-said, with the side able to "say" more convnincingly winning. Corporate lawyers will be able to "say" much better, but there's always the off chance that they're employing a recent graduate, counting on a settlement and completely not expecting the informed juror factor. I'm not a lawyer and I don't play one on TV, but I expect that Judges love to dispose of civil cases that jam up their courtrooms based upon civil presidence. We (the people) just need a few victories in each state to secure the high-ground... and that's where organizations like the EFF come in; too bad they don't have the necessary budget/mandate.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Nautilas2000, Jun 7th, 2004 @ 8:37pm

    Direct TV - The Extortion Professionals

    If Direct TV thinks each and every smartcard is only used for stealing satellite signals from them - why haven't they sued American Express for their Blue Card that has smartcard technology on it? American Express will even send you the SmartCard Reader to go with it. Some Federal Judge needs to Bitch Slap Rupert Murdock for all the anguish he is causing thousands of people, and the judicial system also.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Nautilas, Jun 7th, 2004 @ 8:51pm

    Re: Sorry Mike, wrong again!

    These Extortionist have the technology to spot beam their video signal to each and every home in the US and Canada - if the the Bastards didn't want the signal stolen, then remove that signal from the properties of people who do not wish to have it hit them on the heads 24 hours a day. Besides, has Directv proven to anyone that those microwaves are not cancer causing? Maybe someone should sue them on those grounds. I think Directv is just a well organized criminal company and anyone who subscribes to Directv is a fool, cause they will most likey get sued by them also in time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Aaron, Mar 3rd, 2008 @ 10:25am

    DirecTV are %@#&@% @$$ &*((#$

    just so you know directv is after me for just buying a card reader. I run a server that takes smar card readers to log on. Once they found out they sent me a letter that sent me off the end. I lost my server my car and my house just to pay off the fees. now i live in a little apartment in penncilvania. did i say that i lost my job because of not haveing any way of getting there. I just would like to let them know that If i see some one with directv i will tell them about there great service in sewing me. but one this is all setteld will i get my money back. I'v lost everything and now im back in a hole till i find a car or a local job.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Gene, Oct 11th, 2008 @ 9:12pm

    Justice was hurt by Directv

    Directv filed a suit against me and they know they lied. I did noting wrong but they wanted my money. I complained to justice because I was a victim of Directv's crime. Justice ignored me and would not take the report. Directv drove my litigation costs so high I had to settle. In the end they took my rights from me as a crime victim.
    Because justice ignored me and permitted the crime, I will vote against justice the next time I am a juror or asked to be a witness for the state. Justice has to learn that justice is there for everyone and not for just those they choose to serve.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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