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.