Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
eff, piracy, privacy, satellite tv, subpoenas

directv, echostar, freetech

Court Tells Echostar It Doesn't Get Access To Customer Lists Of Satellite Receiver Company

from the chalk-one-up-for-privacy dept

Recently, we wrote about how satellite TV provider Echostar had been sending out subpoenas demanding customer lists from resellers who had sold satellite receivers made by a company named Freetech. Freetech's satellite receivers can be used to receive perfectly legal over-the-air satellite TV signals. Echostar's complaint was that many also used Freetech's receivers to pirate its own DishTV offering. However, that doesn't give Echostar the right to then demand the contact info on everyone who ever bought a Freetech receiver, as many could be using them for perfectly legal purposes. And, historically, with DirecTV, we've seen a similar situation where the DirecTV forced plenty of totally innocent smart card device buyers to pay up by threatening them with lawsuits over pirated satellite TV.

Luckily, it looks like the EFF helped convince the judge that Echostar was out of line, and the judge has said that the buyers' privacy trumps Echostar's right to the info. As the EFF notes, this is a big ruling, in that it's "the first time a federal court has explicitly rejected a third-party subpoena on the basis of the privacy interests of nonparty consumers." Chalk one up for the right to privacy.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  • identicon
    Damn Coward, Oct 1st, 2008 @ 1:34am


    "Chalk one up for the right to piracy." - There, fixed it for you. :)

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

    • identicon
      ehrichweiss, Oct 1st, 2008 @ 5:21am

      Real Correction

      No, it's privacy. Dish Network shut down a 100% legit auction of mine on ebay because they wanted to know information about that specific receiver so they could use it to track the buyers and their uses.

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

  • icon
    jeffj (profile), Oct 1st, 2008 @ 5:20am

    Well, if enough people pirate the signal, echostar will go out of business and then all you will have is one satellite company (direct TV). The reason direct tv and dish have been adding HD channels so aggressively is to compete with each other. This "HD-war" will no longer exist if one of the companies goes out of business. So I wouldn't put this on the same page as all the pro-file sharing anti-RIAA stories that we all love to talk about here...

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

  • identicon
    joe, Oct 1st, 2008 @ 5:48am

    an aside,

    My question likely has little to do with the issue at hand, but has teh FCC basically determined that once you broadcast a signal out "into the atmosphere", anyone is allowed to do what they want with that signal?

    So if someone is smart enough to design their own decoder and receive dish signals, that is their right? Perhaps it ain't so simple...

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

  • identicon
    Neosat Pro, Oct 1st, 2008 @ 11:03am

    Once you broadcast an UNENCODED signal, it's free game for anyone to receive. Unencoding an encoded signal is usually some sort of theft of services (unless you're specifically authorized to receive it, such as Dish Network subscribers) if you're caught doing it. Of course, catching someone unencoding a satellite signal in the privacy of their own home with their own FTA equipment is pretty much impossible to do, which is why the buggers at echostar are going after the customer lists. Unfortunately, they've no right to those lists, as there are literally thousands of channels freely and legally available unencoded via FTA equipment. Rather than upgrade their encoding security (as DirecTV did), they just want to sue everyone in sight, whether they have a legal foot to stand on or not.

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

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