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Tuesday, September 19 2017

"DirecTV will kill you"


I recall a question at a talk (by OldSkoolS) on satellite broadcasts at DefCon 2 years ago; the person asked if The Dish Network went after pirates like DirecTV did. (The talk covered free broadcasts on the same signal band as TDN) Although the speaker had repeatedly pointed out that he didn't know DirecTV, he answered the question by saying (paraphrased) "No. If you pirate DirecTV, they will kill you, but TDN is more interested in expanding market share at this point than going after pirates."

This column exposes some of the key tactics used by DirecTV in its "anti-piracy campaign," which led to a lawsuit against DirecTV for extortion. Essentially what happened was that DirecTV first went after companies selling smart card programmers, a device that can be used to pirate DirecTV, but has other legitimate uses; after successfully shutting down a number of these companies (which admittedly were marketing them as piracy devices), DirecTV took the companies' customer lists and went after all the customers. A number of truly innocent tinkerers and security professionals had bought the reprogrammers to use them to ... program smart cards! However, when these innocent parties contacted DirecTV, their response was basically, "We don't care what you say, if you don't send us the reprogrammer and $3500, we will sue you (for $100,000). And if we end up in court, the settlement price jumps to $10,000." My favorite quote from the column: "... they can send out thousand of letters with no basis to back them up, because it's all protected by a right to threaten to sue people." Legalized extortion.

Fortunately, more recent developments have forced DirecTV to back off; thanks to the legal efforts of the EFF and Stanford CIS, DirecTV defense, DirecTV will no longer threaten to sue people for mere possession of a device capable of stealing their signal. Most recently, on September 8, a judge in Texas threw out a case because DirecTV failed to prove that the defendant had all of the necessary equipment to steal DirecTV (specifically he did not have a DirecTV access card or receiver/decoder)

posted by Loki on Sun, 12 Sep 2004 09:38:18 -0500