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Rulings against DirecTV's legal tactics upheld on appeal

Written by Rich Fiscus (Google+) @ 12 Sep 2007 10:45 User comments (27)

Rulings against DirecTV's legal tactics upheld on appeal A U.S. Federal Appeals Court upheld a lower court's refusal to grant a default judgement against two men accused of pirating DirecTV. The judgement, if granted, could have made each man liable for up 10,000 simply for inserting a reprogrammed smart card into their DirecTV receivers, and another $10,000 for modifying the cards. This doesn't shield them from up to $10,000 in damages for intercepting an encrypted satellite signal using modified smart cards, but does clearly draw a clear line between personal and commercial piracy penalties.
The original decision also noted that smart card itself doesn't qualify as a device "primarily of assistance in the unauthorized decryption of satellite cable programming, or direct-to-home satellite services" as the law requires. The card itself is primarily used by legitimate DirecTV customers to lawfully receive broadcasts.

In the court's opinion, one of the three judges involved in the 2-1 decision noted that DirecTV's original claim that simply inserting the removable smart card into a DirecTV receiver constitutes "assembling a piracy device" would, if upheld, blur the distinction between commercial and personal penalties.

According to an affadavit submitted to the court by former DirecTV employee John Fisher, he was hired by the company to Field phone calls from recipients of a letter that the satellite provider sent to people who had purchased smart card programming equipment. He said the letters were part of a campaign to threaten owners of smart card programmers, which could potentially be used in the pircy of DirecTV's signal, into paying thousands of dollars simply for owning the programming equipment. the recipients were selected from customer lists DirecTV obtained after lawsuits against companies selling equipment for pirating their signal.

According to Fisher, on one occasion he learned that the company was trying to force a settlement from someone who had only bought a plastic pouch that could carry a smart card programmer.

Two men who received the letters, Hoa Huynh and Cody Oliver, didn't respond by phone to them, and when taken to court didn't appear. However, the judges in the original cases disagreed with DirecTV's lawyers that there were grounds for decisions against them based on the statute regarding modification and distribution.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) submitted a friend of the court brief in support of upholding the decision.

Sources:
9th Circuit Court of Appeals
John Fisher's Affidavit
EFF

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27 user comments

112.9.2007 12:04

One word for those who are interested or are going through the process of installing DirecTV: "Don't"

Unless you want sudden bill charges, harassment, horrible satellite quality, and most importantly, the terrible feeling that you've made a huge mistake then go right ahead.

212.9.2007 12:04

One word for those who are interested or are going through the process of installing DirecTV: "Don't"

Unless you want sudden bill charges, harassment, horrible satellite quality, and most importantly, the terrible feeling that you've made a huge mistake then go right ahead.

312.9.2007 12:50

i have no problems with DirecTv and i'm actually waiting on more HD channels since they put up another satelite.....Only downside is if its raining really hard u might not get a signal but other then that havent had any problems with the service....might be ur case seeing as not everyone has a good experience with every provider....

412.9.2007 13:33

I am not having any problems with DirecTv either. They will have the more HD channels then cable. A lot of my friends already switched from cable to DTV and they love it.

512.9.2007 13:45

Originally posted by tru003:
I am not having any problems with DirecTv either. They will have the more HD channels then cable. A lot of my friends already switched from cable to DTV and they love it.

I to am having no problems except that when it pours i don't get signal which be be unfortunate.

612.9.2007 16:39

thats why i love free to air and free to air digital.

712.9.2007 17:26

I had dish network and it was much better than DTV and twice as many HD channels.

812.9.2007 17:27

Originally posted by borhan9:
thats why i love free to air and free to air digital.

Yeah that's true.

912.9.2007 19:31
webe123
Inactive

@whateves.....I don't think you should make BLANKET STATEMENTS about Direct TV not being any good...apparently, almost everyone who has posted after you,has NOT had any problems with them. So it must be only in your area or on your end.

I have had absolutely no problems whatsoever. So again, it is not fair to blame DirectTV for something that might only affect a specific area.

1012.9.2007 22:39

Originally posted by webe123:
@whateves.....I don't think you should make BLANKET STATEMENTS about Direct TV not being any good...apparently, almost everyone who has posted after you,has NOT had any problems with them. So it must be only in your area or on your end.

I have had absolutely no problems whatsoever. So again, it is not fair to blame DirectTV for something that might only affect a specific area.
You have point, however, I feel as though DTV just has $$$ on there mind. When you call for a problem that you're expiriencing the first thing they look at is wether it is cost effective or not. I was basically forced to cancel because of an extremely frustrating situation that DTV did not resolve because they couldn't accomidate(sp?) my simple request of replacing my defective tivo receiver. They charged me an early termination fee, I tried to fight it by telling them that my coomitment to the was only valid if they upheld their part of the commitment. They didn't even give me the time of day. All they wanted was the 300 dollars that they charged me.

I've been turning possible customers away from DTV and towards Dish Network. I really hope they somehow become bankrupt. I doubt it though.

1112.9.2007 22:59
webe123
Inactive

Quote:
Originally posted by webe123:
@whateves.....I don't think you should make BLANKET STATEMENTS about Direct TV not being any good...apparently, almost everyone who has posted after you,has NOT had any problems with them. So it must be only in your area or on your end.

I have had absolutely no problems whatsoever. So again, it is not fair to blame DirectTV for something that might only affect a specific area.
You have point, however, I feel as though DTV just has $$$ on there mind. When you call for a problem that you're expiriencing the first thing they look at is wether it is cost effective or not. I wasbasically forced to cancel because of an extremely frustrating situation that DTV did not resolve because they couldn't accomidate(sp?) my simple request of replacing my defective tivo receiver. They charged me an early termination fee, I tried to fight it by telling them that my coomitment to the was only valid if they upheld their part of the commitment. They didn't even give me the time of day. All they wanted was the 300 dollars that they charged me.

I've been turning possible customers away from DTV and towards Dish Network. I really hope they somehow become bankrupt. I doubt it though.

Well again, that may have happened to you in your area with Direct TV, but that has not happened to anyone I know in my area.

I guess it all depends on where you live. But your story sounded like they did treat you badly, though.

I guess it all depends on a lot of factors, But I would feel the same way if they treated me like that. Thankfully, I have only had great service in my area.

1213.9.2007 8:24

The issues? :-P

DirectTV is a content provider. They provide a service and should be paid. Just seems like stealing cable is pretty low, IMO. I know a guy like this. Not only would he do that if he knew how, but he piggybacks off his elderly neighbors network for high speed internet. And with all the money he saves, he's still cheap with his kids.

Bt seriously, what else can a hacked card allow you to do? People buy it for the very purpose of stealing cable. Unlike a console mod - which although can be (and is in most cases) used to play pirated games, can also be used legitimately for homebrew and backups. So where are the feds now?

I'm happy to pay for a cable service. What people decide to do with the signal should be their own business though ;-) I agree that DirecTV charges too much for repairs and support. I'm happy with their service (the cheapest in my area), but my wife does spend some time on the phone disputing charges when something goes wrong. No big deal though. She is always able to talk it away.

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 13 Sep 2007 @ 8:28

1313.9.2007 8:36

No problems here (NH), plus I get to take it w/ me in my Motor Home in the winter, south, and summer vacations. And it's WAY cheaper than Metro Cast cable.

1413.9.2007 8:43
burninmad
Inactive

I recently changed from Dish to Directv,for one reason:NFL Sunday Ticket Football!I like the remote operation of Dish.It's a little easier to "grasp" info,and shows how much time left on programs,little things like that!I also like the Channel arrangements,News in line(Channel number sequences,etc.)I DO have a better signal(97%) than Dish 75%! I think the Satelite transmitter is better placed for my location.It just seems "Sharper"!I am Disabled ,so I watch lots of Tube!The number of channels with Dish(premium) seems better?RAIN? Here in SoCal,not an issue!Other than that ,I can live with it except,on second thought,I liked Sirius better than XM ,for these two companies Music channels! Better se;lection on Sirius (Dish Network)!Cost is about the same,so far,that is.

1513.9.2007 11:11

I think more importantly is the larger issue is the BEHAVIOR of these companies towards consumers. Like so many huge corporations they don't give a rip about anything other than the next cent or dollar. Its a short sighted view to be sure. Years ago I had Dish Network and when I moved to where a signal was unobtainable I went through hell. They verbally promised they would “work with me” on the problem.

Let me tell you what “work with me” means: I had paid my bill on line with a credit card. Months after canceling they started billing that credit card (which was different from the one I purchased equipment with) hundreds of times a day for small random amounts as well as EVERY OTHERcredit card I had used to pay the bill with over the several years I had them. The bank called me to notify me of the activity and told me this was pretty common behavior for them and that although I could dispute each individual charge (requiring separate paperwork for EACH) that in the end the fine print in their agreement usually worked and they prevailed.

I paid it and will never ever make the same mistake again. Give me a my bundled Comcast thank you. The dispute was more complicated in that the building I lived in got a signal but my town home was partially underground and my “back yard or patio” was actually below the sidewalk and I was not allowed to mount a dish outside that area. I suppose that splitting legal hairs gives them an advantage but certainly someone with half a brain would have seen a customer of years should have been treated differently. The ill will they caused has not ceased and I tell everyone I can if the topic comes up much like I dissuade people from buying ANYTHING Iomega after having been hosed on a Jaz drive with the “click of death” and losing tons of data. Treat a customer badly and it impacts far beyond that single customer. Especially tech savvy, well educated professionals. I have no sympathy for Dish or DirectTV. I won;t even start the nightmare of trying to get automated monthly credit card billing stopped from Bally's Health & Fitness, AOL, or the worst Time-Life collections!!!! Ack!


Big picture – treat customers well and you have their loyalty for life. I love HP, Toshiba, Gateway, & Nokia for just those reasons. A person went out of their way to help me. Those minimum wage customer service people can make HUGE differences.

1613.9.2007 21:13

I like Dish Network better. It's cheaper and usually are one step ahead of Direct TV technology wise.

1714.9.2007 0:47

You can brag about the way the Direct TV and Dish systems work but you cannot beat the Big Dish reception. I use a Magnovox 4DTV digital receiver (When I can afford it, I will get the HD conversion kit) with my C dish and have no RAIN FADE like the mini-dishes. This is very important in East Texas where we have quite a bit of afternoon showers which affect the reception.

Cost is no comparison. I get 3 months of Starz and Encore (both E and W) in analog and digital for only $35.00 every 3 months. If I want to subscribe to NFL/NBA it is available also.

1814.9.2007 7:38

Do they still make those? Yes they are great when it comes to signal strength, but the last time I checked the programing packages were more expensive than the little dish.

1914.9.2007 16:33

So if I buy a bong, are the cops going to beat down my door and give me a ticket for owning the equipment to somke weed with???? If I havent done anything wrong with it what's the harm in owning it???

2014.9.2007 18:10

Ive got Comcast Sattilite Service, You now the ones that have the big black dish. Rain or clouds i get good signal. however i noticed one thing about Comcast and thats there lack of providing customer support.

2114.9.2007 23:27

Originally posted by o0cynix0o:
So if I buy a bong, are the cops going to beat down my door and give me a ticket for owning the equipment to somke weed with????
Break the door down? Possibly not, though in Australia owning an implement that's used for taking illegal drugs is an offence.

Originally posted by o0cynix0o:
If I havent done anything wrong with it what's the harm in owning it???

The harm in owning it is arguable, but really, what were you going to do with it?

2215.9.2007 11:52

Quote:
Originally posted by o0cynix0o:
So if I buy a bong, are the cops going to beat down my door and give me a ticket for owning the equipment to somke weed with????
Break the door down? Possibly not, though in Australia owning an implement that's used for taking illegal drugs is an offence.

Originally posted by o0cynix0o:
If I havent done anything wrong with it what's the harm in owning it???

The harm in owning it is arguable, but really, what were you going to do with it?
It's a ticketable offence here in Texas.

I may just like the raw taste of tobacco. Nothing better then a Marb red fresh out of the six foot clown head bong. Or how about a five gallon water bottle gravity bong????? One things for sure if you didn't od and die of a heart attack you wouldn't need a smoke for quite some time.

Or maybe I collect them.

My point is how could you say for certain what someone was going to do with a bong???

A little off the subject I know but I hope you get the point.
This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 15 Sep 2007 @ 11:54

“Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Forget this... and attaining enlightenment is the least of your problems.”
–Zen Judaism by Someone Clever

2315.9.2007 13:17

And What if the bong belonged to steve jobs when he was a kid.

Collecters item right. iBong

2416.9.2007 8:38

I canceled my direct tv service for the simple fact, i live in a two story house the only place to put the dish was on the roof ok, fine we did that, but during the cold winter months here in south dakota, us. we were unable to get service half the time because the recievers got iced over and were unable to clear them and the slightest storm or rain, or even cloud, we would lose our service, after our year was up we canceled went back to the local cable company and have never looked back, just my two cents

2516.9.2007 11:23

Well, that's understandable. If you live in an area with severe weather, little dishes don't make much sense. I live in Puerto Rico where it's sunny for the most part. I don't have any problems, except for the occasional really heavy downpour during raining season.

2616.9.2007 14:41

emugamer seems to be appalled by cable/DTV snatching, but he says nothing about reporting the person he "knows" stealing from the elderly neighbors. perhaps he's using the same IP to post his critique on this subject (gasp!)

2719.9.2007 18:18

Well DTV stated in a notice last month that they are gaining new customers 8X faster than cable. So I've got to wonder why my bill increases ever so slightly once or twice a year. 2 years ago there was talk that Dish and DTV were going to merge. That would have changed the scene on pirating. Dish is pirated in this area.

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