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EFF Lands a Blow On DirecTV 100

An anonymous reader writes to alert us to a court win for the EFF in two cases in which DirecTV employed heavy-handed legal tactics to suppress security and computer science research into satellite and smart card technology. Here's the ruling (PDF) from the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals. From the announcement: "The cases, DirecTV v. Huynh and DirecTV v. Oliver, involved a provision of federal law prohibiting the 'assembly' or 'modification' of equipment designed to intercept satellite signals. DirecTV maintained that the provision should cover anyone who works with equipment designed for interception of their signals, regardless of their motivation or whether any interception occurs. But in a hearing earlier this year, EFF argued that the provision should apply only to entities that facilitate illegal interception by other people and not to those who simply tinker or use the equipment, such as researchers and others working to further scientific knowledge of the devices at issue."
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EFF Lands a Blow On DirecTV

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  • pay per view channels.... That is scientific tinkering too.

    Just kidding. I want a cablecard mythtv box. Now.
  • I thought this sort of tinkering was already barred. With that in mind, this is likely to be at most a Pyrrhic victory; remember, the 9th Circuit is traditionally the most overturned circuit in cases that end up being heard by the S. Ct....
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gfxguy ( 98788 )
      Without ocmmenting on the merrits of the case, I was thinking the same thing... "surprise, surprise, the 9th District ruled against big business."

      Not that it wasn't the right decision...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      That wouldn't be because they issue the most verdicts, would it?

      Oh yeah, it would.
    • This is the sort of thing that makes me want to get out my electronic tools, clean and calibrate my test equipment and do some hardware hacking (Not that I can afford it, fixed income yaknow!).

      It's just like prohibition, "The war on drugs", etc, if you ban something it just makes you want it more!
    • "the 9th Circuit is traditionally the most overturned circuit in cases that end up being heard by the S. Ct...."

      Yes but the Sup. Ct. will have to agree to hear this case before it is overturned. The Sup. Ct. usually only takes cases on issues where circuits are split. Have other circuits gone the other way with this? If not, then the Sup. Ct. probably won't hear it and it'll continue to be binding in the 9th Circuit.
  • while it is illegal to own a fully automatic fire arm it is not illegal to buy a conversion kit.
    • by Pojut ( 1027544 ) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @12:01PM (#20589295) Homepage
      It's NOT illegal to own a fully automatic firearm if it was built before 1985 (at least I think it's 85...84-86, one of those three years...can never remember...or is it 83?)
      • You can ONLY build/own/modify an old or new one with a specific license. It's either '85 or '86.

        And that license ISN'T easy to get...if you value privacy more than gun ownership, don't get one.
        • by Pojut ( 1027544 )
          Yeah...I knew it was one of those years. And you are right about the privacy deal.

          Beh, my Marlin 39A and my S&W 41 are plenty of fun for me:-) Iron Sights FTW!!!!
    • while it is illegal to own a fully automatic fire arm ...

      This isn't true. You can legally own fully automatic firearms after you have purchased a $200 tax stamp from the BATF. They do sell this stamp, upon proper application. Some states may have laws which restrict this freedom.

      ... it is not illegal to buy a conversion kit

      Be careful with this one: it isn't generally true. The BATF has held that certain parts of a machine gun are a machine gun. Exactly what parts of a particular machine gun const

      • This is exactly what they did to drugs by the way. You could only get a permit to prescribe pot if you proved you had some. If you had some without the permit, you possesed it illegally, and you'd be arrested when you tried to apply.
        • "This is exactly what they did to drugs by the way. You could only get a permit to prescribe pot if you proved you had some. If you had some without the permit, you possesed it illegally, and you'd be arrested when you tried to apply."

          That law was thrown out and ruled unconstitutional I do believe (early 70's?)

          That pissed of Nixon, and he got the current drug laws pushed through...where they 'schedule' them. I think this was around the time just before LSD became illegal? You can google it for exact date

      • by AJWM ( 19027 )
        I seem to recall a case where just having a reasonably well equipped machine shop was enough for the BATF to consider that the guy was in the business of manufacturing machine guns. Presumably there was some other evidence of that, if no actual machine gun parts in the shop at the time.

        Mind, considering the sensitivity of a nominally semi-automatic rifle like the FN-C1A1 (old Canadian standard 7.62mm NATO rifle), even a match stick could be considered a "conversion kit" (you just need to jam it into the ri
      • For some people.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by TheVision ( 223174 )

      while it is illegal to own a fully automatic fire arm it is not illegal to buy a conversion kit.

      That's not true. It's legal for an individual to own a fully automatic firearm (under federal law; state laws differ) if it was registered with the BATFE prior to May 19, 1986. "Conversion kits" (i.e. fully automatic sears) meet the statutory definition of a machinegun (26 U.S.C. section 5845 (b)), and must be registered as such (BATF ruling 81-4, 1981-3 ATFB 78)).
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Jaxoreth ( 208176 )

      while it is illegal to own a fully automatic fire arm it is not illegal to buy a conversion kit.
      In some countries, a fully automatic firearm is a conversion kit.
  • Can network traffic over satellite be sniffed now or is it still a federal offense?
  • by sirwired ( 27582 ) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @12:58PM (#20590383)
    If you actually read the ruling, it has absolutely nothing to do with allowing, or not allowing, legitimate research into decryption technologies. The case concerned DirectTV's attempts to find the defendants liable under sections of the statute meant to cover distributors of piracy devices, in addition to the parts of the statute meant to cover individual possession and use of piracy devices.

    There is no argument mentioned that the defendants were not liable under the parts of the law covering individual use of piracy devices.

    The article by the EFF is also wrong/misleading. Yes, they have been fighting "DirectTV's heavy-handed legal tactics", but in this case, it just prevented them from using a bigger hammer against folks already found to have violated the law. (Did they actually do so? Who knows. They did not respond or appear for the original complaint, so default judgement was entered against them.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by belmolis ( 702863 )

      True. And one might add that Judge Siler's dissent points out that two other Circuits have ruled differently even on the point that the EFF won. So not only is this ruling valid only in the 9th Circuit but there is a good chance that other Circuits will hold differently and that the issue may reach the Supreme Court and be decided differently.

  • ...DirecTV, et al who used smart cards for their subscription service had wished they had spent a little more to have a unique physical card interface designed for their own use rather than rely upon one that is off of the shelf? While recognizing that this would increase production costs and really wouldn't be much of a deterrent against someone willing to build up their own physical interface (or part one out of an old receiver), it could have made for a better means of deterring the casual bootlegger or

  • Back in the day with the old DTV cards were fully hacking the way they did this was by selling special card reader/writers. They had no other use but to specifically glitch a DTV card they wouldn't write other cards. They did this by applying voltages to points on the card that would cause the card to glitch and break out of it's continuous loop that prevented it from being loaded with new software. Then you could load the hack and watch all the channels. DTV was working with law enforcement to raid the
  • The caption and a summary of the article implies that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal held that the anti-piracy statutes relating to satellite TV did not apply to researchers and "tinkerers" of the anti-piracy technology. In fact, the EFF (as amicus) may have argued this, but the court took no notice of it whatsoever. In point of fact, the Court noted that the statute establishes a two-tiered system of culpability and punishment. The lower level is for run of the mill, individual pirates utilize the pi
  • Which is why, three years or more ago, I quit being a DirecTV subscriber and switched to Dish.
    And got better customer service and a lower bill in the bargan.
    When a company does something silly, stupid, AND against my interests, I stop doing business with them.
    That's also why I've never bought a single ticket to a Sony movie, a Sony DVD, or Sony brand for 15 years now. I can't avoid Sony chips every time, but when I can, I do. One 3,500 unit lap top deployment was switched from one vender to another ven
  • Having been threatened by Direct TV myself, for this very same thing (buying a card reader/writer) I went to a lawyer the day after I got the threatening letter and had him draft a letter threatening counter-suit for harassment. I never heard from them again. I think that the people that are getting nailed are the ones talking to Direct TV. DON'T. Don't ever talk to Direct TV. I just canceled my Direct TV service and switched to dish. (yes, I was a paying customer) When asked why I was canceling I said "Bec

To do two things at once is to do neither. -- Publilius Syrus