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EFFector - Volume 17, Issue 22 - DirecTV to Narrow Anti-Piracy Campaign


EFFector - Volume 17, Issue 22 - DirecTV to Narrow Anti-Piracy Campaign

EFFector       Vol. 17, No. 22       June 16, 2004

A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation     ISSN 1062-9424

In the 294th Issue of EFFector:

DirecTV to Narrow Anti-Piracy Campaign

Satellite TV Giant Will No Longer Prosecute Users for Mere Possession

San Francisco and Palo Alto, CA - After discussions with EFF and Stanford's Center for Internet and Society (CIS) Cyberlaw Clinic, satellite television giant DirecTV has agreed to modify its nationwide campaign against signal piracy in order to reduce threats and lawsuits against innocent users of smart card technology. Chief among these changes is a promise to no longer sue or threaten to sue people merely for possessing smart card devices.

"American innovators and hobbyists shouldn't have to fear legal action merely for possessing new technologies that have many legitimate uses," said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. "We're also pleased that DirecTV has agreed to stop targeting general purpose devices in its campaign and will investigate all substantive claims of innocence."

Over the past few years, DirecTV has orchestrated a nationwide legal campaign against hundreds of thousands of individuals, claiming that they were illegally intercepting its satellite TV signal. The company began its crusade by raiding smart card device distributors to obtain their customer lists, then sent over 170,000 demand letters to customers and eventually filed more than 24,000 federal lawsuits against them. Because DirecTV made little effort to distinguish legal uses of smart card technology from illegal ones, EFF and the CIS Cyberlaw Clinic received hundreds of calls and emails from panicked device purchasers.

In August 2003, EFF and CIS created the DirecTV Defense website to provide innocent users and their lawyers with the information necessary to defend themselves. The organizations also began a series of discussions with DirecTV about ways to reform its anti-piracy tactics and protect innocent consumers.

As a result, DirecTV has agreed to make several changes to its campaign. The company will no longer pursue people solely for purchasing smart card readers, writers, general-purpose programmers, and general-purpose emulators. It will maintain this policy into the forseeable future and file lawsuits only against people it suspects of actually pirating its satellite signal. DirecTV will, however, continue to investigate purchasers of devices that are often primarily designed for satellite signal interception, nicknamed "bootloaders" and "unloopers."

DirecTV also agreed to change its pre-lawsuit demand letters to explain in detail how innocent recipients can get DirecTV to drop their cases. The company also promised that it will investigate every substantive claim of innocence it receives. If purchasers provide sufficient evidence demonstrating that they did not use their devices for signal theft, DirecTV will dismiss their cases. EFF and CIS will monitor reports of this process to confirm that innocent device purchasers are having their cases dismissed.

"While EFF still disagrees with DirecTV over other aspects of its campaign, we're pleased that we could find mutual ground on these issues," said CIS Executive Director Jennifer Granick, who represented EFF in the negotiations. "We hope to continue working with DirecTV to resolve the remaining disputes so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of smart card technology."

Smart card readers and their various derivatives have many legitimate uses, including computer security and scientific research.

For this press release:

DirecTV Defense website:

Court Rules DirecTV Must Prove More than Possession

In related news, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday ruled in DirecTV v. Mike Treworgy, finding that DirecTV cannot sue Treworgy for mere possession of technology that is capable of intercepting DirecTV's satellite signal.

"We're glad to see the court apply common sense to this issue," said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. "Merely possessing a device doesn't harm anyone and shouldn't give a company like DirecTV the right to drag you into court without proof that you're actually stealing something from them."

EFF filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the appeal. Defendant Treworgy was represented by Florida attorney Albert Zakarian.

For this breaking news item:

For the ruling:

EFF's amicus brief in the case:


miniLinks features noteworthy news items from around the Internet.

Roasting the WIPO Broadcasting Treaty
The Guardian looks at WIPO's proposed broadcasting treaty, arguing that it reads like a "wish-list of everything a failing industry could want to protect it from the future." Spot-on:,6903,1237374,00.html
Notes from the WIPO meeting:

Considering Canadian Copyright Reform
Michael Geist with a thoughtful piece on the direction of Canadian copyright reform:
(Toronto Star)

More on RIAA and Digital Radio
The music industry is lobbying the FCC for a broadcast flag-like mandate for digital radio. This is a very bad idea, and we're filing comments in the FCC docket to explain why:,1412,63819,00.html

Libraries Refuse Cash-for-Censorship Program
Libraries that accept certain types of federal funds are unfortunately obligated to install filtering software on Net-connected PCs. Now, however, some are refusing this funding because the software too often blocks innocuous, educational sites and is a hassle to maintain:

PATRIOT Progeny Gains Ground on Capitol Hill
The Anti-Terrorism Intelligence Tools Improvement Act of 2003, a.k.a. PATRIOT II, would strengthen many of PATRIOT's most controversial provisions:,1848,63800,00.html

Ohio Certifies E-Voting Machine that Produces Paper Ballots
AccuPoll's touchscreen voting machine produces a voter-verifiable paper ballot and is now available for purchase in Ohio:

High Schools Learn About P2P Blocking
Network-monitoring companies like Audible Magic are now peddling their wares in high schools:

Combine Ballots and Crypto, Mix Well
Inventor David Chaum recently demonstrated an e-voting audit technology that's potentially more reliable than anything that exists today - and it doesn't use paper:

Microsoft To-Do: Obtain Many Patents, Enforce Them
The software giant has embarked on a campaign to obtain and exploit a large number of patents - including one that covers the "novel" concept of a to-do list for coders:

Harry Potter's Alternate Universe
The whole world may be swooning over the third Harry Potter movie, but a few of us are also getting a kick out of Brad Neely's quirky, unauthorized remix of the first film's soundtrack:

IFPI Claims Drop in Number of Songs Available on P2P
The RIAA's international arm claims that the number of songs available on P2P networks dropped 27% this year. IFPI's methodology is unclear, but this should be a huge boon to CD sales...right?

We Spoke Too Soon
This piece argues that CD sales in the U.K. have continued to drop despite an increase in authorized downloads. Once again, the connection between P2P and the music industry's health seems a bit more complicated than the "pirate"-hunters would have us believe:

Breaking Down Government Data Mining
The government is digging through enormous databases - both private and public - for a range of different purposes. This article talks about the number and nature of these projects, and why we should be concerned:

Staff Calendar

For a complete listing of EFF speaking engagements (with locations and times), please visit the full calendar.

    June 24 -

  • Wendy Seltzer speaks at Supernova 2004 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. "IP vs. IP: Intellectual Property Meets the Internet Protocol" Santa Clara, CA


EFFector is published by:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation
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Donna Wentworth, Web Writer/Activist

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