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Satellite Hackers Charged Under DMCA 578

Posted by michael
from the grounded dept.
RexHavoc writes "'Invoking the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a federal grand jury has indicted six people on charges of developing software and hardware designed to hack into paid TV satellite transmissions.' My guess is that for those who haven't already plead guilty, they will have a tough time proving that they had good intentions, unlike Dmitry Sklyarov's e-books case."
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Satellite Hackers Charged Under DMCA

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  • Pretty Sad (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rolandbm (620159)
    Its pretty sad when you can be arrested for the giving out of information. By giving out info, I could go to prison. Guess I won't leave the house again.

    P.S. fp?
    • Re:Pretty Sad (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rmadmin (532701)
      Whats more scary is that you can be arrested just for having that information! Did these people actually hack a satelite/feed? What is this, fscking Minority Report?
      • Re:Pretty Sad (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rolandbm (620159)
        Since most of them did plead guilty, I'm assuming that they did actually hack the sat/feed. Of course with the DMCA rules, their lawyers could have just said, "If you are found guilty, you'll go to jail for the rest of your life!!!" (yes I'm exaggerating).

        But still, if I show you how to hack the dish and give you the hardware for it, what law have I broken? Ability does not imply intent. All people who have knifes, aren't cooks. Some are serial killers :)
        • Re:Pretty Sad (Score:3, Informative)

          by Sparr0 (451780)
          You have broken the DMCA. It makes it illegal to make or distribute methods or equipment for circumventing anything designed to control access to a copyrighted work, which is exactly what the satellite reciever box/system does.
        • Re:Pretty Sad (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 14, 2003 @01:26PM (#5303735)
          But still, if I show you how to hack the dish and give you the hardware for it, what law have I broken?

          The DMCA. Like it or not, it's the law.

          Ability does not imply intent. All people who have knifes, aren't cooks. Some are serial killers :)

          You may remember the extensive 'fair use' discussions that have gone on here and elsewhere around the 'net. The point of fair use says that it is reasonable to use copyrighted material for brief excerpts, private use, and so on.

          Let's pretend that we treat knives as a 'fair use' item. Knives can be used for substantial non-infringing/illegal uses, like chopping tomatoes, or opening boxes. When used in a manner that harms someone, they are arrested for murder, and the weapon is taken in as evidence.

          Okay, now we'll talk about a hacked satellite dish box. Such boxes do NOT have substantial non-infringing uses. Their only viable use is to steal copyrighted presentation of satellite service. Even without the DMCA, you are guilty of contributory copyright infringement...and the illegal box should be taken in as evidence.

          The DMCA causes problems when invoked where 'fair use' may be being used, such as in the Adobe E-Book case, where a piece of software that could be used to steal e-books could also be used to read a purchased book to a blind man, even if the e-book says 'no'.

          Although I object to the DMCA, whether the DMCA or standard copyright law is invoked to arrest these people is irrelevant. If they've done what's claimed, they're guilty of standard copyright infringement and should be punished. This court case will not determine anything about the future of the DMCA or its paradoxes. It just happened to be used here.

          Next time we get another Skylarov type case and it comes back not guilty, then there's more meat to go on.

          But to summarize, a knife analogy is not reasonable here. If you're hacking satellite boxes that can theoretically receive signals you didn't pay for, you're going to have to do a lot of convincing to make 12 jurors believe you did it because you were interested in how the box worked and wanted to (legally) reverse engineer it.

          If you disagree with that, then you're asking for a more broad right; that of engineers/geeks/technical people to do whatever they choose with technology for their own purposes. If a jury finds that whatever that technology is is primarily for an illegal act, you're going to get burned, no matter what you say.

          It's just a simplification, and a jury that comes to the conclusion that an illegal satellite box has never been used for anything but to steal television will deliver a guilty verdict more often than not.

          • Re:Pretty Sad (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Old Uncle Bill (574524) on Friday February 14, 2003 @02:03PM (#5304075) Journal
            What "satellite box" are you talking about? There is not "box" that gets hacked in this scenario. There is a card that can get hacked, but this is secondary. Let's take the example of an emulation setup for said devices. In this case, the datastream coming from the satellite provider can be logged on the emulation system without reverse engineering, "hacking", or modifying the conditional access system. One of the things the satellite provider may do is send signals down to your purchased system to alter the contents of its ROM, and change the functionality within your receiver. Any reverse engineering/hacking can be justified if it is to stop this alteration from occurring. To say that nothing legitimate can come from this hacking is obviously coming from someone that knows very little about how these systems work.

            Their only viable use is to steal copyrighted presentation of satellite service
            Not to be rude, but you don't know what the fuck you are talking about here. That statement is just as true as saying there is no legitimate use for DeCSS outside of making illegal copies of DVDs. The knife analogy stands here, you can reverse engineer anything you like, but as soon as you do something illegal (actually receive and watch these broadcasts, then yes, that should be prosecuted. Until that time, apparently you are guilty until proven innocent. Tell you what, go out to the net and order an ISO 7816 standard smart card programmer. I can almost guarantee you will receive a letter from DirecTV saying that you have done something illegal, and they expect you to pay them $3500 with no proof you have done anything and no due process. This will occur even if you have been using said programmer to code conditional access systems generally available (i.e. Sun's SunRay systems). Thank you for this broad generalization that justifies our current Gestapo regime. Because remember folks, those poor defenseless corporations need to be protected from us evil consumers out to get them.
      • I think your employer would press charges if you "gave out information" on the combination to the finance office's safe!
        • I think your employer would press charges if you "gave out information" on the combination to the finance office's safe!

          Doubtful. What would the charge be? Intent to commit theft?

          You could very well be fired, but that's not because of a criminal activity.

      • The way I see it they are selling information that only has illegal application. In which case I think they should be held accountable for any crime created with their information. Such as if I gave someone exact information on how to kill a specific person. If that person suddenly gets killed I am going to have a rough time pleading I only was supplying information. Don't download data on how to steal shit, and you won't get in trouble. How hard is that. Don't break laws and you don't go to jail.
      • by tuxlove (316502)
        Did these people actually hack a satelite/feed?

        How does one design a device for hacking a satellite feed without actually hacking the satellite feed?
    • Re:Pretty Sad (Score:2, Insightful)

      by 2names (531755)
      I wouldn't go all hermit just yet...

      Let's wait and see how the case turns out. Perhaps the judge will also recognize the idiocy in punishing people for giving out information.

      Writing the code, or giving out the code is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT than USING the code to break the law.

      • Re:Pretty Sad (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Planesdragon (210349)
        Writing the code, or giving out the code is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT than USING the code to break the law.

        You're right. That's why Congress passed the DMCA.

        Arrest one script kiddie, and you give some punk a free education.

        Arrest the black-hat hacker who makes the scripts for the kiddies, and you can actually do something.

    • Re:Pretty Sad (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PhxBlue (562201)

      "Giving out information" has always been able to get you in trouble, if said information is classified or was a trade secret. The only difference now is, giving out information can land you in jail if it costs another corporation a certain amount of money. . . but really, that's nothing new either.

    • by sterno (16320) on Friday February 14, 2003 @12:24PM (#5303068) Homepage
      If you give out some kinds of information that's treason. Other kinds of information may get you in civil court for violation of intellectual property agreements. Giving out false information can be fraud. This is not such a novel concept.

      Frankly this is the only application of the DMCA that I've seen to date that I think is reasonable. You've got people creating devices to decrypt copyrighted material that people could legitimately pay for and play in any manner they wanted to. I've got DirecTV, and I can certainly record the shows, and excerpt them for commentary, etc. There's no reason that you need to decrypt these signals, save for not having to pay for them.
      • You've got people creating devices to decrypt copyrighted material that people could legitimately pay for and play in any manner they wanted to.

        The delivery mechanism is flawed. They're beaming it right into my house.

        If they don't want me to listen, then stop beaming!

        There are more secure delivery methods, such as that used by cable.

      • What if I just want to decrypt them as an intellectual exercise?

        It is perfectly legal to own/build your own cable descrambler. The moment you turn on the signal to your house without the cable companies permission is when you violate the law. If the cable company turns on the signal to your house accidently, you do not have to pay for it. This applies to any device that runs into your home(ex. you no longer have to own a phone sold/leased by the phone company to use the telehone service).

        They are sending a signal through my home and body, certianly I have a right to determine what that signal is?

        There business method is flawed, we should not have to pay the price for there poor business model.
      • Frankly this is the only application of the DMCA that I've seen to date that I think is reasonable. You've got people creating devices to decrypt copyrighted material that people could legitimately pay for and play in any manner they wanted to.

        So by that logic, Jon Lech Johansen and Dmitri Sklyarov are criminals too, right?

        I don't think so. If all these guys did was create the tools, then they're no more criminal than Jon and Dmitri were. Now if they were using those tools for copyright infringement, that's another story (and that's what they should be prosecuted under).

        The problem with the DMCA is that there's already laws against copyright infringement. It's redundant and goes a step (or a mile as the case may be) beyond what is needed.

        -S

      • If you give out some kinds of information that's treason. Other kinds of information may get you in civil court for violation of intellectual property agreements. Giving out false information can be fraud. This is not such a novel concept.

        OK, fair enough. Let's look at the categories of info that are illegal to give out. First, information that is dangerous to national security (treason). No doubter there. Second, information that isn't true, as stated, can be fraudulent. Information you have been trusted with (insider trading, release of trade secrets, etc) can be illegal too. Also, information you steal (opening mail, Mitnick-ing).

        However, this is the first time I can think of that you can be busted for releasing information that is NOT dangerous to the country (Oh God! DirecTV has been h4X0r3d!!!), is NOT false, and NOT entrusted to the person releasing it - ie, he figured it out on his own. And really, this is NOT stealing, again in the sense he figured out on his own (he didn't hack them to steal the plans). Note that he doesn't actually have to take the SERVICE to get busted here - although that's a different argument, too.

        This is pretty scary to me.

        Can anyone think of a prior situation that fits these three scenarios?

    • by gosand (234100) on Friday February 14, 2003 @12:29PM (#5303129)
      The defendants allegedly sold or distributed free software and hardware to hundreds of thousands of people, giving them free access to paid subscription satellite TV services, Spertus said.

      Why don't you put that comment back where you pulled it from. Did you read the article?

      The defendants allegedly sold or distributed free software and hardware to hundreds of thousands of people, giving them free access to paid subscription satellite TV services, Spertus said.

      Sounds to me like they got busted doing something illegal. Fine, let them get nailed, and let the court use the DMCA. I think one of two things will happen:

      1. The DMCA will be validated, and all hell will break loose, people will be arrested for owning information.

      2. Someone gets busted under the DMCA for doing actual illegal activity such as this. Other invoctions of the DMCA, for things like the Skylarov case, will be a glaring example of why they aren't the same thing, and the DMCA will be ammended.

  • by poisoneleven (310634) <jaredaz&hotmail,com> on Friday February 14, 2003 @12:15PM (#5302979)
    Research used to be enough to justify doing that, and under the law, "Good Intentions" are not exempt under the current letter of the law.
  • by CrypticOutsider (615336) on Friday February 14, 2003 @12:15PM (#5302980)
    Blame it on the Dire Straits!
  • well.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tx_mgm (82188) <notquiteoriginal@@@gmail...com> on Friday February 14, 2003 @12:16PM (#5302988)
    looks like a legitimate case. the DMCA does enforce some issues that do need to be enforced. I agree that these people were in the wrong...but on the whole I still think the DMCA needs some serious re-writing.
    • DirecTV won't sell me their service because of where I live. It is impossible for me to pay DirecTV. It doesn't cost them one thin dime if I steal their service, as they *will not allow me* to give them money. So why shouldn't I decrypt the information? Why should people go to jail if they help me decrypt the information?
      • Re:well.... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by tx_mgm (82188)
        DirecTV won't sell me their service because of where I live.....as they *will not allow me* to give them money. So why shouldn't I decrypt the information?

        maybe that could be a good argument if it were true...if you are on the internet, then id say your chances of being out of range of any kind of cable provider are slim to none.
        plus, them not wanting to sell you service is their right and does NOT entitle you to steal their service, regardless of how little money the lose from your actions (and, yes...stealing satellite cable does still cost them resources)! For example, if i had the money, i would want to buy myself a harrier jet...but guess what, I WONT GET ONE! why not? because the military wont sell it to me! so does that give me the right to break into a military compound and STEAL one? i think not!
        • of course, you could always just sue Pepsi [courttv.com] if you want a Harrier.
        • (and, yes...stealing satellite cable does still cost them resources)
          1. What is "satellite cable", and
          2. how does reveiving a satellite signal cost them money?
          Note that I don't entirely disagree with your general opinion that signal hacking is illegal, but neither do I agree with your reasoning.
        • Slim? (Score:5, Informative)

          by tommck (69750) on Friday February 14, 2003 @01:06PM (#5303520) Homepage
          if you are on the internet, then id say your chances of being out of range of any kind of cable provider are slim to none.

          I have internet access (dialup from home). Some people only have it at work. I do not have cable access. I must use Satellite TV to get anything. I don't understand why you think that Internet access and cable access always go together. Everyone with a phone can have internet access....

          T

      • Re:well.... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by osgeek (239988) on Friday February 14, 2003 @12:52PM (#5303370) Homepage Journal
        DirecTV won't sell me their service because of where I live.

        Then move.

        So why shouldn't I decrypt the information?

        Whether or not it costs them money is only part of the problem. The bottom line is that it's their content, and they get to decide who gets it and for how much.

        Why should people go to jail if they help me decrypt the information?

        Because it's not their content either. While they're breaking the law, you can't seriously think that they're going to make sure that only people who *can't* buy DirecTV are going to gain access to their circumvention hardware/software. It's not their content, not their responsibility, and not for them to decide.

        Another argument is that if you don't get the content through satellite, and it's important to you, then you'll rent/buy DVDs. Thus, content producers will be compensated for their efforts in one way or another.

        I know it's convenient. I know it's fun. I know it's cheap. I know that it's nice to have. I know that there are rationalizations for having it.

        It's still stealing.
        • Then move.

          Yeah, the United States seems strangely unenthusiastic about people from other countries just moving in, for some reason.

          It's still stealing.

          Oh, I never said it wasn't. I just don't feel bad about it.

        • Re:well.... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by mark_lybarger (199098) on Friday February 14, 2003 @01:31PM (#5303799)
          The bottom line is that it's their content, and they get to decide who gets it and for how much.

          it stops being their content the moment it reaches my property.

          DirectTV has a flawed business model and wants to use laws to keep it going. They have a serious technological problem that they need to correct somehow, not punish people for taking advantage of their failed delivery mechanism.

          just because it might seem wrong doesn't make it stealing. they're giving the signal to lots of people with the hope that you'll buy their dish and pay them monthly. i'm sorry, but that signal becomes mine the instant it enters my property. by the same logic, if you drive your car into my driveway, does it become mine? no, but i can tell you to get the fsck outta my driveway and have it towed away if i want to. how's about these folks just get their signal off my land if it's theirs.
          • Re:well.... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by osgeek (239988) on Friday February 14, 2003 @01:48PM (#5303946) Homepage Journal
            DirectTV has a flawed business model and wants to use laws to keep it going.

            What're you talking about? It's a great business model that uses EM radiation to deliver content to millions of people who appreciate having that option. Why should we ditch the wonderful benefits of satellite dish reception of various types of signals because a few people feel they have the misguided right to everything in the universe that's within their reach.

            They have a serious technological problem that they need to correct somehow, not punish people for taking advantage of their failed delivery mechanism.

            Bah. Homeowners wouldn't even have any clue of that satellite signal, if they were obsessing over the whole "It passes through my house!" nonsense. Calling it a "failed delivery mechanism" is unreasonable. Homeowners decrypting the signal aren't just stumbling across something in their living room, they're actively employing sophisticated technological devices to take something that isn't theirs.

            DirecTV makes a reasonable effort to scramble their signal, and they shouldn't have to constantly expend development and legal force to prevent weasels from trying to steal their content.
  • IMHO (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Raul654 (453029) on Friday February 14, 2003 @12:17PM (#5302992) Homepage
    In a criminal court, intent comes into play as the difference between, say, murder and manslaughter. I think it's a fundementally more dangerous problem when your intent (which, obviously, is can be damn hard to prove either way) is the difference between comitting a crime and not committing a crime. That's the danger of the DMCA.
    • ok... and what exactly is the non-criminal intent of descrambling a satellite signal? I can think of only one... pure intellectual curiosity. That brings an interesting question... if I am a full subscriber (neglect PPV for this thought experiment) to Dish or DirecTV and I hack the signal, say... because my receiver is broken... have I violated the DMCS. I would guess legally I have, but this particular case might be challagable in court. Just a thought...
      • ok... and what exactly is the non-criminal intent of descrambling a satellite signal?

        They didn't descramble a signal. They made a tool that does, just like gun manufacturers make guns. Gun makers don't know the intent of the user, which may well be illegal, but they are (rightly) allowed to manufacture the tool anyway.
  • Well... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Quaoar (614366)
    That's when you just gotta position the satellite over their house, charge up the capacitors, and slowly focus a laser beam on their forehead before discharging!

    ...Sorry, been watching too much Akira.
  • for a change.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jeffy124 (453342)
    ...it looks as though we have a case for which the DMCA was originially intended.

    Question though - If the DMCA didnt exist - could they be charged/tried similar to those who install/use illegal cable hookups?
    • The article is a bit light on what they actually managed to do, but the answer to your quesiton is (IANAL) a resounding maybe. It depends on what their intent was. If they were doing it for research and or for the hell of doing it, probably not. If they were doing it so they could get all the free HBO they wanted (IE, as a way of getting around paying for it), then probably yes.
      • acutually I would say no to both. The satalit company is sending them something they did not order. The took what the satalite company sent them and decrypted it, that the satalite companies flaw in there business model.
        The moment that tried to redistribute the copyright material, then they have done something wrong.

        What if In played loud music in the street, then charged you for listening to to it, would you be obligated to pay? of course not.
    • by SquadBoy (167263)
      No without the DMCA they can only be tried if they have commited the crime. In this case it appears that they only wrote the software and it is unclear if they used it or not. So basically the DMCA makes possession of the tools illegal but under the "old" laws you have to use the tools to be in violation. This is why the DMCA is evil. But yes if the DMCA did not exist everyone who stole using the tools could be charged.
    • They were distributing designs for equipment that enabled decrypting the digital stream. The equivalent in the analog world is various designs for circuits that descramble premium analog signals. Such designs (and circuit boards and complete black boxes) are generally sold "for educational purposes only." Using them to steal premium content is illegal, but distributing the design is not. Some of the designs are in fact good educational examples of the use of PLLs.

      The DMCA makes it illegal to distribute the design of such a device for digital content. That's one of the things that's so scary about the DMCA -- if someone is using a particular encryption scheme for protecting digital content, then designing an attack on the scheme, or perhaps even discussing algorithms for an attack on the scheme, is illegal.

  • Other places (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bendebecker (633126) on Friday February 14, 2003 @12:23PM (#5303063) Journal
    A similiar article appeared here [theregister.co.uk] yesterday.
  • Urrm... (Score:5, Funny)

    by labratuk (204918) on Friday February 14, 2003 @12:23PM (#5303065)
    Digital Millenium Copyright Act.

    Satellite TV transmissions are analogue, aren't they?
    • It's a digital signal over an analog tranmission medium. The Svideo cable that goes from your DVD player to your TV is the samme thing -- it carries signals in the form of voltage (analog) but those signals are quantized -- nothing but 1's (5v, methinks) or 0's (0V, probably).
      • Re:Not quite (Score:2, Interesting)

        by RadioTV (173312)
        You re correct about the satellite being digital over analog. My guess is that they use some type of encoding scheme (rather than straight on-off) to increase throughput.

        As for S-video - it is not a digital signal. S-video is basically composit video with luma (black and white picture intensity) on one line and chroma (color information) on another. You can convert S-video to composit by connection those two lines back together (as long as you don't need high quality or long cable length). Recently there were several equipment manufactures that announced FireWire as the first full digital connection method for digital TV.
      • SVideo is an analog signal with analog data. The only real difference between an SVideo signal and a composite signal is that the SVideo signal has the Chroma and Luma separate from each other.

        Since all TVs in use right now take analog in (most *only* take analog in) DVD players do a digital to analog conversion internally. This is the heart of the "analog hole" that the MPAA and RIAA want Congress to legislate out of existence.
    • by Pii (1955)
      DBS - Digital Broadcast Satellite

      Both DirecTV and Dish Network transmit digital signals.

    • What were you saying? I was watching channel 595.
  • by nanojath (265940) on Friday February 14, 2003 @12:24PM (#5303074) Homepage Journal
    Let's just get it all over with at once.


    Passionate exhortation that information shouldn't be illegal!


    Wishful thinking hope that case may lead to overturning of DMCA at higher court level!


    Trollish assertion that pirates and thieves get the punishment they deserve!


    Copyright violation does not equal theft!


    Reference founding fathers' views on intellectual property!


    Kumbayah, fellow 'dotters, kumbayah.

  • by Yohahn (8680) on Friday February 14, 2003 @12:25PM (#5303086) Homepage
    What ever happened to the days that people were upset that you couldn't receive a signal that was passing THROUGH YOUR BODY.

    If you can decode it, and it passes THROUGH THE AIR, it shuoldn't matter what it is.

    But people have forgotten all about that.
    • Nobody ever said you can't receive or even demodulate the satelite's signal. There is no law that says you can't receive their encrypted data stream and write it all out to a harddisk. What's illegal is DECRYPTING that data stream. Or more specifically in this case it was the act of creating and selling hardware and software to decrypt that stream.

      I don't apologize for the satelite TV providers or the FCC which (fails to) regulate them. I have to watch commercials AND pay for it? No way. That's why I don't have a satelite dish. I would gladly pay if it didn't have commercials and I would gladly watch if it were free. If more people felt this way and weren't mindless sheep the world would be a much better place.
    • by Technician (215283) on Friday February 14, 2003 @02:27PM (#5304322)
      Actualy, You are thinking of the Federal Communications Act of 1936. It basicly said that you were free to receive anything. It was only in regard to receiving a signal. It said nothing regarding decrypting it.
      Things have change when Cell Phones appeared. There was a desire to make a cell call as secure as a landline call. The calls were analog. At the same time they thought voice pagers should be protected as well. Some blocks of frequencies became protected. A receiver that could tune to it is now considered a wiertap deveice. Having scanner that covers cell phone frequencies is the same as clipping on to your neighbors phone line to listen in. Posession of the device is illegal.
      This sad news is all spelled out in the Telecommunications Act of 1996. It's why a nifty scanner bought from Radio Shack does not cover continous from 25 Mhz to 1300 Mhz. There are a few spots in the 800 Mhz band that get skipped. I wonder if anybody listing scanner mods are soon to be targets.
      Now protecting decrypting something used as a copyright protection device regardless of whether it is sent over the air, on disk, CD, internet, etc. is covered by the DMCA. Yes there many more things that are now not legal than there used to be.
  • by EllisDees (268037)
    Where can I download this software? :)
  • by numbski (515011) <numbski@@@hksilver...net> on Friday February 14, 2003 @12:26PM (#5303099) Homepage Journal
    1. Should it be illegal to tell someone how to do something?

    NO

    2. Should it be illegal to actually do said 'thing'.

    Yes, so long as said thing violates what the citizens want to be wrong.

    In the end, I don't want to be breaking the law by simply knowing something, and sharing that knowledge. That's the thing the DMCA does that scares me.
  • Different Opinions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Oculus Habent (562837) <oculus.habent@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Friday February 14, 2003 @12:28PM (#5303117) Journal
    While I don't think it's a terrible thing to create software and hardware to illegally use satellite TV, I do think that it should be against the law to actually use them.

    It's a good thing that we don't have a DMCA-style piece of legislation for weapons, or any person who has PVC pipes, potatos and hairspray in their house could be brought up on charges.

    If we assume people are criminals because they have the tools to commit a crime, everyone with hands should be locked up to provent potential fist-fights. Every person over 21 should be held for potential public drunkeness. Every eighteen-year-old in the US should be arrested for the possibilty of providing cigarettes to minors. And every car owner should be thrown in jail for possible vehicular manslaughter.

    Not that I'm approving of breaking the law. But the DMCA is the same mentality as suing McDonald's for dropping coffee in your lap. It's saying that you aren't capable of not doing these things without intervention; hat anyone would drop coffee in their lap if there was no label; that anyone would steal satellite services if they knew how; that anyone with a gun will surely commit murder.

    If we have become so weak as a people to no longer be able to stop ourselves from any activities, then we need more legislation than the DMCA. But, as long as we are capable of rational thought, we should be held accountable for our actions, not our thoughts.
    • But the DMCA is the same mentality as suing McDonald's for dropping coffee in your lap.

      You had me until that one. I'm all for suing McDonalds because they serve 190+ degree coffee that melts the plastic lid and explodes all over your lap, causing third degree burns on your thighs and genitals. Especially when they had already settled this exact same situation over 700 times for about $20,000 each.

      The DMCA is a bit different, to say the least. It's more like declaring it a felony to install aftermarket parts on your car.

    • by Telastyn (206146) on Friday February 14, 2003 @12:46PM (#5303299)
      But where's the crime?

      DirectTV broadcast their signals to everyone. Who are they to demand how their signal is used?

      To criminalize the act of decrypting satellite TV is the same as criminalizing the act of translating spanish radio into english. The radio station cannot demand that only people that understand spanish listen to it. It's just taking information that's being broadcast to everyone and translating it into a different form.

  • by xchino (591175) on Friday February 14, 2003 @12:28PM (#5303120)
    Whether or not the intentions of the authors were good or not makes no difference. It should ALWAYS be up to the end user to exercise good judgment in usage of information. In Kenpo, I was taught how to break bones and even kill people. I have yet to break anyone's bones, other than my own, nor have I killed anyone. Should I be punished for knowing these things? Should my teacher be punished for teaching me? No. If I chose to use my knowledge unfairly, should my teacher be punished for my irresponsibility?

    The DMCA is the modern day non-racial equivalent of the Jim Crow laws. If you can keep "them" uneducated you can keep "them" under control.
    • MOD PARENT UP! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by numbski (515011)
      This is precisely the point that needs to get across.

      Screw their intent. I don't care WHAT they intended to do. If they hacked their satellite system and broke the law, fine.

      If they simply DESCRIBE how to do so, that should not be illegal. Period.
  • What!? (Score:5, Funny)

    by 91degrees (207121) on Friday February 14, 2003 @12:29PM (#5303128) Journal
    So, they send the information to my home, without my permission. It bounces around my dish, causing interference, and then they have the audacity to say that I'm not allowed to apply mathematical operations on this noise!?

    If they don't want me to pirate their signal, why did they send it to me?
    • Re:What!? (Score:2, Interesting)

      About 20 years ago, it was in fact legal to do anything you want with radio waves that passed near you. There was absolutely no ban on radio receivers, or any restrictions on monitoring any frequency. (There were laws against using what you heard--for example police comminications--to commit a crime.)

      Then they passed the Electronic Communications Privacy Act that, for the first time (except during a few years during WW II) made it illegal for Americans to even tune radio receivers to certain frequencies. Manufacturers who made radio scanners, for example, were forced to block out the frequencies used by cell phones.

      Back in those days, cell phones were analog and it was very easy to listen in. Now that they're all digital, do you think the government lifted the "frequency block" on radio receivers? Of course not!

  • by hibiki_r (649814) on Friday February 14, 2003 @12:30PM (#5303139)
    From the article:
    Linh Ly, 38, of Rosemead, Calif., agreed to plead guilty to violating the DMCA and distributing hardware that ultimately resulted in a loss of slightly more than $560,000 to DirecTV and Dish Network

    Over half a million dollars? That's outrageous!. I suppose that DirectTV is just assuming that anybdy that bought modded equipment was going to buy every single channel and every single pay-per-view event/movie they ever offered. I'm sure that phone companies will start calculating damages from cellphne fraud by assuming that every hacked account was calling to a sex-line in Sudan 24/7. Or even better, that the account was calling to every single phone number in the world, at once 24/7.

    Now that I think about it, that would be really amusing.

    • How about damages relating to recoding the system so the algorithms that the defendants released don't work anymore.

      That's going to come pretty damn close to half a million.

      But, then again, this could be like the stats of drug busts. "They were producing $1,000,000 of marijuana a day"... Yeah, right, if they went out and sold it all a gram at a time.
    • Funny, but isn't DirecTV obligated under some sort of Security Comission regulations to report all losses to their share-holders?

      I'm pretty sure that DirecTV has not reported this loss. I suppose this could lead to 1 of 2 things. Either the losses must be re-evaluated, or DirecTV executives are in breach of trust and should now all go to jail!

  • Excuse me, (Score:5, Funny)

    by genka (148122) on Friday February 14, 2003 @12:31PM (#5303155) Homepage Journal

    If sat providers don't want me to mess with their signal, they shouls cease to radiate it on my house in backyard!
    This is not like I am tapping into their cable.
    • Re:Excuse me, (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AgentTim3 (447311) on Friday February 14, 2003 @01:25PM (#5303727) Journal
      I don't understand why this is modded as funny. It's the truth.

      The issue of "stealing" satellite TV is fundamentally different from that of cable TV. With cable, you can't get it in your house unless you sign a contract with a company to install it. Said contract stipulates that you won't decrypt it, so if you do so you're in breach of contract and you're wrong. Fine.

      Satellite signals are broadcast into the house I own and the airspace above my property that I own, without my consent. This isn't a joke people, if I set up equipment to turn those transmissions into usable TV signals, I've done nothing wrong. If I put up a website telling people about my accomplishments, I'm now liable for 5 years imprisonment and a $500K fine? That's the same punishment as criminally negligent manslaughter.

      I find it sad that so many posters on here seem to agree that this is illegal and side with the giant money-grubbing corporation. The war is already lost.

  • Book 'em (Score:5, Funny)

    by LongJohnStewartMill (645597) on Friday February 14, 2003 @12:31PM (#5303158)
    they will have a tough time proving that they had good intentions

    Imagine prison life for them. Once word gets out that they gave millions of viewers free Lifetime, they're goners.
  • by kahei (466208) on Friday February 14, 2003 @12:34PM (#5303182) Homepage

    Having tried a few times to establish the full power of the DMCA by prosecuting people almost at random, they have now realised that they will have to start with a few obvious wrongdoers in order to establish credibility and precedent.

    I expect after a few of these they'll try another Sklyarov type case and win.

  • by JAZ (13084) on Friday February 14, 2003 @12:48PM (#5303323)
    Why is it legal for me to have a cable tv descrambler and watch a cable off of a wire (which the cable company can claim ownership of) but not for me to decrypt a satalite signal from the airwaves which the statalite company cannot legimately claim ownership of?

    Under current law, it seems that if someone throws a brick through my window and I pick it up, I am guilty of stealing a brick.
    • Gimme my brick back! I thought you had it you dirty thief! And while I'm here the paperboy wants his $2!
      • Absolutely! Howvever, I regret to inform you that the brick was chipped as it passed thru my window.

        Since I had access to the brick, I was able to patch it, but I will only release the patched brick under the GPL. Fortunately, the brick no longer crashes windows.

        If I return your brick and you use it, that building will clearly be a derivative work. If you lock that derivative building, I'll be forced to file suit against you for DMCA and GPL violations.
  • by Derek (1525) on Friday February 14, 2003 @12:51PM (#5303357) Journal
    My guess is that for those who haven't already plead guilty, they will have a tough time proving that they had good intentions...
    I guess that statement depends on your definition of "good intentions". From my point of view, when someone uses their intellect to figure how to get access to satellite signals that are broadcast into their own back yard, that sounds like a good intention to me.

    When someone shares knowlegde that they have legitimately aquired, that also sounds like a good intention to me.

    When someone sells hardware built from knowledge they have legitimately aquired, that sounds like a good intention to me. (Or at least good entrepreneurship.)

    Frankly, there a lot of people that could stand to use a little more time learning how to build TV's and a little less time watching them. How about we start chasing after violent criminals again or spend some resource to solve problems in our schools? My two cents worth anyway...

    -Derek

  • by DCowern (182668) on Friday February 14, 2003 @12:53PM (#5303374) Homepage
    An ELEVEN (yes, 11) year old boy was charged with a felony "hacking" charge today for accessing his teacher's computer during lunch and changing grades on a couple of his assignments. Theres's an article [cnn.com] over at CNN. May as well get 'em while they're young...
    • That is just fucked. What, he went into Excel and changed his grade? Did the teacher have a password on the file?

      Overreaction and FUD. Hacking? Sheeeeeit.

      I guess it could be argued that figuring out how to get your Winmodem to work could be construed as a violation of the DMCA, since it is obvious the thing was never meant to be tampered with in the first place.

  • How I see it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mao che minh (611166) on Friday February 14, 2003 @12:56PM (#5303408) Journal
    I forge myself a sword (a device whom's main purpose is to disable or kill a person or animal). I feel ill will towards a particular person in my community. If a lawyer or a bill can show that I may harbor the intent to kill this person, is that substantial enough to prosecute me for attempted, premeditated murder?

    It is highly likely that these people were in fact developing these devices/software/whatever with the sole purpose of hacking the satelite networks, when considering how specific and tailored the devices must be. They didn't actually go through the act of committing the crime however. In this country, I always assumed that one had lack the benefit of a doubt in order to be prosecuted. There sure is a lot of doubt here.

    Let's take another example: At 3 AM one evening a police officer sees three guys sitting in front a bank, all wearing black masks, 2 with rope and one with a pick axe. Should the police officer be allowed to arrest these guys, just because it appears as though they are planning on robbing the bank? I guess that's the question really, should we be allowed to arrest people just because they might be a threat.......hey wait, this is starting to sound famailar........

    • Re:How I see it (Score:4, Insightful)

      by fishbowl (7759) on Friday February 14, 2003 @05:03PM (#5305719)
      "Should the police officer be allowed to arrest these guys, just because it appears as though they are planning on robbing the bank?"

      He is allowed to ask them to please stay put because he has some questions. They are allowed to walk away, not answer questions, or wait. Since it appears to a reasonable person that these people might be planning a specific crime, the officer is allowed to insist that they stay put, or, to invite them to his office. Or he can arrest them. At the instant that they are not free to leave, they are also entitled to the rights of the accused. In particular, it becomes the governments' responsibility to prove there was a conspiracy to rob a bank.

      When it turns out that they were waiting for a bus to go on a rock climbing trip, they aren't entitled to a refund on their tickets. (I personally feel the government should be required to compensate those who it accuses but turn out to be innocent. I take this to the extreme that, I believe a single case of an execution where the prisoner is later proven innocent, should be serious enough to bankrupt a State in compensation to the victim's family. Every day you're in prison under a false accusation should be worth a few thousand bucks. Governments should face really harsh consequences for fuckups like that -- consequences serious enough that they stand to lose their power to govern.)
  • by essell (446524) on Friday February 14, 2003 @12:56PM (#5303410)
    For *some time now*, DirecTV has been actively pursuing the legal bullying of end users who have done nothing more than purchase *any* smartcard related equipment, regardless of actual use of proof of illegal use.

    DirecTV has been engaged in a sort of legalized extortion scheme against people who have purchased smartcard equipment from raided dealers in the USA, undoubtably as part of a plea bargain with such dealers. Yes, these dealers marketed their products towards DSS, but standard ISO smartcard equipment? Come on. The interesting thing about buying products from these dealers was that smartcard programmers, emulators, etc from them was MUCH cheaper than buying from a non-DSS oriented business. To put things in perspective, the average asking price to settle out-of-court with DirecTV is to the tune of $3,000 to $4,000.. again, for the mere purchase/possesion of smartcard equipment.

    If you are interested in these cases as well as other satellite related legal issues, please visit http://www.legal-rights.org [legal-rights.org]. There is a wealth of information here.

  • Why this case? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    You've got to hand it to the government-- It looks as though they *finally* found a "legit" DMCA case they can prosecute to use to demonstrate the constitutionality and legitimacy of the law and establish precident for cases to follow. Had they pursued several earlier cases that we're all familiar with, the law would could have been weakened or even shot down.

    People who support this "good" example of the DMCA (one comment here says it's finally being used the way it was intended) may be missing the legal ramifications-- this strawman case can make all-too-common abuses harder to fight.

    Oh yes. I am not a lawyer.
  • Heh, these guys make the dude at fscktv [fortyoz.org] look like a script kiddie...
  • DTV (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blackmonday (607916) on Friday February 14, 2003 @01:00PM (#5303453) Homepage
    My friend got busted for this, because he bought a smart card programmer online. DTV sued the company (Whiteviper) and became owner of all their assets. They then tried to extort money from all the people who had purchased the smart card programmer. Thing is, there are legit reasons to own it. Blank smart cards not compatible with DTV for example. And, my friend never used the programmer to steal satellite. In the end he ignored their extortion efforts and they seem to have let it go. What has happened to fair use? I think that politicians and their campaign funds have as much to do with this than the pirates.

    Get punk rock!
    Black Monday [blackmonday.info]
  • by b.foster (543648) on Friday February 14, 2003 @01:14PM (#5303619)
    can be found here [dsschat.com].

    Note that these were not small time players. This guy had $133,000 in DSS related monies flying through his Paypal account. (Also note that Paypal sent the FBI a transaction log, same day service, with no warrant. A sobering reminder that eBay/Paypal does not care about your privacy.)

  • Arr (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stinky wizzleteats (552063) on Friday February 14, 2003 @03:20PM (#5304818) Homepage Journal

    The satellite TV industry and the Motion Picture Association of America lose millions of dollars from piracy, he noted.

    Thank God they stopped these scoundrels. Who can say how many children went hungry because these miscreants gathered radio waves instead of letting them hit the ground.

Building translators is good clean fun. -- T. Cheatham

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