A federal court in Florida has slapped Robert Ward with a $51 million summary judgment for distributing software that aided in the theft of Dish Network signals.
In the process, it left no doubt that it believes the Communications Act prohibition on "any electronic, mechanical, or other device or equipment" that aids in the unauthorized decryption of a satellite programming" includes software.
According to Dish, the court held that posting software on the Internet that allows people to receive DISH signals for free violates the Communications Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and that damages could be calculated according to the number of people, who downloaded the software (rather than how many people actually used it to steal signals.
Divvying up that $51 million: Dish, co-owned equipment/services company EchoStar Technologies, and NagraStar, the EchoStar co-venture with Kudelski Group that supplies the conditional access security technology to protect satellite signals from theft.
The decision, rendered by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, took aim at piracy software marketed as "Thedssguy and Veracity" that allowed viewers to bypass NagraStar's conditional access security and receive premium as well as regular channels that meant lost potential revenue of over $70 per month per viewer that did not have to pay to get its programming.
The court said Dish had provided "significant independent admissible evidence of Ward's violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Communications Act."
The DMCA prohibits the dissemination of technology "designed
or produced for circumventing a measure that controls access to a copyrighted work," is marketed for that function, and has limited commercial use beyond that function. DISH argued for summary judgment, saying there was irrefutable evidence that that was exactly what Ward was doing. The court agreed.
The court said the DMCA was the relevant statute under which to award damages. It actually levied the minimum fine of $200 per act of circumvention (it could have dunned Ward up to $2,500 per). But with a documented 255,741 files provided, it added up quickly to $51,148,200, plus a permanent injunction.
Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
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