- The defendants allegedly created software and hardware designed to unscramble transmission signals sent by satellite TV operators, such as DirecTV and Dish Networks, said IDC with the computer crimes section of the U.S. Attorney General’s Office for the Central District of California.
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. The satellite TV industry and the Motion Picture Association of America lose millions of dollars from piracy, he noted.
Seventeen defendants were indicted in all, but only six were charged under the criminal antidecryption provisions of the 1998 DMCA. The 11 others were charged with breaking federal laws against conspiracy and manufacturing devices for the purpose of stealing satellite signals. The DMCA-related charges were unsealed Tuesday and marked only the second time a grand jury has issued indictments involving the act.
The first case involved the highly publicized arrest of Russian encryption expert Dmitry Sklyarov, and eventual charges against his company, ElcomSoft, which published software capable of cracking the antipiracy protection of e-books. Ultimately, a jury acquitted the company.
….Under section 1201 and 1204 of the DMCA, it’s generally considered unlawful to circumvent technology that limits access to copyrighted work, or to sell a device to perform such a task. Punishment for violating the statute is a maximum of 5 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
Critics of the DMCA argue that aggressive applications of the act go beyond bringing copyright laws into the digital age and instead quash free speech and stifle innovation. [CNET]
This sounds like plain-old theft of services, like making illegal cable “black boxes.”