Court Tells Echostar It Doesn't Get Access To Customer Lists Of Satellite Receiver Company

from the chalk-one-up-for-privacy dept

Recently, we wrote about how satellite TV provider Echostar had been sending out subpoenas demanding customer lists from resellers who had sold satellite receivers made by a company named Freetech. Freetech's satellite receivers can be used to receive perfectly legal over-the-air satellite TV signals. Echostar's complaint was that many also used Freetech's receivers to pirate its own DishTV offering. However, that doesn't give Echostar the right to then demand the contact info on everyone who ever bought a Freetech receiver, as many could be using them for perfectly legal purposes. And, historically, with DirecTV, we've seen a similar situation where the DirecTV forced plenty of totally innocent smart card device buyers to pay up by threatening them with lawsuits over pirated satellite TV.

Luckily, it looks like the EFF helped convince the judge that Echostar was out of line, and the judge has said that the buyers' privacy trumps Echostar's right to the info. As the EFF notes, this is a big ruling, in that it's "the first time a federal court has explicitly rejected a third-party subpoena on the basis of the privacy interests of nonparty consumers." Chalk one up for the right to privacy.
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Filed Under: eff, piracy, privacy, satellite tv, subpoenas
Companies: directv, echostar, freetech

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  1. identicon
    Neosat Pro, 1 Oct 2008 @ 11:03am

    Once you broadcast an UNENCODED signal, it's free game for anyone to receive. Unencoding an encoded signal is usually some sort of theft of services (unless you're specifically authorized to receive it, such as Dish Network subscribers) if you're caught doing it. Of course, catching someone unencoding a satellite signal in the privacy of their own home with their own FTA equipment is pretty much impossible to do, which is why the buggers at echostar are going after the customer lists. Unfortunately, they've no right to those lists, as there are literally thousands of channels freely and legally available unencoded via FTA equipment. Rather than upgrade their encoding security (as DirecTV did), they just want to sue everyone in sight, whether they have a legal foot to stand on or not.

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