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Denver Business Journal: Dish Network wins $51M judgment against alleged satellite-TV pirate

By Greg Avery, Jan. 11, 2010

Colorado’s Dish Network Corp. and its sister companies have won a $51 million court judgment against a man they accused of being a satellite TV pirate who helped people steal the companies’ transmissions.

A federal court in Florida issued the ruling Monday in a case against Robert Ward. The case arose out of a civil suit filed against Ward by Douglas County-based satellite broadcaster Dish Network, EchoStar Technologies and NagraStar. EchoStar and NagraStar produce set-top box and encryption gear designed to make Dish Network’s signals viewable only by paying subscribers.

The court found Ward violated the Federal Communications Act by posting signal-piracy software to the Internet that unlocked Dish Network programming for viewing on unauthorized receivers. The court calculated damages based on how many people downloaded the software, Dish said in a news release.

“This is a significant victory in our effort to eradicate piracy of the Dish Network system. We thank the court for its well-reasoned analysis,” said Pascal Lenoir, CEO of NagraStar, in the release.

Dish Network has 14 million subscribers and ranks as the country’s second-largest satellite broadcaster. It has fought over the past two years to stop a new generation of satellite TV signal piracy that uses modified legal “free-to-air” satellite TV receivers to watch Dish Network broadcasts free of charge.

In a related criminal case, Ward and another Florida resident, Phillip Allison, pleaded guilty last fall in Southern California to a felony count of conspiring to violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Federal prosecutors charged that Ward and Allison helped Jung Kwak, the owner of Oceanside, Calif.-based ViewTech Inc., a major importer of “free-to-air” satellite receivers, recruit hackers to crack a new version of Dish Network’s encryption technology.

Broadcasting & Cable: Federal Court Slaps Satellite Signal Pirate With $51 Million Judgment – Dish Network says service to pay for abetting signal theft

By John Eggerton, Jan. 11, 2010

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 $52 million will be DISH Network, 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.

The Evening Bridge: Best Value Nets, Sarah Palin, Wi-Fi Devices, Sports Retrans …

Jan. 11, 2010

Dockets: DISH, Echostar and Nagrastar share $51million judgment against Robert Ward and his Free-To-Air piracy scheme. — FCC has OK’d Cablevision’s all-digital plans including encryption of basic in NY.

This Week In Consumer Electronics (TWICE): Dish Wins $51M Piracy Ruling

By Greg Tarr, Jan. 11, 2010

Englewood, Colo. – Dish Network, EchoStar Technologies and NagraStar celebrated a Florida federal court ruling Monday that awarded them a $51 million judgment against a hacker who posted software on the Internet enabling the free reception of Dish Network programming.

The court ruled against Robert Ward for posting the software that enabled the reception of pirated Dish Network programming from free-to-air receivers.

In a statement the companies pointed out that the ruling also offered two significant holdings that will strengthen the companies’ ability to pursue pirates in the future.

The court held that the posting of pirate software constitutes a violation of the Federal Communications Act, and that statutory damages should be calculated based on how many individuals downloaded the pirate software.

“This is a significant victory in our effort to eradicate piracy of the Dish Network system. We thank the court for its well-reasoned analysis,” stated Pascal Lenoir, CEO of NagraStar, which produces the content protection system for Dish Network.

The Register: Judge awards Dish Network $51m over satelite pirate – ‘Substantial and unquantifiable harm’

By Dan Goodin, Jan. 11, 2010

A federal judge has slapped a $51m judgment on a Florida man for distributing software that allowed people to receive television programming from Dish Network without paying for it.

The ruling, issued Monday by US District Judge James S. Moody Jr. of Tampa, found that Robert Ward violated both the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Communications Act. Using the online monikers “Thedssguy” and “Veracity,” Ward provided 255,741 piracy software files, making him liable for damages of $51.148m, or $200 per download.

Under the DMCA, Ward could have been forced to pay $2,500 for each download, an amount that would have brought damages to more than $639m. Ward was also ordered to pay Dish Network‘s attorney fees and to permanently stop making or distributing software that circumvents the satellite provider’s security.

“Plaintiffs have established that Ward’s distribution of piracy software caused substantial and unquantifiable harm in that he enabled an untold number of end-users to circumvent the Dish Network security system and intercept copyrighted Dish Network programming,” Moody wrote. “A permanent injunction is also necessary to prevent Ward from engaging in future wrongful conduct because plaintiffs do not have an adequate remedy to prevent damage they would suffer by further infringement by Ward.”

The software at issue allowed users to bypass access security technology provided by Dish co-venture NagraStar, so they could receive premium programming and regular channels on so-called free-to-air receivers. The receivers are designed to transmit only unencrypted satellite transmissions, such as ethnic, religious, and advertising content. After flashing the devices with the software, users could watch paid programming on the receivers.

Dish Network characterized the ruling was a major victory that will strengthen its ability to enforce its copyrights. In addition to ruling that damages could be calculated on the number of individuals who downloaded the software, the judge also found that the software violated the Communications Act, the first time a federal judge has done so.

“This is a significant victory in our effort to eradicate piracy of the Dish Network System,” the company said in a statement.

According to Moody’s order, Ward made multiple online posts in which he shared his name, date of birth, telephone number, street address, and email address.

An attorney for Ward didn’t respond to requests for comment. ®