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Hardware Hacking Television The Courts Build

Three Arrested For Conspiring To Violate the DMCA 335

jtcm writes "Three men have been charged with conspiring to violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act after federal investigators found that they allegedly offered a cracker more than $250,000 to assist with breaking Dish Network's satellite TV encryption scheme: '[Jung] Kwak had two co-conspirators secure the services of a cracker and allegedly reimbursed the unidentified person about $8,500 to buy a specialized and expensive microscope used for reverse engineering smart cards. He also allegedly offered the cracker more than $250,000 if he successfully secured a Nagra card's EPROM (eraseable programmable read-only memory), the guts of the chip that is needed to reverse-engineer Dish Network's encryption.' Kwak owns a company known as Viewtech, which imports and sells Viewsat satellite receiver boxes. Dish Network's latest encryption scheme, dubbed Nagra 3, has not yet been cracked by satellite TV pirates."
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Three Arrested For Conspiring To Violate the DMCA

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  • I'm thinking... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @03:40PM (#28721451) Journal

    ...that (a) this is a good thing (commercial operation) but that (b) the DMCA wasn't necessary at all. Aren't there theft of service laws already on the books for receiving private/pay TV services without paying for them? And, since this isn't actually a DMCA violation case, but rather a conspiracy to violate the DMCA, wouldn't it be just as much a conspiracy to illegally receive service?

  • Re:Wait (Score:3, Informative)

    by ari_j ( 90255 ) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @03:43PM (#28721495)
    US copyright law provides for both civil remedies, such as a copyright holder suing infringers, and criminal remedies, where the government can fine or imprison an infringer. I don't remember in my lifetime watching a video tape that didn't include the FBI copyright warning about this, so it's definitely not a new thing. Whether right or wrong to do so, it has long been the case that federal law can lock you up for copyright infringement.
  • Re:Wait (Score:5, Informative)

    by Absolut187 ( 816431 ) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @03:45PM (#28721525) Homepage

    Title 17 (AKA the copyright chapter of the U.S. federal statutes) provides for both civil and criminal penalties for infringement/circumvention. []

    See section 506 for criminal penalties.

    Most of the time, copyright owners are left to fend for themselves in court by bringing civil suits. That is why you typically only see civil suits against small-time copyright infingers such as serial uploaders, etc.

    But apparently when you get into the high-end satellite decoder cracking business, you get on the DOJ radar. That is when you go to jail.

    Now you may have noticed that the actual charge is "conspiracy to violate the DMCA" and the actual statute on the face of the indictment is 18 USC 371.
    ( This statute is used to prosecute conspiracy to commit a federal crime (i.e. violation of title 17).

    Hope that clears that up.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 16, 2009 @03:49PM (#28721593)

    Still, "breaking the encryption" would mean reverse-engineering the access card to extract a decryption key.

  • by vertinox ( 846076 ) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @04:16PM (#28722021)

    Oh my bad... Kwak was the one offering the money and not the other way around.

    Apparently my dyslexia is bad right now.

  • Re:Good (Score:3, Informative)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <dnaltropnidad>> on Thursday July 16, 2009 @04:26PM (#28722157) Homepage Journal

    I would argue that making personal receivers shouldn't be a crime, nor should breaking encryption. Making it a crime to prop up a bad business model isn't a good reason.

  • by KylePflug ( 898555 ) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @04:30PM (#28722237)

    No, that's like awarding a sentence for "attempted" murder.

    Or should we always wait until irreversible damage is done before we prosecute criminals? You'll find that every legal jurisdiction in the world has some concept of conspiracy culpability.

  • by jpmorgan ( 517966 ) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @04:34PM (#28722309) Homepage

    Insightful? Sorry, copyright infringement was made criminal more than 30 years ago. In the 70s, at least. Which if you check your history, was when China was undergoing the Cultural Revolution, persecuting the intellectuals and idolizing the peasant lifestyle.

    So yeah, I don't think it was China that inspired criminalizing copyright infringement.

    I don't know why it posted the previous comment anonymously. Here it is again, under my name...

  • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot&worf,net> on Thursday July 16, 2009 @04:37PM (#28722351)

    Component and composite outputs on the back of every descrambler out there will spit it out in standard definition. You can't record HD signals out of them -- many won't even downgrade the signal, it'll just be dead. Getting high definition on any of those requires an HDMI hookup, which is encrypted, and therefore "tunerless" VCRs and DVD burners can't be used. Even getting signals OTA (not scrambled) doesn't do you much good because the tuners are usually integrated into the television. I haven't tuners being sold separately with HD outputs that can be sent to any COTS recording equipment. This is intentional, purposeful, and frankly conspiratorial on the part of the manufacturers.

    Piracy is the only way the market for HD video recordings will survive.

    Funny thing is, you can record high-def quite easily, you just need to purchase two legal products.

    First, you buy a Hauppage HD-PVR [], about the only consumer-level high-def recording box that handles up to 1080i via component inputs. Hey look, Myth supports it!

    Now, for pesky HDMI... you buy a HD Fury 2 [], which takes HDMI (including HDCP!) and converts it to either RGB or Component outputs, and while it handles 1080p, the HD-PVR only has 1080i.

    Now you have a high-def PVR solution, MythTV compatible.

    Alternate methods is if your cablebox supports Firewire, and can output the high-def content over it (I've seen 'em where the SD content is output over Firewire, but the HD content isn't), but most satellite boxes don't have this, unfortunately.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 16, 2009 @05:27PM (#28722995)
    In the old days it was easy to get free DirectTV with a simple little card reader/writer. A few years of completely free service, PPV, etc, wasn't so bad. Of course they changed encryption techniques, new smart cards and the game got harder. Now what few shows I care to watch are either streamed or on usenet so not that big of a loss.
  • by nomadic ( 141991 ) <> on Thursday July 16, 2009 @05:30PM (#28723057) Homepage
    The summary was ambiguous, I had to read the actual article to tell what happened.
  • by ahoehn ( 301327 ) <andrew@h[ ]hn ['oe.' in gap]> on Thursday July 16, 2009 @05:37PM (#28723149) Homepage

    If businesses then go and market that way in the form of hacked decoder boxes... still 'tough tits' for the satellite company? In your legal frame of mind, I mean; it's obviously 'tough tits' for them in practice anyway and they have to introduce the next generation of encoding (or a different key.. whatever).

    It took me a while to understand how the whole business works, but that's basically the way things work now.

    Essentially the way you buy a 3rd party satellite receiver out of the box, it can only receive unencrypted satellite streams. But the decoder box manufacturers pay groups of coders to surreptitiously create and release software which allows the box to decrypt encrypted streams. For the last couple years, DirecTV has been on the as of yet uncracked N3, while Dish and Bellvue (Canada's main provider, with a signal that you can get throughout the US) have been on the cracked N2. A few months ago Bellvue switched to N3, and a week or so ago Dish completed its switch to N3.

    In the meantime, a couple companies have implemented something they're calling Internet Key Sharing for their receivers - a system that shares decryption information from a paid subscription with that company's unauthorized receivers. I'm not sure of the technical details, but apparently this doesn't work as well as a true crack - and of course requires an internet connection to receive the frequently chancing keys.

    Viewsat, who Kwak represents, doesn't currently have an Internet Key Sharing program, so, unless they can get someone to crack N3 - nobody's going to be buying their receivers.

  • by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @05:52PM (#28723335) Journal

    I'm thinking that if a security researcher had done the same thing, he would not be in jail. Nor would a large corporation.

    But a set top box importer does it, and suddenly it's a federal crime.

    Welcome to the police state. This definition, right here, is perfect example of MOST of the laws currently on the books.

    We have so many laws on the books, that it is probably virtually impossible to go through a day without violating some law, some where. I call it the IBMing of the Legal System.

    This refers to the old story about how IBM was once sued by a competitor for patent violation, and IBM responded with a whole bunch of counter lawsuits for their own patent violations.

    Remember Scooter Libby? Got thown in jail for Vallery Plame? Except he didn't. He got thrown in jail for "lying". Remember William Clinton? He lied too and didn't.

    It all depends on who your friends are, and whether or not they throw you under the bus.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) * on Thursday July 16, 2009 @06:03PM (#28723477) Journal

    What's your idea? Other than to let all delivery of TV signals slip into an unsustainable business model of "free for all" ideology, of course.

    The right to do math is much more important than the privilege of watching TV. If preserving that right means the death of satellite TV, oh well.

  • by JesseMcDonald ( 536341 ) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @06:37PM (#28723927) Homepage

    The free market had nothing to do with 1929. You're ignoring the massive government intervention in multiple areas of the market which built and extended an unsustainable boom period leading (inevitably) to the crash, not to mention the continuation of those same policies after the crash, on a grander scale, which ultimately made the correction as long and difficult as it was.

  • by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @07:26PM (#28724433)

    Wait wait wait...can someone please explain how the first post to the article was modded redundant? That just doesn't make sense to me...

    Redundant means "information was already there", not "post has already been made".

    I'm not saying I agree with the moderation, I'm just answering your question as to how a first post can be 'redundant'.

  • by plnix0 ( 807376 ) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @08:04PM (#28724753) Homepage
    Wait a minute here. You just gave a pretty good argument for why anyone is justified in decoding satellite signals. Then you go and say something completely inconsistent, "I agree that they should be punished, what they were attempting to do was wrong". If you know that a person decrypting a satellite signal is not at fault because the signal is in his house, on what basis do you call that action "wrong"? These are two mutually exclusive positions.
  • by wagnerrp ( 1305589 ) on Thursday July 16, 2009 @11:18PM (#28725777)
    If you want to steal satellite, you find a way to completely decrypt all channels being broadcast. If you simply want to access channels you have already paid for, you do something like the R5000 guys do that taps the unencrypted stream coming out of the CAM.

"I have not the slightest confidence in 'spiritual manifestations.'" -- Robert G. Ingersoll