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EFF: Innocent Customers Potentially Dragged Into Legal Battle Over Satellite TV
From: David Farber <dave () farber net>
Date: Mon, 18 Aug 2008 15:26:15 -0400



Begin forwarded message:

From: EFF Press <press () eff org>
Date: August 18, 2008 1:52:54 PM EDT
To: presslist () eff org
Subject: [E-B] EFF: Innocent Customers Potentially Dragged Into Legal Battle Over Satellite TV
Reply-To: press () eff org

Electronic Frontier Foundation Media Release

For Immediate Release: Monday, August 18, 2008

Contact:

Fred von Lohmann
  Senior Intellectual Property Attorney
  Electronic Frontier Foundation
  fred () eff org
  +1 415 436-9333 x123 (office), +1 415 215-6087 (cell)

Matt Zimmerman
  Senior Staff Attorney
  Electronic Frontier Foundation
  mattz () eff org
  +1 415 436-9333 x127

Innocent Customers Potentially Dragged Into Legal Battle
Over Satellite TV

EFF Urges Court to Protect Customers' Privacy

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
asked a federal court Friday to reject efforts by Echostar
to get the names and addresses of every customer that
purchased a free-to-air satellite receiver.  Echostar
claims that the receiver can be modified to pirate DISH
satellite TV programming.  EFF argues that Echostar's
demand, which seeks all purchasers regardless of whether
they actually pirated DISH TV, would violate user privacy
and leave innocent purchasers vulnerable to bogus legal
threats.

The demand for customer records came up in a lawsuit
between Echostar, the company behind the DISH satellite TV
service, and Freetech, Inc., the manufacturer of Coolsat
free-to-air satellite receivers.  As part of the suit,
Echostar subpoenaed 17 distributors of Coolsat receivers,
demanding the names, addresses, phone numbers, email
addresses, and other information of every person who
purchased a Coolsat receiver over the last five years.

"Innocent customers should not be dragged into federal
litigation just because they bought a product that other,
less scrupulous purchasers may be hacking for unlawful
purposes," said EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney
Fred von Lohmann.  "The court should recognize the privacy
interests of these customers, especially since Echostar
does not need these customer lists in order to have its day
in court against Freetech."

In recent years, satellite TV companies, record labels, and
movie studios have all engaged in dragnet litigation
tactics that threaten individuals with costly lawsuits
unless they pay significant financial sums to "settle" the
dispute. These mass litigation campaigns leave innocent
consumers trapped between paying a "settlement" for
something they did not do or facing even higher legal costs
to prove their innocence.  Satellite TV provider DirecTV
pioneered this approach in 2001, threatening more than
120,000 individuals with legal action and commencing more
than 24,000 federal lawsuits, often with no evidence other
than the fact that the individual purchased multi-purpose
devices that could be used for piracy.

"Once the names of Freetech customers are disclosed to
Echostar, there may be little that any court can do to
protect these people from harassment, settlement demands,
and legal expenses," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt
Zimmerman.  "This may be the last chance the court has to
protect the privacy of these individuals."

For the full amicus brief:
http://www.eff.org/files/filenode/echostar_v_freet/EFFamicusEchostarvFreetech.pdf


For more on Echostar v. Freetech:
http://www.eff.org/cases/echostar-v-freetech

For this release:
http://www.eff.org/press/archives/2008/08/18

About EFF

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading civil
liberties organization working to protect rights in the
digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF actively encourages and
challenges industry and government to support free
expression and privacy online. EFF is a member-supported
organization and maintains one of the most linked-to
websites in the world at http://www.eff.org/


    -end-

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