A Little Progress [5:31 pm]
DirecTV lost an important case on Tuesday. Programmers, security researchers, and anyone who believes in a limited government won.
In a 2-1 split decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals tossed out a default judgment against a pair of alleged DirecTV television pirates, saying an “unauthorized decryption device” law the company invoked against them does not apply. That law promises statutory damages of $100,000 per violation.
[...] The reason this could be an important decision is because it strikes at the heart of DirecTV’s dubious strategy of treating purchasers of smart-card programmers as if they were necessarily criminals themselves.
In a dragnet of cases filed over many years, DirecTV has been suing people who dared to buy smart-card programmers. Those can, it’s true, be used to repair pirate access cards disabled by DirecTV countermeasures (this type of card is sometimes called an “unlooper”).
They also have perfectly benign uses. [...]