Case Study: DirecTV Expert Witness
Within months of the 1994 launch of DirecTV's national satellite TV service in the U.S. the broadcast system was hacked. The company's first-generation smart card-based security could subsequently be modified or replaced by individuals desiring to erase records of pay-per-view purchases or enable the unlawful interception of channels they hadn't paid for.
For most of the next decade, DirecTV fought piracy by periodically upgrading its security over the air and with smart card replacements, as well as by shutting down and suing the proprietors of websites that sold piracy-related electronics and software. But security is a cat and mouse game; each successful move by DirecTV prompted a counterattack by the hacking community. Additionally, because there remained a large demand for equipment to intercept DirecTV's programming without paying for the service, several new websites were launched for each that was shutdown.
In 2002, DirecTV expanded its anti-piracy efforts designed to curb demand for piracy equipment. The company started to use customer records obtained from various operations it had successfully shut down, along with other evidence, to pursue thousands of end user pirates in U.S. District Court. In total, more than 25,000 individual defendants were named.
In support of DirecTV's anti-piracy efforts, Netrino was retained to provide expert analysis of numerous embedded systems suspected of being designed for use in DirecTV piracy. A team of Netrino engineers thus engaged in a substantial, multi-year reverse engineering and testing effort that generated more than 130 detailed expert reports. Each expert report concerned a specific piece of electronics or related software. After a careful and conservative assessment of each set of available facts, Netrino experts concluded that most, but not all, of the specific products were primarily designed for use in satellite TV piracy or solely useful for that purpose.
Netrino's expert reports were submitted in thousands of end user piracy lawsuits in U.S. District Court. Additionally, Netrino experts provided testimony in hundreds of affidavits and in depositions and several dozen courtroom appearances. Netrino's carefully researched, independent-minded expert reports and opinions were never successfully challenged by opposing experts or attorneys.
Thanks in part to the success of the anti-piracy litigation and a coordinated security upgrade, DirecTV's signals became completely secure in 2005 and have remained secure for several years.
In the years since, Netrino's experts have been called to consult and testify in a number of other cases related to the technologies and methods used by satellite TV pirates, including:
- NagraStar vs. NDS Group
- DirecTV vs. SD Logic
- EchoStar vs. Freetech
- EchoStar vs. nFusion
- Videotron vs. Bell ExpressVu
- Canada Revenue Agency vs. Davin Omeir
Learn more about Netrino's expert witness services.