Pirates beware: DISH will come after you

DISH Network is combating piracy by filing lawsuits in federal court against people believed to be viewing its channels without subscriptions.
DISH Network is combating piracy by filing lawsuits in federal court against people believed to be viewing its channels without subscriptions. DISH Network

A DISH TV satellite package at $75 a month for 250-plus channels — not a bad deal when you consider trying to get the same service for free could cost you $10,000, plus legal fees.

DISH Network LLC is filing civil lawsuits against suspected satellite pirates in federal court, where the illicit viewer commonly pays $10,000 in damages when DISH proves its case, according to a listing of damage awards at Satscams.com, a website that compiles the information.

DISH’s corporate communications department did not want to talk about piracy or the lawsuits it files, instead emailing a statement to the Sun Herald:

“Pay-TV providers have a long history of aggressively fighting piracy. Piracy is tantamount to theft, hurting honest consumers through increased costs to the industry. Pay-TV providers invest billions of dollars in exchange for the right to deliver high-quality programming to our customers.”

The latest lawsuit in the federal Southern District of Mississippi has been filed against John Barrett of Utah Street in Bay St. Louis. Charles Yelverton of Perkinston agreed to pay damages of $10,000 in 2013 after DISH filed a similiar lawsuit against him.

The U.S. District Court file indicates Yelverton represented himself in the case. He could not be reached to comment.

‘It was legit’

Barrett did not want to discuss the lawsuit filed against him, according to a man who answered the phone at his address and identified himself as Barrett’s brother. He said Barrett thought he had bought a legitimate satellite receiver off the internet from a company in California and didn’t believe the lawsuit would be any big deal.

“It was legit,” said the man, who would not give his name. “We looked into it. He said he’s not worried about it.”

The lawsuit says Barrett has been “circumventing DISH Network’s security system and receiving DISH Network’s satellite broadcasts of copyrighted television programming without payment of the required subscription fee.”

Barrett, the suit says, subscribed to NFusion Private Server, obtaining information that allowed him to decrypt DISH’s satellite signal and view programming without charge — violations of federal communications, copyright and privacy laws.

Pirates view programming DISH pays to distribute, including content from television networks, motion picture distributors, specialty broadcasters, cable networks, sports leagues and others with programming rights.

Through its vendors, DISH has worked to prevent piracy, but those security systems have been circumvented. When DISH found a way to detect piracy, the lawsuit says, pirates found a way around it.

“The black market in piracy devices represents a multimillion-dollar industry in the United States,” the lawsuit says.

Pay-per-view pirates

DISH and rival satellite service provider DirecTV have gone after piracy services. They also focus on pirates who use illegal subscriptions to air pay-per-view programming to paying customers.

Roland Samson of the law firm Samson & Powers in Gulfport has represented DISH and DirecTV in lawsuits. He said those lawsuits are more commonly aimed at people who take receivers to bars for pay-per-view events, most typically boxing matches, charging customers $10 each to watch.

The satellite providers are serious about catching these pirates, he said, sending private investigators into bars to collect evidence.

In the 12 years he’s represented satellite providers, he said, he’s handled about 20 cases as local counsel in federal court.

He is the local attorney on the Barrett lawsuit, but was not authorized to discuss it. DISH also is represented by lawyers out of Houston who need local counsel licensed to practice in Mississippi federal courts.

The court file on the Barrett case does not list an attorney for him.

Anita Lee: 228-896-2331, @calee99