HAVE YOU or someone you know received a letter or email (usually from “satscams”) saying it was from Dish Network LLC, EchoStar Technologies, and NagraStar LLC (collectively “NagraStar”)? Does the NagraStar letter or satscams email say you bought “IKS passcodes for pirate television services”? Does it include an offer to settle NagraStar’s claims in exchange for a lump sum payment of $3,500 or more?
First things first, don’t panic. You’re not alone. NagraStar has been sending these demand letters for some time now and, contained therein, are claims that NagraStar obtained business records establishing your alleged “wrongful conduct.”
Now that you’ve been formally labeled a “pirate,” however, you may have some questions.
What are IKS passcodes and how do they work?
IKS stands for “Internet Key Sharing.” Internet key sharing is the process of using one “smart card” to serve multiple receivers. The information needed to allow satellite receivers to descramble and display Dish Network’s satellite feed is obtained through multiple subscribed “smart card” receivers connected to that feed.
You may be wondering, So what does this have to do with me? In short, NagraStar is alleging that you obtained a pirated signal of its satellite TV feed by using an online service to purchase IKS passcodes. These passcodes allowed you (allegedly) to gain access to improperly shared “smart card” receivers that descramble and display DISH Network’s satellite TV feed, including premium and pay-per-view channels. As a result, NagraStar now claims that you received DISH Network pay-television programming without authorization.
Let’s move on to NagraStar’s legal speak.
What laws does the NagraStar letter accuse you of violating?
The NagraStar letter generally lists three federal causes of action that NagraStar threatens could be pleaded against you if you fail to respond, for the alleged “circumvention of NagraStar’s security system and unauthorized interception of DISH Network’s programming.”
The first is a cause of action for circumventing an access control measure in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA), 17 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1). This law states, “No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title.” In other words, this provision of the DCMA makes it illegal for individuals to circumvent a copyright owner’s security measures to gain unauthorized access to the owner’s work(s).
The second cause of action is generally for receiving satellite signals without authorization in violation of the Federal Communications Act (FCA), 47 U.S.C. § 605(a), which states, in relevant part, “No person not being entitled thereto shall receive or assist in receiving any interstate or foreign communication by radio and use such communication (or any information therein contained) for his own benefit or for the benefit of another not entitled thereto.”
The third cause of action contained in the NagraStar letters focuses on intercepting satellite signals in violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), 18 U.S.C. §§ 2511(1)(a) and 2520. This cause of action is similar to the above cause of action for receiving satellite signals without authorization.
Isn’t there a statute of limitations for these piracy claims?
The first defense that comes to many people’s minds when receiving a NagraStar letter is statute of limitations. Many recipients are surprised to see alleged transactions dated four or five years ago, or even longer. Surely it must be too late for NagraStar to sue for these transactions, right? Well, not necessarily.
The statute of limitations for copyright infringement and other relevant statutes generally range from two to three years. However, the statute of limitations does not toll, or begin to run, until the infringement is discovered or when the claimant has a reasonable opportunity to discover the violation. Therefore, the question is not when the alleged transaction occurred but, rather, when NagraStar learned – or reasonably should have learned – of any instances of substantial infringement. That said, because NagraStar tends to allege that it received most of their “business records” within the past year and contend that it did not have any knowledge of the infringement prior to receiving the records, a statute of limitations argument may fall on deaf ears.
Are there any other defenses to NagraStar’s claims?
For each of the three causes of action mentioned above, other defenses are available. One such defense is for those who may be considered “innocent infringers.”
Specifically, in relation to NagraStar’s alleging that you circumvented of an access control measure in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, that particular Act focuses on actual circumvention. Therefore, if you never actually used any device to circumvent DISH’s technological measures, you may be able to claim a defense of “non-use” or “non-circumvention.”
Likewise, in the context of receiving satellite signals without authorization, that cause of action allows for a reduction in the “award of damages to a sum of not less than $250” where “the violator was not aware and had no reason to believe that his acts constituted a violation of this section.” 47 U.S.C. § 605(C)(iii).
Lastly, in dealing with the cause of action for intercepting satellite signals in violation of the ECPA, this cause of action requires that a defendant act intentionally. As such, if you gained access to the satellite signal by accident or mistake, NagraStar may not be able to successfully pursue a claim against you under U.S.C. §§ 2511(1)(a) and 2520.
Those are just a few defenses. Of course, defenses are generally raised after litigation, and they vary from claim to claim and are dependent on the specific facts of each action.
So is this NagraStar letter/Satscams email legit, or is it a scam?
Many people’s reaction to a NagraStar letter or email from Satscams is to panic or ignore it. We don’t recommend either. Panicking does nothing but increase your blood pressure and cause more stress. Ignoring, on the other hand, may lead to follow up letters and, potentially, a lawsuit.
Our law firm has experience in responding to NagraStar’s demand letters and negotiating the settlement amount (and sometimes payment plans) with NagraStar, as well as the language of any settlement agreements. The benefit of reaching a settlement agreement is it would include a release preventing NagraStar, DISH Network, and EchoStar from filing a lawsuit against you in the future about these allegations.
Similarly, if you feel you have been wrongfully accused, we can help you develop a defensive strategy to fight against these allegations, first, in an attempt to ward off a potential lawsuit, and, secondly, to prepare in the event NagraStar does file a lawsuit.
If you or someone you know has received a demand letter or email from Dish Network LLC, EchoStar Technologies, and NagraStar LLC — or from Bert Eichhorn or “satscams” — do not ignore it. It is not a scam. It’s important to know your rights and how to protect yourself.
The law firm of Cynthia Conlin & Associates has experienced copyright lawyers who may be able to help you with your questions. Contact our Orlando attorneys today at 407-965-5519, or email us through our online contact form.