Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Prosecutors charged a college student Thursday with distributing on the Internet hundreds of secret documents that could help TV owners steal signals from one of the nation’s leading satellite television providers. Igor Serebryany, 19, of Los Angeles, faces stiff prison penalties if convicted under the nation’s economic espionage laws. Investigators do not believe Serebryany sought any money in exchange for the disclosures. The documents leaked onto the Internet described details about the latest access-card technology from DirecTV Inc. The devices, resembling credit cards, are plugged into a viewer’s satellite box and control which movie and sports channels each of the company’s 11 million subscribers can watch. DirecTV, owned by Hughes Electronics Corp., said it spent more than $25 million to develop its latest “Period 4″ anti-piracy cards, which hackers have so far been unable to break. Marc J. Zwillinger, a lawyer for DirecTV, said the company would sue or seek criminal charges against others caught redistributing such documents. “To the extent people have these documents, we expect this news will cause them to delete the documents immediately,” Zwillinger said. Older, pirated cards are widely traded and sold illegally among satellite customers. Companies occasionally destroy rogue cards by sending damaging electronic signals across their systems, forcing subscribers to buy new cards in what has become an escalating technology battle. The stakes are high: Satellite programming can cost $2,400 annually for a household. Only about 18 million U.S. viewers subscribe to satellite services, compared with nearly 69 million cable TV subscribers, according to the Federal Communications Commission. But DirecTV added 2 million subscribers last year, compared with 250,000 new subscribers for the entire cable industry. The sensitive DirecTV documents, which included details about the design and architecture of these latest cards, began showing up in October on underground Web sites and discussion groups that specialize in defeating the devices. But the source of the documents remained a closely guarded mystery, even as TV pirates pored over details looking for hints of weaknesses in the new technology. Prosecutors in Los Angeles said Serebryany, who attends the University of Chicago, obtained the documents while working part time at a California imaging firm that made electronic copies of court papers for Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue, which was representing DirecTV in a lawsuit. Investigators said Serebryany took copies of many of the documents to his family’s home in Los Angeles and from his home computer sent more than 800 megabytes worth of electronic copies to at least three Web site operators. The operator of one Web site, www.PirateDen.com, said he did not receive copies from Serebryany but acknowledged seeing some of the documents. “It was mostly like snippets of internal meetings, technical meetings, about the new access card and such,” the site’s operator — who identified himself as J. Gray of Nanaimo, British Columbia — said in a telephone interview. “It gave people a start on where to start looking, the technical specifications.” Serebryany was charged under the federal Economic Espionage Act of 1996, which prohibits anyone from disclosing trade secrets for economic benefit and carries penalties in this case of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Only about 35 criminal cases have been filed under the law. Although investigators acknowledge that Serebryany apparently didn’t profit from the disclosures, the law bars giving away secrets for anyone else’s economic benefit. Zwillinger, the lawyer for DirecTV, was formerly an expert on the law for the Justice Department and prosecuted the nation’s first case under the law. The internal DirecTV documents were under court seal as part of a lawsuit between the company and rival NDS Group PLC, a unit of News Corp., over an agreement for NDS to provide access cards for DirecTV subscribers. In a series of lawsuits and countersuits, NDS had alleged that DirecTV itself was responsible for leaking the internal documents onto the Internet. A spokeswoman for NDS, based in England, could not be reached immediately. Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 3 articles* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.