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In the past, satellite theft was commonly achieved by illegally receiving satellite signals through the use of black market signal receivers. With the advent of services such as DirectTV and other satellite box providers, the new trend in satellite theft is the use and sale of pirated access cards for use in these satellite boxes. These cards give the user the ability to receive unscrambled satellite signals without having to register for a service or pay monthly subscription fees. The following are commonly used devices in today's newly emerging satellite black market: 

  • Pirated Access Cards - access cards that have been reprogrammed or pirated allow people to illegally intercept and decrypt satellite providers signal's and receive television programming without making any payment
  • Emulators - emulators connect to computers running software that grants unauthorized access to channels
  • Programmers - are devices that reprogram access cards to alter which channels are received
  • Unloopers - are devices that are used by pirates to fix access cards affected by satellite provider's anti-piracy measures

Is it Illegal to Sell or Use these Cards and Devices?

Federal and state laws protect satellite transmission providers against such pirating practices by imposing penalties and fines against both sellers and users of cards and devices used to receive satellite TV illegally. Both criminal and civil lawsuits can be brought against violators of these laws.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act prohibits a person from providing any device or service that circumvents a technological measure that effectively controls access to a copyrighted work. The penalties under these laws are severe, and depending on the severity and nature of the offense, those found guilty can face fines of up to $200,000 and up to 10 years in prison.

Should I Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney if I Have Been Arrested or Accused of Satellite Theft?

Satellite theft is quickly becoming a heavily prosecuted offense both at the state level and through the federal system. Because the nature of the offense and technology are complicated, you may find the counsel of a criminal defense attorney who specializes in this field to be extremely helpful.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 03-08-2013 10:53 AM PST

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