back to article Set-top box modders sent to prison

Two men have been sentenced for a total of 15 months for advising people how to bypass security settings on their set-top boxes. Carl Morgan Davison of Llanfechell in Amlwch and Mark Taylor from Leeds got ten and five months respectively. The two were moderators of a site called modshack.co.uk. Davison used the aliases "Hairy …

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  1. Goat Jam

    Farenheit 451

    Burn all the books! Burn them! Burn them!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is insane

    If I buy a fridge and by my own extreme cleverness turn it into a time machine, how is that illegal? The fridge is MY property. I CAN DO WHAT I LIKE with it.

    This is another example of a world gone mad with patent laws which nobody actually understands.

  3. dervheid

    Can't...

    really be bothered to comment on this. They must have tried REALLY hard to cover their trail!

    No doubt there'll be plenty more sites out there offering this sort of 'advice' I'm sure.

    Ho Hum.

  4. Glenn Evans

    insane? - yes and no

    If you bought a fridge, turned it into a teleportation device and used it to reach into Sainsbury's and nick bottles of beer it *would* be illegal (it'd also be brilliant). So no, you can't "DO WHAT YOU LIKE" with it - you can't commit crimes with it.

    OTOH, I'm pretty much with you in questioning why those distributing information, rather than carrying out the crime, should be doing time. Does anyonw know if they were actually selling fake CAMs or something?

  5. Neil

    What's the difference?

    Between these guys and the person who modded his EEEPC?

    http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2008/01/22/massive_eee_pc_mod/

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    insane?

    It is illegal to use a set-top box to steal content in the same way that it is illegal to use a baseball bat to steal cars. Turning your fridge into a time machine is fine, just don't go using it to commit crimes, to be on the safe side, you should probably only use it to move forwards. Affecting things in the past could have all sorts of consequences (like if you modify time so I got fired last year, have you stolen my sallary from me).

    Time travel is cool, don't steal content, stay in school.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    unfortunate brainless criminalisation

    I bet that some people will see this as a good thing because it is obvious that this praticular support given was for what is commonly recognized as unacceptable.

    Unfortunately this criminalisation might very well also mean that people who give users advice on how to modify their dvd players to become multi-regional so they can watch their legally bought films abroad could also be in trouble. And this will include playing legally bought blue-ray movies, online music etc. It is good to know that our regulators are taking proper care of corporate interests - we would not like the unwashed customer interests get in the way for some appropiately assured income source do we?

  8. FlatSpot
    Stop

    @Greg

    I would assume you dont actually own the boxes, you are leasing them until such time as you cancel your contract.

    Many o years ago I had Telewest after me for 2x cable boxes back or £800 or a chat with a Judge... needless to say they got their boxes back!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Greg Fleming

    >If I buy a fridge and by my own extreme cleverness turn it into a time machine, how is that illegal?

    Um... That's not what they did though is it...

    If I turned my fridge into something that churned out exact working replicas of your credit card, you wouldn't be too chuffed would you.

  10. Darren Coleman
    Flame

    Re: Greg Fleming

    I think you've got confused somewhere.

    No one is stopping you from modding equipment you've purchased (as a point of note most set top boxes are subsidised by a subscription and if you read your contract you don't own it until after 12 months), but these guys were advising people on how to defraud VM and BSkyB and "obtain services by deception".

    Your analogy, besides being entirely illogical, doesn't work.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    10 months for 'just' £27k?

    Yes, calm down, I *know* that the £27k refers to the donations they received, not the unspecified loss that Virgin suffered, however this seems to be the "true worth" of Virgin's crap. If I were them I'd want to appeal the sentence.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    @Greg

    Firstly you BOUGHT the fridge so you can do what you like with it. With VM or Sky, you /rent/ the box and its not yours to rewire.

    Secondly they weren't prosecuted for playing with electronics, but for teaching people how to crack into a system in order to steal stuff they hadn't paid for.

    Lastly they were done for patent infringement - reverse-engineering the proprietary algorithms I should think - because I doubt any of their customers came forward to provide state's evidence. One assumes that they didn't personally have any hacked boxes onsite.

  13. David Edwards
    Thumb Up

    I feel safer now

    Thank god for that, now im not worried about someone reducing the revenues of a TV company that may then pass the lost profits on to me in the form of an increaced service charge whilst continuing to provide a quality programming service.

    Now lets just hope I dont get mugged when I pop to the shops to get a TV times.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    re: This is insane

    IIRC the set top box is still owned by the cable company so this isn't a case of people modding their own equipment. And the only purpose of the mods seems to gain something that you could have if you paid for it - so I don't see what's to complain about (well unless you don't like paying - but of course I am sure you liked to be paid)

  15. Ryan
    Stop

    @Greg Fleming

    Set-Top boxes usually remain the property of whoever the service provider is.

  16. Chad H.
    Unhappy

    @ greg flemming

    But greg, use that old fridge to grow weed and you are breaking the law.

    The streams are encrypted so only payning customers can get th. If noone paid for them, they'd stop existing.

  17. Ross Ryles
    Stop

    Re:This is insane

    Whilst I'm pro freedom to tinker I have to disagree with you here.

    The thing is they didn't mod the box to be a time machine. They modded it to receive channels they hadn't paid for. It's like you making your fridge automatically fill itself from the supermarket without paying*. What they where doing was certainly illegal.

    By your reasoning it would OK for me to stab someone so long as I bought the bit of metal and then sharpened it myself! "The metal is MY property. I CAN DO WHAT I LIKE with it."

    *OK that's not a perfect analogy, because the supermarket would be loosing physical assets.

  18. Christopher Rogers
    Thumb Up

    @ Greg

    I'm not sure about sky, but with VirginMedia you don't actually own the STB therefore it it not your property to tamper with. Fundameentally, when you sign up, you have effectively agreed to accept responsibility for a STB that you borrow (or rent or whatever) from them to make use of their service.

    This would be different to say hacking an Xbox - you buy it, you should be allowed to do whatever you like with it.

    These guys got caught. Thats the risk you take.

    P.S. If you get the time machine idea working, give me a shout. 2 days ago I saw a real fit chick sunbathing and wouldn't mind another look.

  19. Ash

    @Glenn Evans

    Ok, so your beer bottle analogy... What if Sainsbury's were delivering bottles of Premium beer to everybody's house in a certain area, but you could only get cheap Own Brand beer, as they didn't fit through your Sainsbury's-provided letter box because you bought the basic Square version, not the Premium-priced Round letter box.

    As they're already being delivered, would it be illegal to modify your LEGALLY BOUGHT letter box to accept the Premium beer bottles?

  20. Richard

    Re: This is insane

    "If I buy a fridge and by my own extreme cleverness turn it into a time machine, how is that illegal? The fridge is MY property. I CAN DO WHAT I LIKE with it."

    No you can't, nor have you ever been able to. You can do with it what you like SO LONG AS the law doesn't explicitly state that you can't (OK, or there is precedent to that effect).

    You cannot for example take your fridge and throw it out of a tall building. Nor can you strap it onto the front of a Range Rover for improved penetration in a ram raid. Well, you can - but you'll be apt to find yourself up in front of the beak.

    I agree that Patent Law has some madness involved, but this isn't where it is. In this particular case, had they somehow managed to cleanly reverse-engineer a set-top box out of stuff they'd bought at Maplin or the like; they'd probably have still got done on conspiracy to defraud - this was just the easiest one to prove.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    Re: This is insane

    Using that time travelling fridge to steal from other people shouldn't be illegal?

    You can argue pretty well that individuals who took their advice should be the ones punished and not those who gave it. That's what is insane about this case. However you cannot say that modifying cable/satellite boxes to obtain services for free is not theft and therefore illegal.

  22. bobbles31
    Coat

    Good for the goose!

    Two guys teach people how to Mod VM's and Sky's equipment making £27,000 in the process.

    I can't wait to see what Kent Ertugel is going to get for teaching BT how to illegally intercept over a hundred thousand of their customers......

    Oh really? What the Home office and Police are refusing to investigate? Shit

    Mines the one with "Trusting fool" written on the back.

  23. The General

    Who is responsible anyway...

    The interesting issue here is - if someone provides you with the information to assist you to do something "illegally" (view or steal content that should be paid for) who is responsbile (or guilty)? The one who provides the information or the one who uses it (or both?) Is it that the information (instructions in this case) is private and has been used without permission - meaning in this case both published/posted and used...

    But if the information is mostly public domain (algorithms and technology) and it is just how they are used together that is private... hmm..

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    box owner

    BSkyB sure as hell don't own mine ... or, at least, they never asked for it back when the service was cancelled. Nevertheless, they've not done anything to make it unusable for "free" Sky either, which I'm assuming they could do if they were so inclined. AC, just in case they're still after me after all this time ...

  25. m0rph3us
    Coat

    is it worth the effort?

    Wow, I can think of much more worthwhile things to go to prison for, rather than going to prison for a load of repeated films and documentaries that are just collections of the same clips in a different order like "police camera stop police action best worst chases stop police action camera".

    my coats the one with the handcuffs in the pocket

  26. Stephen Usher

    Sky is a buy.

    Actually, with Sky you buy the box (subject to a 12 month lock-in) just as you buy a phone with a contract.

  27. doowles

    not rented

    The set top boxes are usually imported from Germany and are not the property of either Virgin or BskyB, they are unofficial boxes.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder what the position would have been...

    had they copyrighted their instructions and blocked all known government, TV station, police and major sponsor domains and IP numbers.

    Still, punishment way too severe, yes they probably did something wrong, but in the grand scheme of things not too much harm done, and really better security should be used.

    And it is always a sad day when knowledge itself becomes a crime.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    >"true worth" of Virgin's crap.

    FFS The "true worth" of something isn't the amount of money people will donate to get help to get it for less than it's being offered.

    If I offered you a beer, and said I'd like a donation in return, if you took the beer and didn't give me anything it doesn't make the beer worthless does it?

    The intangible nature of services clearly poses a significant mental problem for some people.

  30. Alex Daulby
    Thumb Down

    About this time travelling fridge.....

    Whilst I am in awe of the sheer genius of said cooler, I'm a little dissapointed the best thing you could think to apply it to was stealing beers from Sainsbury's. I can assure you a time machine is not required.

    Seriously though, didn't some terrorists get off recently for owning terrorist literature (I know I've spelt that wrong, sshh) , as being in possesion was not enough, intent or action had to be proved?

    Maybe we should just switch to the American model of corporate legal justice where guilt is assumed until the innocent run out or money and are unable to defend themselves.

  31. Paul
    Boffin

    RE: insane? - yes and no

    I like that idea. Want a hand? You bring the Flux capacitor, I'll bring the bottle opener.

  32. Madeye
    Thumb Down

    Where does it stop?

    The idea that sharing information is illegal gives me the creeps. The problem lies primarily with where the boundaries lie. Suppose I teach some people how to make a website (it's been known to happen), and they go off and make a website that disseminates information on how to crack set top boxes or how to make a bomb.

    Surely I have facilitated the actual crime (hacking/bombing) as much as the website owners?

    What about those who publish OS exploits? Should they be held liable for any damage caused by hackers, desptie the fact they are providing a public service?

    It's a slippery slope ...

  33. DavetheRave
    Pirate

    @Chad H.

    Quote - If noone paid for them, they'd stop existing.

    Nope, if no one paid for them they'd stop charging as much!

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC 12:26

    >> Firstly you BOUGHT the fridge so you can do what you like with it. With VM or Sky,

    >> you /rent/ the box and its not yours to rewire.

    Perhaps with VM, I wouldn't know - but I own my Sky boxes (when I signed up, I paid full price for one and the other was discounted on condition that I sign a 12 contract).

    >> Lastly they were done for patent infringement - reverse-engineering the

    >> proprietary algorithms I should think - because I doubt any of their customers

    >> came forward to provide state's evidence. One assumes that they didn't

    >> personally have any hacked boxes onsite.

    I don't understand, if it is patented, why would they need to reverse engineer it?

  35. Tom

    Using

    A fridge to go forward in time to punch your boss in the face and then use it to go back in time to when it didnt happen, is that still a crime? Now due to uniformal universe matter reactions you cant be in 2 places at the same time. Whilst the crime did happen it never happened in your time stream therefore it never actually happened, but you have the knowledge of your fist meeting bosses nose in one glorious action.

    Maybe they should have first got their box to steal tv from the future, problem solved.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Ownership of SKY boxes

    SKY boxes are owned by the end user the moment they receive them. SKY never rent their boxes, and even though there is a 12 month minimum contract to subsidise it, the box is yours from day 1 - just like with mobile phones.

  37. corestore

    Way OTT

    1. As others have pointed out, it's a scary day when knowledge becomes a crime.

    2. 5/10 months actual prison, not suspended, for a rather technical first-time non-violent offence? That's even scarier.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Decoder Cards

    There are several reasons why this is a problem:

    The broadcast encryption algorithm and the decoder cards that hold the decryption software for either Cable or Sky are the property of the manufacturer of the cards, they are never owned by any third party, in order to get free channels you have to obtain either a stolen or rented card and re-program it with modified software, this is obviously illegal, because you are either handling stolen merchandise or modifying property which is not yours. It is the manufacturer of the cards that will try to close down sites like this as they are trying to recover their property and lessen the impact of thefts on it's business.

    With CableTV, the set top boxes used with the hacked decoder cards are usually stolen from the cable companies, also the distribution of the cards and the boxes to the end consumer is usually linked, e.g. Joe public probably wouldn't buy a box from his local dodgy cable TV engineer without a hacked decoder card in it, as the box itself is useless without one. The decoder card may also have been half inched with the set top box in the same theft.

  39. Shinobi87
    Flame

    sigh

    i love how people jump in without reading the other 100 of coments saying they didnt own the set top box!

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    @'insane?' AC

    "It is illegal to use a set-top box to steal content in the same way that it is illegal to use a baseball bat to steal cars"

    The difference being that publishing details online of how to make a baseball bat will not land you in prison.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Copyright not patents

    The modders were convicted under s.296 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, which relates to devices designed to prevent copyright infringement and has nothing whatsoever to do with patents (except the title of the act itself).

    It is irrelevant whether they had to did anything clever in order to do so, or whether the copy protection means itself is patented. It is the fact that their actions could enable someone to overcome that copy protection which is key.

  42. Spleen

    Re: Corestore

    It would be a scary day. Thank god it hasn't happened yet. They weren't accused of knowing something, they were accused of spreading their knowledge.

    Which is still quite scary. How long before a martial arts instructor is arrested for "teaching people how to kill" under anti-terror legislation?

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Catch 22

    The boxes up to 2005 were modded ones belonging to NTL/Virgin Media that had to be flashed and/or the cards modified.Everytime the codes were rolling people would need to alter their setup to match the new numbers. Also talkback was cut so the boxes would be invisible.

    After 2005 onwards, the boxes were purchased off the internet, nothing to do with the cable companies, these were setup to roll themselves and keep up with changes, and decrypt any channel they can see. So ppv, movies, even movies on demand being sent to other customers on the network would be decoded.

    Every 6-12 months hey need a serial port firmware upgrade, although plugging one into another box would clone itself speeding up the process.

    Modshack were probably modding NTL/Virgin property at that time, also publishing the new codes when they roll so customers were kept up to date. Nowadays it's plug and play and forget.

    Sky is odd because apart from a few minor hacks that were far more complex people would just buy a Greek card and wach football for cheap, not mod the thing. A ll kinds of complex cards requiring real time computer control to decrypt it, more of a hobby than a way to steal Sky.

    Eventually with broadband proper, people set up card sharing schemes, instead of hacking the system, one legitimate card with a very expensive monthly sub covering everything would be cloned in real time over t'internet to other people so they cloned the entire service. (which has also just been made into a box off the internet service same as cable)

    The bo service people are scared of sky so going after older systems on sattelites in range to the UK.

    I don't steal TV or Internet but still know how it's done through reading about it.

  44. Edward Pearson
    Flame

    STB company losses aren't the issue here.

    In my opinion the real issue here is that these people were convicted for PROVIDING the information needed to modify your box, they were NOT conviced of modding boxes, mere making the information available.

    Surly this is a freedom of speech issue? If wrote an article detailing the most efficient way to kill a man, then I couldn't be held accountable if somebody used that information to kill somebody. Even though when writing it, I knew it could only be interpreted one way, I haven't committed a crime. So If anything shouldn't this be an incitement conviction (incitement to defraud)?

    Now if these chaps were modding people's boxes, I could understand the legal action, but if merely making the pertinent information available is a crime, then where do you draw the line? What if I publish the details of an algorithm that I've been studying for educational purposes? Now if somebody happens to use that algorithm to cause trouble, am I liable?

    This, like many other cases I've heard about recently, just confirms my belief that the law is now so generic, and there's so much of it, it can be used to prove anything provided the price is right.

  45. Mike Groombridge
    Go

    @ash Of beer bottles and ferrai's

    Your missing the point IF you BROUGHT your letter box and PAID for the Premium Beer then yes you can modify the letterbox

    but if your RENTING the Letterbox then first you don't own it so modication is illegal. second if you don't pay for the premium Beer that STEALING which is illegal.

    they rent the STB and then modify it to provide what there don't pay for this is illegal. end of story

    criminal damage if you like. (except they would argue no demage was done as the box still performed it's orginanal function which is with they didn't use that to charge them)

    but that arguement would work the same as if you lent me a ferrai and and stripped it's 4 litre v6 out and gave it back with a 1.6 ford engine. (the function of driving and going from a to b would still be there but the natural of the function has changed ) and i'm sure you'd want me up in count on criminal damage charges.

    right that said i'm of home in my 4 litre fiesta before me boss finds out i nicked his engine.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seems clear cut to me

    They provided information about how to defraud the Virgin and Sky systems, alright does seem a little harsh for simply providing the info, seems like VM and Sky wanted to make an example of someone, this seemed like a good target. Although iIf you take the info and modify a settop box WITHOUT plugging it back into the system, fine not a problem, however if you mod the box, then get free movies/sport/etc that is illegal. I hate VM and Sky as much as the next one, but barring the "simply supplying info" argument, this does seem pretty clear cut to me.

  47. John Wise
    Coat

    @ bobbles31

    To liken this to other nefarious human doings, Jean Rostand once said:

    "Kill one man, and you are a murderer.

    Kill millions of men, and you are a conqueror.

    Kill them all, and you are a god."

    Eddie Izzard once said that we as humans just couldn't seem to cope with idea of someone murdering that number of people, especially if they are "their own" (he was talking about Polpot at the time), and so we cope with it like this:

    "A hundred thousand you say? That's quite a lot. Yes, hmmmm, well, errrr, well done!"

    I imagine (personal opinion, not fact) that a similar scenario might be playing out in halls of power and certain teleco's and 3rd party information suppliers.

    Mine's the one with the soldering iron in the left pocket!

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OK ...

    I seee ... but then surely they shouldn't be supplying hardware that can be so easily “modded” (as you young people put it) then getting all huffy and legal because the hardware they make you pay for monthly or whatever can be so trivially cracked?

    In their rush to market and cash in they are actually making available the temptation and the means to break the rules.

    That's their problem. It is surely like leaving your front door unlocked while you go away on holiday for a fortnight. Insurance companies would call it “contributory negligence” and wouldn't pay out your insurance.

    Similarly why complain if clever people can mod you box and gain access to services they want you to pay for.

    If I were putting out something I seriously wanted and expected people to pay for I'd be making very very sure beforehand their was no way to circumvent that.

    It can be done, so don't go saying there's no such thing as a secure computing device.

    And no — mercifully I don't own one of these contraptions.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shabby

    >If you bought a fridge, turned it into a teleportation device and used it to reach into Sainsbury's and nick bottles of beer it *would* be illegal (it'd also be brilliant). So no, you can't "DO WHAT YOU LIKE" with it - you can't commit crimes with it.

    If someone wants to bypass the decryption on a set top box and steal television services, then that individual is guilty of the crime of theft and they are the ones that should be punished for it.

    These two guys provided the means for individuals to break the law but the individuals themselves are responsible for their actions.

    Supposing, no one actually followed the instructions given to them, and no one actually stole any television service, and Virgin Media didn't lose out, then there's no actual harm is there so what's the point of prosecuting the two guys? Ok, chances are some individuals did follow their instructions and stole tv, but the point is, you have absolutely no idea who, how many and how much revenue has been lost to Virgin Media as a result. ( "we want to sue for lost income...but we have no idea how much money, we have no idea how many people stole tv and it might have been zero").

    So rather than being prosecuted under telecommunications legislation for theft of a television service ( which clearly wouldn't be upheld), they've been prosecuted under a loose and wooly Copyright and Patent's act, which presumably is a recent introduction to law?

    Very shabby, very very shabby.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Richard

    "You cannot for example take your fridge and throw it out of a tall building."

    But I CAN! If it is MY tall building! So long as no one gets hurt ... and HOW do YOU know that THIS is the VERY PRINCIPLE necessary to make the fridge initialise as a time machine? Have you been SPYING on me?

    But since I believe in the non-paradoxical, multiverse sort of time travel, no one really does get hurt with that either so I am still in the clear!

    Especially as it doesn't involve Virgin set-top box thingie.

    BTW, Is that the same as a Tennessee Flat Top Box?

  51. PaddyR

    right so let me get this...

    So...I've got a round letterbox on my 4 litre time travelling fridge and my square premuim beer wont fit thru it.

    this guy was jailed for a year for physically doing the modding his pal got 160 hours community service, they estimate they made about £50,000

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/glasgow_and_west/7339157.stm

    I wouldnt be suprised if they got their info from modshack, but still wouldnt say the modshack guys deserved that.

    does anyone know any websites that show you how to get your microwave to work with the door open, I need a new winter hat.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Copyright

    >It is irrelevant whether they had to did anything clever in order to do so, or whether the copy protection means itself is patented. It is the fact that their actions could enable someone to overcome that copy protection which is key.

    They provided the means to enable *other* people to circumvent the copy protection, so who really is guilty, them for providing the means or the actual people that do carry it out and circumvent the copy protection?

    ( Ok, the pendantic person at this point could claim "they must have broken the copyright law inorder to devise the modifications necessary in the first place, prior to publishing on the web for all to see)

    I'm not sure how this law has been written, but I don't think it's a reasonable law.

    If I disclose information whilst obtained at University during my student years of how to make a nuclear bomb ( just an anology here guys - I didn't study Physics at Uni!) - and someone else makes a bomb, am I the one that is prosecuted because of some copyright law ( because of a bomb design presumably held by the British Government) when all I have done is give someone some information I learned or pieced together?

  53. Martin
    Unhappy

    As far as I can see

    It's not a case of 'using a baseball bat to steal a car' or 'using the fridge to steal beer from Sainsbury's', the actual equivalent is using the fridge to brew your own beer, and then Sainsbury's sueing you for not buying the beer from them.

    THEFT involves depriving the original owner of something. "Copyright theft" (to use their loaded term) != theft, because the original owner still has their item/content.

    As other posters have commented; I find the concept of 'illegal knowledge' somewhat chilling.

  54. Nix

    "Bubba's Boy"

    You can't help but snicker at the sudden irony of his choice of usernames...

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Set top b(oll)ox...

    Why on earth would anyone bother with doing this anyway when all they offer you is prime crap via these snoopy little boxes anyway. OOooh more football....OOoohhh another 500 braindead big budget movies that I can pay to watch again and again (if I was so inclined, which I'm not)....yawn. What's wrong with the internet - worked fine last time I checked... At least you can _really_ choose what you watch when you download it yourself.

    F*ck them and their crappy boxes ;) - the best box is a PC, and nothing to do with any of these greedy corporate monstrosities.

    Sheesh - you can even get all the latest episodes of almost anything courtesy of Google via Youtube - they don't seem to bother pulling much on the grounds of copyright violation these days...guess they have the lawyers for it... ;)

  56. buggane
    Coat

    fingers

    I'm keeping my fingers in my ears now, just in case I accidentally hear someone telling me how this is done. If I knew, I'd be doing time too.

    maybe.

    I'll just leave my coat, thanks.

  57. Thomas Jolliffe
    Alert

    Let's get one thing clear...

    If you have a cable service, Virgin LEASE you the box for free. It's not yours.

    If you have Sky, you OWN the box. They may well give it you for nothing, but it's still yours.

    The issue is not so much with the physical act of modding the box, the issue is that by doing so you can quite easily steal services from Virgin.

    @Greg Fleming:

    You said "That's their problem. It is surely like leaving your front door unlocked while you go away on holiday for a fortnight. Insurance companies would call it “contributory negligence” and wouldn't pay out your insurance."

    Yes, but the people who come in and burgle the place still get convicted and sentenced.

  58. Steve

    El reg are in the shit on this one.

    Because of this article I now want to find out how to mod my VM box. With the names from your article and google, I should be able to track down the information I need.

    Best call your lawyers as you've clearly provided me with information to break the law.

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OK ...

    The phrase "Time Travelling Fridge" is MINE — OK? You got that? MINE.

    You have ALL been using this as some kind of CHEAP JOKE! Well -- the JOKE IS ON YOU! I'm suing you ALL for infringement of copyright,

    MINE! MINE! MINE.

    Fuck you all! I OWN your pwned asses!

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  60. Jamie
    Linux

    Two issues with comments I have read.

    First if you purchase a Sky package and box you own the bloody thing. You are not leasing or renting it from any company hence the reason why after one year if something goes wrong and you do not have an extended warrenty deal you are stuck.

    Second if you look at the fine print when purchasing it states that you are not allowed to make any changes to the electronics in order to circumvent the encryption.

    That is not to say that I never did anything like that when I had Bev back in Canada, although at the time it was classified under the law as testing and not punishable until the law was changed in 2004.

  61. Anon
    Pirate

    No Fair!

    Been searching in google for over 5 minutes now and i still can't find the generic nock off of this website, any clues on what i should be searching for?

  62. Peter Kay

    @Greg

    Bollocks, frankly. The nearest analogy to what you're saying is having a locksmith design an easy lock picking tool that lets most of the general populace into your house.

    How do you know it's 'trivially hacked?'. In a sizable number of cases the initial hack is not particularly trivial, but once packaged up it is easily applied - this is a distinct difference to everyone individually hacking a device.

    The economics of manufacturing devices means that you make the device secure enough without pricing it beyond what the market will allow or compromising usability.

  63. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Martin

    >The actual equivalent is using the fridge to brew your own beer

    Oh is it? Right? I didn't realise they were modding the box to actually make TV programs. Seems like something of an achievement normally you needs studios and cameras and such like.

    Out of curiosity, just how the hell do you think TV works?

    >THEFT involves depriving the original owner of something.

    The suppliers have been deprived of something though, that is, to make a profit from their own content. Just because it's not physical doesn't mean there's nothing in it.

  64. Highlander
    Stop

    Forbidden knowledge?

    So, is it actually clear here that the two were jailed for having and teaching Forbidden Knowledge(TM), or did they actually sell some hardware that breaks the law?

    I wasn't aware that UK law had prison terms for copyright offenses, or even patent infringement. Ordinarily this would be civil law or perhaps a fine wouldn't it? Why are they going to jail? Was it the 27 grand that they got through donations over time? I could see someone making a case that the two were either operating a business or making personal gain from some kind of Intellectual property theft. Perhaps they should have done more to separate the 'donations'?

    Either way, this is a really dangerous case because it's another step towards the days when there really will be Forbidden Knowledge. Someone already mentioned Farenheit 451. How poor a society we will become if knowledge can be forbidden by corporate or government direction. Freedom of thought and communication must be fundamental rights that cannot under any circumstances be restricted in a free society. I can't think of a more dangerous road to travel than governmental control of our thought or communication by threat of criminalization and imprisonment. How is sending someone to jail for knowing how to hack a system and teaching those techniques any different from imprisoning someone for knowing about political systems and teaching others radical politics? The offense is not in the possession of knowledge or the teaching of it to others. The offense, the crime, comes in the form of actions taken by people. By the logic employed here, if I taught a class on marksmanship and then a year later one of my students (all of whom paid me for my tuition) commits a mass murder, then I could easily be prosecuted and jailed for simply teaching a person how to shoot targets.

    The knowledge isn't bad. Teaching the knowledge isn't bad. It's what people do with that knowledge. Frankly I can't control what people do with anything I teach them. What next? Prosecute children for the crimes of their parents because they have knowledge of them?

  65. StopthePropaganda

    if he'd actually done the mods

    then I can see the foul being called. But then again, we arrest people for reading Bibles and drawing cartoons don't we?

    And theres the precedent of blaming the device for the crime-hacking or having the ability to have a hacked box is as much of a crime as actually downloading stuff, just like the presence of guns is the equivalent to actually committing firearm crimes.

    so now after decades of "think of the children!" to ban the means for self defense, now government is doing the same to go after your ability to seek or retain knowledge and entertainment from non-approved channels.

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Copyright

    >They provided the means to enable *other* people to circumvent the copy protection, so who really is guilty, them for providing the means or the actual people that do carry it out and circumvent the copy protection?

    As I read the law, (available at http://ukpatents.wikispaces.com/CDPA+Section+296ZA and http://ukpatents.wikispaces.com/CDPA+Section+296ZB) the person providing the information commits a criminal offence, whilst the person actually using the device is merely infringing copyright, so leaving them open to a civil action by the rights holder but not criminal prosecution (unless they fall foul of one of the myriad of other offences).

    >( Ok, the pendantic person at this point could claim "they must have broken the copyright law inorder to devise the modifications necessary in the first place, prior to publishing on the web for all to see)

    They do not have to have come by the information by illicit means, it is the intention of the person publishing it which the law is concerned with. For example, the act allows for information to be obtained the purposes of research into cryptography, as long as it is not then used or published in such a way so as to prejudice the rights holder.

    >If I disclose information whilst obtained at University during my student years of how to make a nuclear bomb ( just an anology here guys - I didn't study Physics at Uni!) - and someone else makes a bomb, am I the one that is prosecuted because of some copyright law ( because of a bomb design presumably held by the British Government) when all I have done is give someone some information I learned or pieced together?

    Only if you tell people that by using that bomb they can watch Premiership football for free!

  67. Steven Knox
    Flame

    @Greg Fleming

    "It can be done, so don't go saying there's no such thing as a secure computing device."

    THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS A SECURE COMPUTING DEVICE!

    The best anyone can hope to achieve is to make a device secure enough that only people AS CLEVER AS THEY ARE can break into it, and even to make something that good, you have to be fscking BRILLIANT.

    That's why we have property protection (both physical and intellectual) laws. If we really could make a secure computer, or building, we would, we'd put everything in them, and we wouldn't need any laws to protect our stuff.

  68. Nick
    Thumb Up

    Illegal for Illigal sake?

    Why is everyone so interested in building a timemachine to go and steal beer from Sainsbury's?

    Why not goto the future (2015 would be about right), buy a sports almanac, travel back to 1955, place some large 'wining' bets, stick the money in a bank, then travel back to 2008, and collect said money and take it to sainsbury's to buy as much beer as you wish. And you could also use some of the money to get a top-tier sky/vm package, if TV watching is your thing.

    No crimes broken, although it does raise certain morality questions (and may rip a hole in the space-time continuum) but meh!

  69. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    It will ...

    Pay for my time travel experiments, if not my wine and beer bill.

  70. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ PaddyR

    "So...I've got a round letterbox on my 4 litre time travelling fridge and my square premuim beer wont fit thru it."

    YOU FOOL — DON'T you realise by now that it is a DIMENSIONALLY TRANSENDENTAL FRIDGE???!!!???

    YOU SIMPLETON.

    PAH! You humans think in such two-dimensional terms!!!

  71. Joe
    Happy

    The most ridiculous thread ever?

    So, how about if I fit a premium-beer letterbox to my 1950s time-machine fridge, bring it forward to two years from now, clone a Sky card, take it back to 2005, and watch TV from the future (via the fridge)... Is/was that legal? Or am/was/will that be/have-been/will-be against the law?

  72. bog weasel

    Who's the real threat

    What they did could be considered _slightly_ unethical. An appropriate response would have been to have their website taken down.

    Instead they get jail time, with two ruined lives, and two ruined families. What this demonstrates is that the criminal justice system in the UK is far more dangerous to the average person than the criminals themselves.

  73. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    so bust me......

    I wonder what would happen if someone used a paperclip to cross the RX & TX lines of a Sky box's phone connector work..... ooops I didn't mean to ask that question :-)

    anon cos' I'm a chicken

  74. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    I don't get it..

    So if I create a web site that teaches people how to break a window and steal what's in the display case I am guilty and go to the clink for a spell? I would say that unless they actually did the modding they should be innocent or at the very worst an accessory.

  75. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    what I want to know ...

    is what happened to the fridge?

    who drank all the beer?

    where was the party?

    and finally ...

    why wasn't we invited ???

  76. Martin
    Unhappy

    @JonB

    " >The actual equivalent is using the fridge to brew your own beer

    Oh is it? Right? I didn't realise they were modding the box to actually make TV programs. Seems like something of an achievement normally you needs studios and cameras and such like. Out of curiosity, just how the hell do you think TV works? "

    I am fully aware of how TV works. It's not as though Sky/VM are using studios cameras etc to produce programmes specifically for those people pirating their service, is it?

    " The suppliers have been deprived of something though, that is, to make a profit from their own content. Just because it's not physical doesn't mean there's nothing in it. "

    Only for those cases where the pirating viewer would otherwise have paid for the service. Where they would NOT have subscribed, and are only watching thanks to their bodged box, the content owners have lost NOTHING AT ALL.

    If I lend a newspaper to someone who doesn't normally buy, and wouldn't have bought, that paper, the publishers HAVE NOT LOST A SALE. If I lend the same paper to someone who would have bought that paper had I not lent them a copy, THEN a sale would be lost. None of the above is 'theft' unless I physically nick a copy of the paper from somewhere, and somebody somewhere is missing a copy.

    Just for the record (not specifically at you Jon), I'm not some wishy washy socialist; I understand and appreciate capitalism, and am not averse whatsoever to people making a profit. The 'rentier' philosophy subscribed to by many 'content owners', however, whereby they expect to 'create' an asset, once, and expect to profit from that asset ad infinitum, and sue the pants off anyone who disagrees; is deeply flawed and damaging to society as a whole. Yes, people DO deserve to make a living or a profit from their work, but that does not include charging people who have the audacity to 'format shift', and it does not include chasing after those who would not have paid for their services in any case.

    A world where record companies etc sue file-sharers for imaginary 'lost sales', to maintain their own and the recording artist's earnings off the back of songs that may have been recorded forty years ago, is a very sad world indeed.

  77. John Doe

    I get its a crime but who's the Victim?

    If they've got a box to mod you can assume that they have made a decision to buy channels based on what they were willing to pay for.

    Chances are no one is really losing any money because the extra channels would just be stuff they were never going to buy anyway.

  78. Chad H.
    Happy

    @ greg flemming

    I get it... You're Webster freaky's counterpart from an alternative universe. Obviously Webster built a mac powered fridge that goes between dimensions to one where his counterpart instead used the fridge for time travel.

  79. t1mc
    Happy

    Armitage Shanks

    Thank holy god that armitage shanks didn't lease their equipment otherwise it would be illegal for us to receive potty training without paying for it....and we'd all be in the shit.

    Maybe short sightedly they didn't lease us their taps (fawcetts) also.

    And thankfully for the USA the UK didn't lease its language otherwise M$ and others would have found it difficult to patent anything in the first place.

    Licenses, tariffs, taxes and all other reasons to stop others from moving forward the progress of man (woman) are there to slow progress and are abhorrent to human development.

    If Virgin and Sky don't like it maybe they should have to pay royalties to Eddison and friends for using their electricity idea....then royalties to Scandinavia or China or somewhere for the benefit of being trained in how to deal with metal in the manufactured products...then some kind of fine for promoting smoking within buildings because the training and idea is shown on the programmes they supply. Then further imprisonment for showing us in the UK how to hold a gun and fire it contrary to current legislation because we again have been educated by the films and news they supply.

    Sorry I'm off my soapbox now

  80. Mark
    Stop

    Cr@p

    Good to see people in the UK still get harsher sentences for ripping off big corporates of their tat than they would for muggings and assaults. Utter shite. GB and his fucktards should be made to revel in the society they have created.

  81. Name

    All misses the point.

    All misses the point.

    If you 'police' information dissemination like this you ARE the Thought Police. No government has the right to do this.

    Pooor merchants losing money. Gods how my heart bleeds for them. Oh, sorry got that wrong, I meant to say STICK A PICKAXE THROUGH THEIR SPINAL COLUMNS.

  82. RW
    Flame

    Gilbert & Sullivan: "make the punishment fit the crime"

    The thing that's troubling in this case and, sadly, many other prosecutions in the IP field, is that the punishments meted out are wholly disproportionate to the actual effect of the crime.

    As when MS screams that umpty-billions of dollars are lost to east Asian piracy. Reality is that those using the pirated software are unable and unwilling to pay the going rate. There is little or no lost profit, the retail price of the stolen IP notwithstanding.

    As when someone is jailed, even for just a few hours, for dropping an apple core in the street.

    Has the world gone mad?

    [Answer: yes.]

  83. Moss Icely Spaceport
    Thumb Down

    Pay TV...

    Is all crap anyways. Stolen or paid for its not worth a cracker.

  84. Nick Sharp
    Black Helicopters

    In the USA

    Here in the USA I believe that any broadcast (Over the air) signal is then free to receive. The company doing the broadcasting must then protect the content via encryption to stop freeloaders.

  85. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Martin - Lost sales..

    But if this were legal and they could advertise wherever they want, they would effectively be offering an always cheaper rival. Always cheaper because they wouldn't be doing the work to produce the thing in the first place.

    >Licenses, tariffs, taxes and all other reasons to stop others from moving

    >forward the progress of man (woman) are there to slow progress and are

    >abhorrent to human development.

    No, these ones are there so that a TV company can make some money by selling TV.

    If you were all really bothered about human progress then you'd be working on removing copyright on academic journals, not cracking codes for free porn.

  86. Anonymous Coward
    Alien

    Obviously not what I wanted !

    I did modify my rusty old B*sch fridge (five years old and corroding away) into what I thought would be a time & space transporter, but it doesn't work. Goes no-where and no-when. However it does now receive all the encrypted SKY channels. Am I breaking the law if I watch them ?

  87. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Name

    >If you 'police' information dissemination like this you ARE the Thought Police.

    Some information though is private, you wouldn't want them sticking your credit card data up on-line touting for donations would you?

    >In the USA

    The issue is the encryption system. Specifically I guess they were disseminating the keys or a system to calculate the keys.

    The punishment does seem harsh though, I knew a guy who only got 6 months for GBH.

  88. heystoopid
    Coat

    Oh well

    Oh well a good thing the last transportation victims to far flung lands were in another century , which now only leaves either Belize or the Falkland Islands at the current rate the prisons will be totally full and absolutely overflowing with those evil ten million or so "Copyright" criminals that infest the land so !

    I'll get my coat when it comes back from the tailors to repair the flame damage from the Apple Mac fanatics , what a toasty lot they are !

  89. Darren

    WTF???

    With Sky the box is yours after 1 year, I don't know how it works with Virgin Media??? My parents where with them in the NTL days and afters 6 years of dedicated viewing, NTL asked for there box back when they left them to emigrate to Thailand...

  90. Steve B

    @crap by Mark

    Bolleux, it all becomes clear. The b'stards have been destroying Great Britain and the Great British idea just so that GB can go forward in history as Gordhelpus Brown. Let's get the fridges out and go back to polling day 1979 again.

  91. John Watts
    Linux

    I got bored reading all the comments ...

    and probably didn't read the article as well as I should have and haven't gone anyway near any of the supporting articles.

    However, I suspect I can clear up some of the confusion around why these folks got nicked.

    Someone said something along the lines of "... baseball bat and if you used it to kill someone ...". Now, you'd be in no trouble there. If however, someone asked you how best to make a bat for killing someone and you suggested hammering a nail through the end then we're in different territory.

    From what I remember of the article they guys were mods on a forum and I seem to remember it being "providing a hacking advisory service" that they were charged for. If you write a book on physics you are not providing a "nuclear weapon advisory service" (if you look a bit foreign and are carrying a university level physics textbook around the City of London you can get nicked under terrorism charges though - happened a few years ago ...).

    If you enable people to ask you questions and then give the answer to "what's the best way to compact my 16kg of enriched uranium in the shortest possible time to provide the best yield?" or probably even facilitate (actively) other people to answer then you've crossed a line. If you've made money out of doing so then you've taken a running jump at the line.

    I could be wrong of course, and I'm sure in someone's opinion I am. I don't care though!

    Tux? 'Cause the dbox2 runs on Linux!

  92. Andy Davies

    information....

    shove the sharp end of the jemmy between the door and the jamb somewhere near the lock, and pull on the thing hard.

    Oh dear, now I've done it!

    AndyD 8-)#

  93. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Double standards?

    Welch pointed to a trial exhibit that was a confidential NDS report he described as a "how-to" manual for hacking. Then he went through a series of Internet posts and e-mails where the compromised DISH code was discussed.

    "All of these things are legitimate activities, there's nothing wrong," he said.

    From

    http://www.reuters.com/article/mediaNews/idUSN0742513720080508?pageNumber=2&virtualBrandChannel=0

  94. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Customer Support

    The first thing that came to mind when I read this was the thought that it would actually be quicker for me to obtain information on how to mod my virgin set-top box than it would for virgin to provide support for their faulty set-top box. (Actually it's the line itself that is faulty and not the set-top box, but in the interests of artistic license....)

    Approx 90 days and counting. Virgins customer support is so, so bad.

    (I too would like a cowboy icon, in its absence i've gone with PH)

  95. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    @Insane

    When I use my time machine to commit crimes, I always go back to the past and wipe out my tracks. Problem solved. Except for the one time I inadvertently killed Bill Gates... You would have thought it should have improved things, but when I returned to the future, intelligent crock pots ruled humanity and had made us their slaves... So I had to go back again and put things right.

  96. BigBird

    So why hasn't BskyB been prosecuted

    Anyone here remember THOIC.com - A hacking forum that gave out OnDigital codes on its forum. Turned out it was actually owned by BskyB to keep an eye on the hacking community. They committed at least two crimes.

    1: They regularly released their competitors (OnDigital) encryption codes on the web, and info on how to use them to freely obtain subscription TV.

    2: They intercepted their members private emails and messages.

    The story was in the Guardian newspaper. There was enough evidence to find them guilty. Evidence that I have seen and was posted on the web. the evidence was actually downloaded from the webmasters PC. His bank account details showing large payments from BskyB, and the emails between him and BskyB security staff proved beyond any doubt that the website was being funded by BskyB.

    Apart from the criminal aspect I remember that Canal+ were threatening to sue BskyB for damages (the OnDigital encryption algorithm was owned by Canal+).

    To date I haven't seen any action taken against BskyB. Seems some people are above the law in the UK.

    Note: This is not hearsay. This is evidence I have seen myself. I know the people who obtained the evidence directly from the webmasters PC. I can probably still get my hands on the original evidence if someone out there in the criminal justice system is brave enough to take on BskyB who are guilty of exactly the same crime these two guys have gone to prison for - if not more.

  97. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    knowledge is power

    Amaz0n sell a dummies book 'Hacking for Dummies' who will be prosecuted for this bit of info?

    wait lets just teach a chosen few everything and then burn all the knowledge.

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