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DirecTV can't sue for gear possession

Appeals court affirms that suit defendants have to use--not just own--equipment for intercepting satellite TV.

An appeals court affirmed a ruling against satellite company DirecTV that it cannot sue individuals for merely owning gear that could be used to hijack satellite signals.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals said Tuesday that DirecTV can't sue individuals like defendant Mike Treworgy for owning equipment that enables them to intercept television programming. The court was supporting a ruling by the U.S. District Court Middle District of Florida's Fort Myers Division that said DirecTV could not sue individuals for owning gear.

"A decision like this says that you must prove that someone did something wrong--just owning a product doesn't mean you did something wrong," said Jason Schultz, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The civil liberties organization filed an amicus brief in support of Treworgy, who is represented by attorney Albert Zakarian.

"We believe this ruling will have no practical effect on existing cases," said Robert Mercer, a DirecTV spokesman.

The company intends to prove that Treworgy did use the gear illegally, Mercer added.

The case will now go back to the Florida trial court, where DirecTV will have to provide evidence that Treworgy intercepted the company's signals. DirecTV's service allows subscribers to receive and decode television shows. DirecTV's service starts at $36.99 per month.

DirecTV had targeted its suits against vendors selling gear. More recently, it turned those efforts toward consumers. It filed more than 24,000 lawsuits, alleging that they stole programming.