A Rhode Island couple violated federal law by selling filters throughout the Northeast and Florida that enabled users to steal pay-per-view programming, according to a ruling Thursday in federal court in that state.
Judge Lincoln Almond issued a summary judgment, released Tuesday, in favor of Cox Communications Inc., doing business as Cox Communications New England, and against a Tiverton, R.I., couple, Jonathan and Amy Chaffee. This means that the judge felt that the evidence against the sellers was strong enough that Cox would have prevailed at full trial.
The Chaffees were accused of selling filters at computer shows and by mail. When attached to the back of digital converters, the filters would prevent billing information from reaching cable operators' computers, so that users could view the content free-of-charge. The theft devices did not work on basic- or premium-cable content.
The filters were marketed as reception-improvement devices, but the sellers would provide buyers with computer links for directions on resetting the set-tops to block billing information and to hide the filters from cable companies.
The defendants failed to convince the judge of their counterargument. They claimed that the filters didn't enable stealing content, just delaying payment to a time when the filter was removed. Almond was unmoved.
Next, there will be an evidentiary hearing to determine damages to be paid to Cox.