NCTA Closing In on Pirate Site - Multichannel

NCTA Closing In on Pirate Site

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National Cable & Telecommunications Association piracy investigators
believe they are just days away from locating the Internet-service provider that
hosts a hardware supplier that advertises illegal digital-video-descrambling
devices.

The filters -- offered via a professional-looking, graphics-rich
electronic-mail message -- can compromise digital set-tops, but only for a short
time, according to Nilda Gumbs, assistant director of the NCTA's Office of Cable
Signal Theft.

The e-mails began appearing about one month ago and gained the attention of
investigators because they might be the first to claim to have broken
digital-encryption technology.

Also, unlike the plethora of e-mails that tout analog pirate hardware, the
communication from Digi-Vision Digital Cable Descrambler is studded with
familiar, correctly spelled brand names.

The e-mail is linked to a Web site boasting that the device -- a filter
inserted between the cable and the set-top -- will unscramble signals to 99
percent of digital set-tops in the field, including ones from Motorola Inc.; its
predecessor, General Instrument Corp.; Pioneer New Media Technologies Inc.; and
Scientific-Atlanta Inc.

Consumers who must call in pay-per-view orders can't use the filter, the Web
site states.

Another anomaly of the e-mail is the price of the device: $199.

"The ad is new, but the filters themselves have been appearing on eBay [Inc.]
for a while for as little as $10," Gumbs said.

The NCTA contacted the online auction site to halt future postings for
descramblers.

The trade association has "hit some walls" tracking the e-mail -- with the
return address freeppv2@optin-websites.com -- back to the ISP from which it
originated, she added.

But the NCTA doesn't anticipate any problem with shutting down the Web site
once it is located, she said.

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