NDS Espionage Case Isn't Dead Yet

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Keeping an intriguing alleged corporate espionage case alive, News Corp.'s NDS Americas unit was hit with grand jury subpoenas last week, stemming from claims that it helped pirates steal signals from U.S. and European satellite companies.

NDS, which sells conditional-access technology, was first accused of helping satellite pirates in March, when France's Canal Plus sued the company for racketeering, piracy and other charges.

Canal claimed that NDS engineers in Israel cracked the code to its encryption system, and had it published on the dr7.com Web site, which is frequented by pirates. But Canal parent Vivendi Universal S.A. agreed to drop the suit as part of a deal it struck last week to sell its Telepiu pay television business in Italy to News Corp.

Looking to prevent the case from being dismissed, EchoStar Communications Corp. and its Nagrastar joint-venture company filed a motion to intervene in the case, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Sept. 27.

Like Canal, the U.S. direct-broadcast satellite provider accused NDS of cracking its encryption code and spreading that information via the Internet. In its court filing, EchoStar said it wants to prevent NDS and Canal from destroying any documents, testimony and other evidence gathered so far in the case.

NDS confirmed last week that it was served with subpoenas by the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Diego, Calif.

"The investigation apparently involves allegations similar to those made by NDS's competitors Canal Plus and EchoStar/Nagrastar, which NDS has repeatedly denied as baseless, and motivated by a desire on the part of certain persons and entities to cause harm to NDS and to thwart legitimate competition from NDS," NDS said in a statement.

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