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DirecTV, Inc. v. Moreno

December 15, 2003

DIRECTV, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN MORENO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joseph E. Irenas, S.U.S.D.J.

OPINION

Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12(b)(6). The Court has original jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. This motion comes out of a dispute between DirecTV and the Defendants, including John Moreno, and their alleged purchase and use of devices designed to illegally intercept DirecTV's satellite broadcasts. *fn1 The Defendants here move to dismiss DirecTV's three claims: (1) unauthorized reception of satellite signals in violation of 47 U.S.C. § 605(a); (2) unauthorized interception of electronic communications in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2511(1)(a); and (3) possession of pirate access devices in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2512(1)(b). We deny Defendants' motion as to all three claims.

I.

DirecTV distributes satellite television broadcasts throughout the United States. These television broadcasts are electronically scrambled by DirecTV and are transmitted from satellites to subscribers who receive the signals through the use of DirecTV hardware, which includes a small satellite dish, an integrated reciever, a DirecTV access card, and cabling. The DirecTV access card unscrambles the signals only for the programming paid for by the subscriber.

"Pirate access devices" are illegal devices designed to modify or circumvent DirecTV's signal-scrambling technology. A number of companies, including Canadian Security and Technology ("CST") have engaged in the internet sale of pirate access devices (Compl., ¶ 3). DirecTV, with the cooperation of local law enforcement, executed a writ of seizure upon a shipping facility used by CST. *fn2 Pursuant to this and other raids, DirecTV obtained sales records listing purchasers of illegal equipment, including many DirecTV subscribers.

According to the seized records, John Moreno ("Moreno") purchased nine or more pirate access devices in or about March, 2001. DirecTV filed a lawsuit against Moreno and a number of other individual defendants, alleging that they purchased, possessed and used illegal equipment designed for the purpose of stealing DirecTV's satellite television programming, in violation of 47 U.S.C. § 605(a), 18 U.S.C. § 2511(1)(a), and 18 U.S.C. § 2512(1)(b).

II.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides that a court may dismiss a complaint "for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court will accept the allegations of the complaint as true. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). Dismissal of claims under Rule 12(b)(6) should be granted only if "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). Although the court must assume as true all facts alleged, "[i]t is not . . . proper to assume that the [plaintiff] can prove any facts it has not alleged." Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal., Inc., v. Cal. State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983). Finally, when "[c]onfronted with [a 12(b)(6)] motion, the court must review the allegations of fact contained in the complaint; for this purpose the court does not consider conclusory recitations of law." Pennsylvania v. Pepsico, Inc., 836 F.2d 173, 179 (3d Cir. 1988).

III.

Defendants first move to dismiss DirecTV's initial claim that they violated 47 U.S.C. § 605(a), which reads, in relevant part: No person not being authorized by the sender shall intercept any radio communication and divulge or publish the existence, contents, substance, purport, effect, or meaning of such intercepted communication to any person. No person not being entitled thereto shall receive or assist in receiving any interstate or foreign communication by radio and such use (or any information therein contained) for his own benefit or for the benefit of another not entitled thereto.

Accordingly, DirecTV must prove that Defendants received, assisted in receiving, or intercepted DirecTV satellite transmissions to prevail on this claim.

Defendants argue that: (1) DirecTV's complaint does not allege any violation of § 605; and (2) relevant case law does not permit DirecTV recovery under § 605. *fn3 We reject both arguments.

1.

Defendants contend that DirecTV's complaint does not allege any violation of 47 U.S.C. § 605, and, therefore, does not state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Violation of § 605 requires that an individual receive, intercept or assist another's receipt of radio communications. Defendants argue that DirecTV merely alleges that they "possessed" pirate access devices (Def. Br., 5). Although these devices would ostensibly allow Defendants to ...


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