In September 2011 people who allegedly “cracked and resold” pirated DStv services were arrested in the Western Cape. At least one case has however been thrown out of court for a lack of evidence.
The people behind the pirated DStv services used Linux-powered DVB satellite digital television receivers (Dreambox), with a ‘master’ system which captured and decrypted the DStv smart card keys and distributed it via the Internet to the ‘satellite’ boxes of their subscribers.
At the time MultiChoice CTO Gerdus van Eeden explained that the use of Dreamboxes to pirate DStv services is nothing new, but to date the prevalence of this technique was very limited in South Africa and that this is hence the first case of its kind in the country.
According to MultiChoice a total of nine people were arrested by the commercial branch of the Hawks in the Cape Town area for card sharing piracy involving Dreamboxes.
“Three people who were arrested on one of the cases have been convicted on counts relating to the contravention of section 86 (3) of Act No. 25 of 2002 of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act – Unauthorised access to, interception of or interference with data,” said MultiChoice.
One of the people who was arrested, who asked to remain anonymous, told MyBroadband that he did not sell pirated DStv services to end users. “I did however sell set top boxes, which includes Dreamboxes, AZboxes and openboxes, to the public which is legal, he said.
“I got arrested at my house by a detective and a DSTV employee. They came to my house with a search warrant but no arrest warrant. On the warrant it basically said that they can take anything from my premises relating to things ‘Contravening of sect 86 “1” & “3” the electronic communications and transactions act’,” he explained.
“After asking me a couple of questions they confiscated 2 of my PC’s and 46 Dreamboxes. They also asked me to accompany them to the police station after which they locked me up for the evening. When I asked what the reason was for my arrest I was answered with the same act as they confiscated my goods,” he said.
MultiChoice would not say whether they consider Dreamboxes to be legal in South Africa, instead saying that “when used for illegal card sharing, Dreamboxes are not legal”.
MultiChoice added that Dreamboxes may never be used to watch DStv (not even when using it with a legal smart card).
“The DStv service is designed to operate with DStv decoders and SIM cards. The SIM cards and decoders are paired to each other and the DStv service only operates when both these are present,” explained MultiChoice.
“At our first hearing the state asked for a postponement as they did not have enough evidence or needed more time to work through the evidence. Our lawyers asked that it must be the last postponement and the judge agreed to this,” he said.
“At our second hearing 7 months later the state dropped their case against me as they still did not have enough time or evidence to convict us,” he added. “The case is now closed but apparently they will convict us at some other time when they have enough evidence.”
The anonymous accused said he had most of his confiscated equipment returned after a challenging process.
“The day I got my items back I was told by the arresting officer that they will reopen the case if I don’t plead guilt on some obscure charge (which I can’t even remember what it is). I have however not heard from them yet,” he concluded.
MultiChoice explained that “the other two cases are still being investigated by the commercial branch of the Hawks regarding financial statements and tracing of other suspects who were involved”.
“These cases have been removed from the court roll until the HAWKS investigations are completed,” said MultiChoice.