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Blanchard v. DIRECTV, Inc.

California Court of Appeal
20 Cal. Rptr. 3d 385 (2004)


Facts

DIRECTV, Inc. (DIRECTV) (defendant) provided television-programming subscriptions via satellite. DIRECTV encrypted the transmissions to prevent unauthorized reception of its programs. DIRECTV also investigated and prosecuted hackers and pirates who circumvented the encryption to obtain unauthorized reception. DIRECTV’s efforts included sending demand letters individuals who had purchased decryption devices used to steal DIRECTV’s programming. These letters: (1) explained that using the devices violated federal law, (2) told the individuals to cease using the devices, and (3) asked that the individuals settle DIRECTV’s claims against them to avoid litigation. Later, DIRECTV sued more than 600 decryption-device purchasers nationwide. A group of people who had received these demand letters (plaintiffs) sued DIRECTV in California state court, alleging extortion and violations of various rights. The plaintiffs sought restitution of money they paid to DIRECTV and to enjoin DIRECTV from sending these demand letters. DIRECTV moved to strike the complaint under the anti-SLAPP statute. The anti-SLAPP statute protects Californians from unfounded, strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs). DIRECTV argued that: (1) its pre-litigation demand letters were an exercise of DIRECTV’s constitutional right to petition for redress of grievances and (2) the plaintiffs’ suit was an attempt to chill DIRECTV’s exercise of this constitutional right. The plaintiffs argued that the anti-SLAPP statute did not apply because their lawsuit was a public-interest lawsuit. The trial court granted DIRECTV’s motion to strike. The plaintiffs appealed to the California Court of Appeal.

Rule of Law

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Holding and Reasoning (Aldrich, J.)

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