When Dish Network believes someone is using illegally receiving signals or programming, the service initially sends a letter threatening legal action and offering to settle the dispute for a fee. The overhanging threat is that if the recipient does not settle, pursuing the case costs money for a lawyer, and losing a case brings fines and jail time for violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and other communication and copyright laws.
Unlike cable providers, satellite companies do not have an easy way to trace who illegally receives their programming or audit neighborhood program use. Instead, Dish and other satellite providers use customer lists and other records from raids on hackers or pirate services. In a 2011 Texas case, a customer of a hacked service was threatened with $2,500 per Digital Millennium Copyright Act violation, $10,000 for each violation of the Communications Act of 1934 and $100 for each day in violation of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. In this case, the accused paid each month for access to the pirate service, making it difficult to claim that Lucas paid for a product he never used.
Those who provide hacks or hardware to access satellite illegally face stiffer penalties. In 2010, a Florida man who provided software to bypass Dish Network security received a $51 million judgement, which was less than the maximum penalty possible. Prison time is another possible penalty. In 2011, owners of a California company that sold hardware to defeat Dish Network security faced up to five years in prison along with a $250,000 fine.