Sky Cable, LLC v. Coley, Civil Action No. 5:11cv00048

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District of Virginia)
Decision Date11 July 2013
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 5:11cv00048
PartiesSKY CABLE, LLC, et al., Plaintiffs, v. RANDY COLEY, et al., Defendants.

SKY CABLE, LLC, et al., Plaintiffs,
RANDY COLEY, et al., Defendants.

Civil Action No. 5:11cv00048


Entered: July 11, 2013

By: Michael F. Urbanski
United States District Judge


This matter is before the court on various motions for summary judgment filed by the parties. A hearing was held on December 20, 2012, at which time the motions were taken under advisement in light of a settlement conference scheduled for January 11, 2013. The parties were unable to reach a resolution of this matter at the settlement conference, however, and these issues are now ripe for adjudication. For the reasons set forth below, Kimberli Coley, Randy Coley and East Coast Cablevision, LLC's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. # 163) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part; DIRECTV LLC's motion for partial summary judgment (Dkt. # 165) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part; plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment (Dkt. # 170) is DENIED; plaintiffs are DISMISSED from this action; and this matter is set down for further proceedings.


This case arises out of the receipt and unauthorized distribution of DIRECTV satellite programming to thousands of viewers at Massanutten Resort.

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DIRECTV, LLC operates a direct broadcast satellite system, through which subscribing customers can receive hundreds of channels of digital television, sports, and other programming. Decl. of Keith Waite, Dkt. # 166-1, at ¶ 8. At broadcast centers in Los Angeles, California and Castle Rock, Colorado, DIRECTV digitizes and compresses the programming into a signal that is then encrypted (electronically scrambled) by DIRECTV to prevent unauthorized viewing. Id. at ¶ 9. DIRECTV transmits the encrypted signal to satellites located in stationary orbits 22,300 miles above the earth. Id. The satellites relay the encrypted signal back to earth, where it is received by subscribers equipped with specialized DIRECTV receiving equipment. Id. at ¶ 10. This receiving equipment consists of a small satellite dish, an integrated receiver/decoder, and a DIRECTV access card that is necessary to operate the integrated receiver/decoder. Id. The signal is received from the satellite by the small dish and transmitted by cable wire to the integrated receiver/decoder. Id. The integrated decoder/receiver is a box the size of a DVD player that acts like a computer to process and decrypt the incoming signal using the DIRECTV access card that is loaded into the integrated receiver/decoder. Id. Each integrated receiver/decoder and access card is assigned a unique serial number, which is used by DIRECTV to activate the satellite receiving equipment and ensure the equipment decrypts DIRECTV programming in accordance with the subscriber's authorized programming package and pay-per-view purchases. Id. at ¶ 11.

DIRECTV provides satellite programming services to qualifying residential properties with multiple dwelling units, such as hotels, hospitals or college dormitories, pursuant to a Satellite Master Anntenna Television (SMATV) system. In a SMATV system, a master antenna or satellite dish is mounted onsite and receives programming that is distributed to individual

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units within the building. Id. at ¶ 12. Each integrated receiver/decoder is dedicated and used to receive and decode a single channel of programming that is then distributed through the SMATV system; for example, a SMATV property that offers 25 channels of DIRECTV programming will have 25 DIRECTV integrated receivers/decoders onsite and will use those integrated receivers/decoders to provide decrypted television programming to the property residents. Id. at ¶¶ 13-14. While the satellite signal comes from DIRECTV, the television programming accessible by residents may be displayed without channel guides, logos, or any other information that would identify DIRECTV as the source of the programming. Id. at ¶ 14.

In a SMATV system, the subscriber or customer of DIRECTV programming is the property, not the individual residents of that property. DIRECTV charges monthly subscription fees to its SMATV customers based on a rate schedule published by DIRECTV. The monthly fees are determined by the type of programming ordered by the SMATV customers and the number of individual units with access to DIRECTV programming ("subscriber units"). Id. at ¶ 15. SMATV customers are required to sign a SMATV Service Private Viewing Agreement and agree to the terms and conditions therein. Id. at ¶ 16. Prospective customers must supply information identifying the location of the property to receive DIRECTV programming, certifying that the property qualifies as a multiple dwelling unit eligible to receive DIRECTV programming, and declaring the number of subscriber units that will have access to that programming. Id. The SMATV Service Private Viewing Agreement prohibits the reception or viewing of DIRECTV SMATV programming at any location other than the property approved by DIRECTV. Id. at ¶ 17. It also prohibits the SMATV customer from charging property residents for DIRECTV programming and prohibits any reselling, retransmitting or re-broadcasting DIRECTV programming outside the designated property. Id.

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SMATV customers who wish to make programming changes or changes to unit counts may do so by contacting DIRECTV Customer Service either by way of the phone number provided on each monthly bill or by faxing in a change form. Id. at ¶¶ 36, 37.


Randy Coley is the sole member and manager of East Coast Cablevision, LLC.1 Jamnback Decl., Dkt. # 166-8, at Ex. 1 at 6. This limited liability corporation was formed in February 2001 and has conducted business under the names East Coast Cable, Resort, Resort Cable, LLC and Resort Cable.2 Id. at Ex. 2, Ex. 3 at ¶ 6. Prior to the LLC formation in 2001, Randy Coley operated a business called East Coast Cablevision. Id. at Ex. 1 at 108. Indeed, for over 25 years, Randy Coley has been engaged in the business of operating cable television systems across the country, and specifically has constructed cable television systems for hotels and resorts. Id. at Ex. 5 at ¶ 3. In the late 1990s, Coley entered into negotiations with Massanutten Resort3 to install and operate a cable television system. Id. at Ex. 5 at ¶ 4. An agreement between the parties was reached in 1999. Id. at Ex. 5 at ¶¶ 5.1, 5.2, 5.3.

To secure television programming for Massanutten Resort, Randy Coley established a DIRECTV SMATV account in the name of Massanutten.4 A SMATV Service Private Viewing

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Agreement was executed on behalf of Massanutten Resort on June 3, 1999. Decl. of Keith Waite, Dkt. # 166-1, at Ex. C. DIRECTV activated the Massanutten SMATV account, account no. 8810346, based on subscriber information forms filled out and submitted to DIRECTV by either Randy Coley or Bladen Hadley, both agents of East Coast.5 Jamnback Decl., Dkt. # 166-8, at Ex. 1 at 15, Ex. 6 at ¶ 6, Ex. 7 at ¶ 3; Decl. of Keith Waite, Dkt. # 166-1, at ¶ 22. These forms indicated: (a) that this was a new DIRECTV customer; (b) that the property name was "Massanutten Resort;" (c) that the property type was "Hotel/Motel Guest Rooms;" (d) that the property address was "289 Ranier Road, Massanutten, VA 22480;" and (e) that the billing address was "P.O. Box 153, McGaheysville, VA 22840." Decl. of Keith Waite, Dkt. # 166-1, at Ex. C. The forms certified that 168 subscriber units at the property would be receiving DIRECTV programming. Id. The forms were signed by Bladen Hadley as "Authorized Property Owner or Manager," and by Randy Coley as "Authorized Installer." Id. However, Bladen Hadley was not the property owner or manager of Massanutten Resort. Jamnback Decl., Dkt. # 166-8, at Ex. 1 at 17. Moreover, there is no hotel with 168 units located at 289 Ranier Road. Nor was this the location of the SMATV system "headend" containing DIRECTV receiving equipment, the place at which the DIRECTV signal is received and then redistributed to locations where programming is to be viewed. See id. at Ex. 1 at 164-67. Rather, 289 Ranier Road is the address of a house rented by East Coast to house its employees, which Coley describes as East Coast's "base of operations." Id. at Ex. 1 at 146, Ex. 6 at ¶ 13; Decl. of Keith Waite, Dkt. # 166-1, at ¶ 29. Post Office Box 153, listed on the subscriber information form as the billing address for Massanutten, was actually a post office box leased and controlled by East

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Coast. Jamnback Decl., Dkt. # 166-8, at Ex. 6 at ¶ 9. For his part, Coley asserts that DIRECTV instructed him as to how to fill out the subscriber information forms.6 See, e.g., id. at Ex. 1 at 145.

According to Coley, the Massanutten SMATV account was initially set up to provide programming to 168 units at Mountainside Villas, a timeshare condominium complex. Id. at Ex. 1 at 154, 168. Coley asserts that at the time, East Coast supplied all other areas of Massanutten Resort with programming obtained through a company called WS-Net. Id. at Ex. 5 at ¶¶ 6-7. After WS-Net ceased operations at some point in 2004, East Coast began supplying other units at Massanutten with DIRECTV programming. Id. at Ex. 1 at 36, 70. As the Massanutten Resort expanded, Coley and East...

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