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Seventeen people have been charged with creating satellite TV piracy tools that cost US operators DirecTV and Dish Network millions of dollars in lost revenues.

Half a dozen defendants have been charged under copyright circumvention measures contained in the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The other accused face conspiracy charges.

It is alleged that members of the group developed software and hardware devices to defeat the smart card protection designed to restrict satellite TV services to only paying subscribers.

Information on how to unscramble satellite TV signal and defeat smartcards was traded in Net chat rooms amongst the accussed, prosecutors claim.

Ten defendants, including a 43-year-old Los Angeles man who admits causing satellite TV firm $14.8 million in lost revenue, have already entered guilty pleas, AP reports. Most of the defendants, whose age ranges from 19 to 52, come from California but some are from as far away as North Carolina, Ohio and other states.

The charges against the 17 come in federal grand jury indictments returned last month and unsealed earlier this week. ®

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