So it looks like DirecTV, makers of those little dishes, has decided to
file lawsuits against 8,000 (and counting) people accusing them of
pirating DirecTV signals.  These people are on record as purchasing
devices called smart-card programmers, which are apparently useful if
you want to “hack” your DirecTV system and get the Playboy channel for
free (or something).

The problem is, DirecTV has no direct evidence that these people are
committing a crime.  Many of those who have been accused don’t
subscribe to the service, don’t have a satellite dish, and simply
bought the devices for other– legitimate– purposes.

However, those same (innocent) people are often choosing to settle with
DirecTV, typically for somewhere around $3,500, rather than face a
lawsuit and the much higher price tag of a lawyer to defend them in
federal court.

It seems to me this is a gross abuse of the legal system.  DirecTV is
using the fact that (1) people are intimidated by legal notices from
big corporations, and (2) people would rather pay $3,500– even if
they’re innocent– than pay $10k or more for a lawyer to defend them.  
It seems to me this is a sad state of affairs, when innocent people
give in to blustery legal threats because it’s easier than the