Legality of decoding P25 Police/EMS/Fire data in an educational video.

ChrisBoden

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Greetings everyone. :)

I'm in preproduction on an educational video teaching how to use an SDR with DSD+ to build a simple rig and listen to trunked emergency services data on P25 systems.

Could someone please advise me on the legality of teaching this and posting it to the internet? I'm pretty certain it's legal in every way to do so, and there are several other videos covering various aspects of this online. I'm just making certain that I'm not going to get in any trouble for teaching this specific thing. I've been able to find a lot of information about scanners in cars, but I can't find any specific data about listening to and decoding P25 data.

Could someone with more experience in this please advise? I want to teach people about science and engineering, but I'd rather not get in trouble for doing it.

Thank you :) Any help is sincerely appreciated.

cb
 

ChrisBoden

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First off, THANK YOU kind internet stranger :)

"It shall not be unlawful under this chapter or chapter 121 of this title for any person-
(i) to intercept or access an electronic communication made through an electronic communication system that is configured so that such electronic communication is readily accessible to the general public;
(ii) to intercept any radio communication which is transmitted-
(I) by any station for the use of the general public, or that relates to ships, aircraft, vehicles, or persons in distress;
(II) by any governmental, law enforcement, civil defense, private land mobile, or public safety communications system, including police and fire, readily accessible to the general public;
(III) by a station operating on an authorized frequency within the bands allocated to the amateur, citizens band, or general mobile radio services; or
(IV) by any marine or aeronautical communications system;"

So.........it's ok for me to do this? Depending on how you read the entire two sections you sent me, either it's perfectly kosher to teach people about this stuff, or they can raid my house and send me to Gitmo just for thinking about P25.
 

gmclam

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It seems like the issue of "building" a system with the SDR and DSD would be OK, as there must already be instruction out there (on paper or whatever) as to how to do so. It would become a slippery slope when you start discussing encryption. But I am not a lawyer, that just my $0.01999999.
 

prcguy

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While it appears to be legal to assemble your SDR stuff to listen and decode data, it may not be legal to divulge the contents of the message or decoded info in your presentation. Here is some wording about that.

"No person not being authorized by the sender shall intercept any radio communication and divulge or publish the existence, contents, substance, purport, effect, or meaning of such intercepted communication to any person"
 

Hit_Factor

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While it appears to be legal to assemble your SDR stuff to listen and decode data, it may not be legal to divulge the contents of the message or decoded info in your presentation. Here is some wording about that.

"No person not being authorized by the sender shall intercept any radio communication and divulge or publish the existence, contents, substance, purport, effect, or meaning of such intercepted communication to any person"
But feeds are streamed so there must be something else. It's hard to work from a snippet.
 

ChrisBoden

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Exactly, and this is why I'm having such difficulty understanding where the line in, and where I'm safe to operate and teach.

I want to make an education video discussing the details of step by step, how to set this up from zero, find, decode, and listen to P25 encoded traffic.

At no point, do I want to show any of the actual traffic or disclose anything confidential.

However, I know for a fact that law enforcement has very little sense of humor about people knowing their "secrets". Even if they're common knowledge to us nerds, they're not openly discussed or understood by the general public.

And if I make a YouTube video and showcase this to my audience, I don't want to get nailed just for teaching science.

So I need to be absolutely safe, and know exactly where that line is, and steer well clear of it. If confronted, I need to be able to cite chapter and verse of exactly what the law says I can do.

If you think this sounds paranoid and that I sound like a guy who is afraid of his government, you're right.
 

Hit_Factor

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However, I know for a fact that law enforcement has very little sense of humor about people knowing their "secrets". Even if they're common knowledge to us nerds, they're not openly discussed or understood by the general public.
I believe you, but as a former LEO and with many friends who are still active LEO, that's not my experience. If operation security is necessary, they all know not to say it on the radio (unless it's encrypted).

What you want to do is perfectly legal. If you are worried about the re-transmission aspect, keep the segments short and no meaning full content.
 

RFI-EMI-GUY

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You can probably teach this in a very legal way. Problem is that across the country, some hot shot DA may decide to charge you with wire tapping or some thing and you will be on your own. Old timers here remember a famous scanner guy Bill Cheek who ended up sick dying with cancer and holding a subpoena from NY state for simply designing a data slicer using an OP amp. There was really no case to be made, but the power to be can squash you.
 

ChrisBoden

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Excellent, thank you gentlemen. I'll give it a shot, let's teach some people some science. :)

You guys rock.
 

scanmanmi

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I can't believe my eyes are hearing this. Decoding digital isn't the same as decrypting encrypted. First of all (believe it or not) (read it again) that federal law pertains to (and I qoute) "any interstate or foreign communication. " I believe it does not apply to intrastate reception.

(g) It shall not be unlawful under this chapter or chapter 121 of this title for any person-
(i) to intercept or access an electronic communication made through an electronic communication system that is configured so that such electronic communication is readily accessible to the general public;

There are lots of Youtubes already showing this. I wish you success on making an informative one.
There are several online rebraodcasters of this material.
Just don't mess with encryption.
Gonna try to catch the Coopersville train this year.
 

Johnnydollar2

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I agree with scanmanmi. There are a million (instruction) videos on Youtube already. However. I have found that it's best EDITING out people's lic plates being read AND editing out addresses of ambulance calls *especially for something like suicide attempts, or other telling things. I still see way too many set and leave videos broadcasting anything and everything including addresses and "lock box" info for apartment complexes the Police/Fire need to get into an apt-complex. In my UnicationG5 vids I try showing only shorter, generic traffic and mute-edit anything that can be criticized, abused by ghouls and morons on the Interweb.
 

prcguy

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There are laws in place that do prohibit divulging the contents of what you hear on some types of radio broadcasts. These laws have been in place for a long time and just because others break them doesn't mean its legal and you can't get into trouble. I would suggest the OP does a little more research to get the bottom line rather than relying on us. I certainly would not.

Here is some more info that may pertain to this but please do a wider search on the topic.





I can't believe my eyes are hearing this. Decoding digital isn't the same as decrypting encrypted. First of all (believe it or not) (read it again) that federal law pertains to (and I qoute) "any interstate or foreign communication. " I believe it does not apply to intrastate reception.

(g) It shall not be unlawful under this chapter or chapter 121 of this title for any person-
(i) to intercept or access an electronic communication made through an electronic communication system that is configured so that such electronic communication is readily accessible to the general public;

There are lots of Youtubes already showing this. I wish you success on making an informative one.
There are several online rebraodcasters of this material.
Just don't mess with encryption.
Gonna try to catch the Coopersville train this year.
 

ChrisBoden

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"Decoding digital isn't the same as decrypting encrypted. "

While you're not wrong, that's the kind of thing a lawyer could have a field say with. Because to the average person tuning in with a typical radio, it may as well be encrypted. All they hear is noise. It requires post processing, D/A decoding, etc to turn it into something you can hear.

I know that to people like us, it's obvious.

More than a few people have gone to prison for much less, more obvious things.

Now, that we live in the era post 9/11, people get damn twitchy when you start talking about infrastructure. When I was a teenager it was perfectly ok for my best friend's Dad to take us to work with him at the power plant. He's a manger now, and he couldn't get me in there last year to shoot a video on how power is generated. I've been threatened with legal action for shooting video of a simple substation. I've had people at a water filtration plant laugh me out of the room for suggesting I wanted to shoot a tour video of where drinking water comes from.

So, when I'm poking around with showing the world how the same technology we use for the state police communication system operates, yeah, I get nervous. These guys have all the time in the world and infinite resources to make my life hell. So I tread very carefully when I go down this path.

Yes, there's a million videos out there already, but most of them really truly suck. They're missing huge pieces, the editing is nonexistent, and the average ham radio guy is about as good at making a video as they are at making a website. ;)

I want to take a shot at doing better. I don't know that I CAN, but it's worth a shot.
 

GTR8000

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So, when I'm poking around with showing the world how the same technology we use for the state police communication system operates, yeah, I get nervous. These guys have all the time in the world and infinite resources to make my life hell. So I tread very carefully when I go down this path.
If you are truly that concerned with the implications of your project, then you should consult a bona fide expert, rather than seeking opinions from random strangers on a hobbiest website. You have no idea if the answers you're getting here are coming from knowledgeable sources, or some guy who likes to inflate his post count and ego by chiming in on any post he comes across.

I strongly advise you to take every answer you've received thus far with a grain of salt, and to consult someone with verifiable credentials, such as an attorney who specializes in these matters. Any other course of action is a roll of the dice, which based on your posts it seems that you are trying to avoid.
 

RFI-EMI-GUY

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"Decoding digital isn't the same as decrypting encrypted. "

While you're not wrong, that's the kind of thing a lawyer could have a field say with. Because to the average person tuning in with a typical radio, it may as well be encrypted. All they hear is noise. It requires post processing, D/A decoding, etc to turn it into something you can hear.

I know that to people like us, it's obvious.

More than a few people have gone to prison for much less, more obvious things.

Now, that we live in the era post 9/11, people get damn twitchy when you start talking about infrastructure. When I was a teenager it was perfectly ok for my best friend's Dad to take us to work with him at the power plant. He's a manger now, and he couldn't get me in there last year to shoot a video on how power is generated. I've been threatened with legal action for shooting video of a simple substation. I've had people at a water filtration plant laugh me out of the room for suggesting I wanted to shoot a tour video of where drinking water comes from.

So, when I'm poking around with showing the world how the same technology we use for the state police communication system operates, yeah, I get nervous. These guys have all the time in the world and infinite resources to make my life hell. So I tread very carefully when I go down this path.

Yes, there's a million videos out there already, but most of them really truly suck. They're missing huge pieces, the editing is nonexistent, and the average ham radio guy is about as good at making a video as they are at making a website. ;)

I want to take a shot at doing better. I don't know that I CAN, but it's worth a shot.
This (attached) is pretty much what happened to Bill Cheek. He was railroaded by a NY State Attorney, not the feds. There is so much ignorance in interpreting how the law applies to technology that one has to be careful not to stir up a hornets nest. You could be totally in the right but be forced to defend yourself against a superior (but wrong) power.

 

wtp

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This section shall not apply to the receiving, divulging, publishing, or utilizing the contents of any radio communication which is transmitted by any station for the use of the general public, which relates to ships, aircraft, vehicles, or persons in distress, or which is transmitted by an amateur radio station operator or by a citizens band radio operator.

shall not apply to...or which is transmitted be an amateur radio station.
so why not use a P-25 ham transmission ?they are out there.
 

RFI-EMI-GUY

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You can probably teach this in a very legal way. Problem is that across the country, some hot shot DA may decide to charge you with wire tapping or some thing and you will be on your own. Old timers here remember a famous scanner guy Bill Cheek who ended up sick dying with cancer and holding a subpoena from NY state for simply designing a data slicer using an OP amp. There was really no case to be made, but the power to be can squash you.
 

prcguy

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I agree with this. If you create your own transmission specifically to decode for educational purposes via amateur radio or into a dummy load, then nobody else has a claim to it.

This section shall not apply to the receiving, divulging, publishing, or utilizing the contents of any radio communication which is transmitted by any station for the use of the general public, which relates to ships, aircraft, vehicles, or persons in distress, or which is transmitted by an amateur radio station operator or by a citizens band radio operator.

shall not apply to...or which is transmitted be an amateur radio station.
so why not use a P-25 ham transmission ?they are out there.
 

K7MFC

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It would become a slippery slope when you start discussing encryption.
Why would merely discussing encryption be a slippery slope? Most commonly used encryption standards are openly published, there is no secret to how it works.
 
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