A loose coalition of cypherpunks, cyberrights groups, Free Software
activists, hacker organizations, and civil rights advocates have
united under the umbrella of the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF)
to protest the arrest of Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov on July
16th by the FBI in Las Vegas.
Dmitry Sklyarov, an employee of ElcomSoft of Moscow, is the author of
a software utility called Advanced eBook Processor. The AEPR allows
legitimate purchasers of a digital book format called eBooks to
exercise their fair use rights (such as making backup copies or
reading eBooks on a Linux machine) with eBook files. These rights are
normally impeded by the eBook security system.
Adobe Systems, makers of the eBook, filed a complaint with the FBI
about Sklyarov under the criminal section of the Digital Millennium
Copyright Act (DMCA). Based on this complaint, the FBI arrested Dmitry
in Las Vegas on July 16th. Sklyarov had given a presentation at
Defcon, a convention for security experts, hackers, and cyberrights
groups in Las Vegas, about weaknesses in the security system of the
Adobe eBook platform.
More coverage of the Sklyarov arrest and information about the legal
foundations of the DMCA can be found here:
Concerned cyberrights activists have concentrated around an email list
Within days, they
have organized a world-wide network of protests scheduled for Monday,
July 23rd, 2001. Held outside Adobe Systems' offices, US federal
buildings, and US embassies, the protests will raise public awareness
of the issues in the case and demand action from Adobe and the US
government to free Dmitry Sklyarov and drop all charges.
Already, demonstrations have been scheduled for San Francisco,
Seattle, Denver, Chicago, Moscow, Boston, and other cities. In the Bay
Area, protesters will be meeting in downtown San Jose at 11:00AM and
march to Adobe Systems global headquarters. There, they will demand
that Adobe withdraw its complaint and refrain from filing similar
complaints under the DMCA.
More information on the Free Sklyarov protests in San Jose and
elsewhere is available here:
Fair use, an important doctrine in US copyright law that allows
purchasers of copyrighted material limited rights to quote and archive
information, has been continually eroded by the DMCA in recent
years. Notable cases include the RIAA vs. Napster and the MPAA
vs. 2600 Magazine. Those cases, however, were civil suits between
industry groups and individuals. It is believed that Sklyarov's is
only the second case under the DMCA criminal sections, which went into
effect in October of 2000.
Sklyarov has been held without bail and is out of contact with his
family in Russia. He is currently in transit to the jurisdiction of
the Northern California US Attorney, where the complaint was filed.
I wrote this letter to many of my friends and
family last night, most of whom were probably unaware of Dmitry's plight, or even what the DMCA even is.
Perhaps you'd like to forward it to your friends and family, if you'd like to introduce them to the matter in a simple way.
It is hosted at my Free Dmitry! page, where I will also be adding the letters
I'm composing to send to my congressional representatives.
A more thorough discussion of the issues involved in the DMCA and Dmitry's arrest can be found in
the Background section of
The Chicago Free Sklyarov Protest: Pre-Protest Packet. If someone wants to know more about what's going on than I
have to say, send them that, it's a plain-text file.
I am very disappointed that the EFF decided to endore Adobe after
they caused the whole mess in the first place. Right now, even though
Adobe has came back on the "good side," it does nothing to change the
damage that they did in the first place. They still will get the
prosecution of Dmitry, yet they will end up looking like the good guys
because they "saw the light" and removed their request from the FBI to
have him arrested.
It still doesn't remove the fact that they brought the
charges in the first place. How much do you want to bet that the people
who suggested the arrest knew that type of outcry it would
bring? And depended upon it to get more publicity for them and make
them look like a good guy? We should not excuse people for not thinking
before they acted. Either they didn't think, or they knew perfectly
well what would happen. In either case, they are still to be blamed for
Dmitry's exile from Russia and his family. I hope that the next time an
Adobe executive goes over seas that they receive the same treatment so
they'll think twice next time.
So, what's the score right now? Adobe is a "good company" because
they realized it's not the way to do things. Dmitry is still in jail
because of Adobe and the US government for an unconstituional law. FBI
is just looking stupid with the whole thing.