Next Wave of Free Dmitry Protests: Monday July 30

Posted 27 Jul 2001 at 01:45 UTC by MisterBad Share This

I know what you're thinking: "What? I thought we freed Dmitry _LAST_ week!" But the Man Nobody Wants In Prison is still behind bars due to bureaucratic inertia. The folks in the Department of Justice need a push, and it's going to take a lot of us to push them.

A new wave of Free Dmitry protests is going off next week in cities across the country. To quickly recap, Dmitry Sklyarov is a Russian programmer who was arrested by the FBI on July 16th after making a presentation at Def Con 9. Dmitry is a Ph.D. student in Moscow and an expert on the various "copy protection" algorithms used for digital documents such as encrypted PDF and eBook.

Dmitry's initial code was picked up by a Moscow company called ElcomSoft, who put out his work as a product called the Advanced Ebook Processor. The AEBPR is a useful tool for legitimate owners of eBooks to make backups, transfer files between computers, read eBooks on non-authorized platforms (like Linux), play eBooks through text-to-speech translators (essential for the vision-impared), and exercise many other fair use rights.

However, because the AEBPR has to remove the copy protection -- converting an eBook into a plain old PDF -- Adobe Systems, the makers of eBook, were greatly worried. They reported Dmitry to the FBI under the criminal sections of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and the Feds took him down in Las Vegas.

The international hacker outcry has been deafening. After a lightning-quick round of organizing efforts last week, a series of protests world-wide were executed in front of Adobe offices, US federal buildings and US embassies by cyberrights advocates demanding Dmitry's immediate release. Based on the huge response, and with the gentle nudging of the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF), Adobe chose to withdraw its complaint and request the release of Dmitry Sklyarov.

This brings us to where we are today. Despite the withdrawal, there's been no news from the Northern California US Attorney's office, which is responsible for Dmitry's prosecution. Why is Dmitry Sklyarov still in jail, when nobody wants him there? No one is quite sure, but we want to make the Feds know that we want him out.

In Washington D.C., Free Dmitry protesters will demonstrate outside the Senate confirmation hearings for Robert Mueller, President Bush's nominee for Director of the FBI. Mueller is the current US Attorney for NorCal, so he's the person most capable for making the choice to drop the charges. There will also be a demonstration in San Francisco outside the Burton Federal Building, where the US Attorney's office is. Other demos are already scheduled for Chicago, Boston, New York, and other cities across the US.

After Monday's victory, we know several things. First, there is a huge bloc of civil libertarians, programmer-activists, cypherpunks, hackers, geeks, and cyberrights advocates out there who are willing and able to make a big noise for a just cause. Second, we know that we can make a difference. The combination of activists on the outside and negotiators on the inside has been very successful, and we want to continue that.

But most of all, we've found out that inforights causes reach out to the general public. Free Dmitry protests were featured on 10 O'Clock TV news shows and the front pages of local papers across the country. People understand that fair use is about being FAIR, and that it's wrong to put people in jail to cover up the weaknesses in technical products. We know that we can reach out to people, build a ground swell, and win this battle.

Now more than ever we need local organizers and participants to make these protests big events. If you are concerned about civil liberties on the Internet, you really owe it to yourself and the rest of us to show yourself in meatspace in a city near you. Check Free Sklyarov for the schedule of a Monday protest near you. If there isn't one, why don't you get on the Free Sklyarov Mailing List and start it?

And the third thing we learned from the last one, posted 27 Jul 2001 at 02:39 UTC by Iain » (Master)

Nobody cares.

Nobody Cares!?, posted 28 Jul 2001 at 02:09 UTC by MisterBad » (Master)

Well, I count thousands of people around the world who have come to protests, given out flyers, spoken up to their elected representatives, or otherwise made their voice heard. So it seems like there's at least SOME people who care.

And there are as of this writing 8250 signatories to this electronic petition: Names like Linus Torvalds, Alan Cox, Brian Behlendorf. They appear to care, too.

And like I said, there's been a ton of mainstream and industry press coverage. That implies that there are other people caring, too, and that reporters think their readers will care.

Also, I've had positive feedback on this story on Advogato. So I figure even some people _here_ care.

If you don't care, go ahead and say that you don't care! And if you don't care, WHY NOT? Are you so short-sighted that you can't see what's happening to hacker culture and hacker industry? Do you really think that the DMCA stops with Russian programmers you've never met? How long are you going to wait until you start doing something about? Are you going to wait until someone you work with gets arrested? Are you going to waith until it's you? Are you going to wait until it's too late?

The General public, posted 28 Jul 2001 at 05:49 UTC by Iain » (Master)

Don't care

Oh, alright then, you've convinced me., posted 28 Jul 2001 at 06:49 UTC by Iain » (Master)

I figure I should probably explain why I don't really care.

Basically, over the past 3 or 4 years that I've been following "the hacker culture" I've come to the conclusion that you/we (I'm not sure if I like counting myself as part of the hacker culture as I've come to dislike most of what it stands for/involves) have brought it all upon ourselves. This "community" has to be one of the most whiny, egotistical, opinionated self obsessed groups of people ever. If there's something we don't like, damn we let it be known. We whine, we complain, we organise boycotts (which we're not very good at sticking to mind), we "protest". We jump on every "injustice" carried out upon us as if we're 150% in the right.

We spew shit such as "The information wants to be free", which really means "We want the information to be free, and if it's not, we're going to take it anyway."

So, I'm currently(1) skeptical that this is a worthwhile cause to waste my energy on(2). I personally feel there are much greater evils in the world, and protesting isn't the way to fix them.

"The limitation of protests is that they cannot win, and their participants know it. Hence protesting is not revolutionary but reactionary, because it invites defeat. It involves an emotional catharsis, but it must be followed by a sense of futility."
Martin Luther King Jr - The Trumpet of Conscience (1967)

The simple reason I say "nobody cares" is from asking numerous people who were at Monday's protest (I was in bed, it was at noon, you understand I'm sure) the question "So, did any passers by care, or seem all that fussed?" The answer in all cases was "No" (or some variation on the same theme). So, a quick straw poll, seems to suggest that no-one cared. 8000 signatures. Out of what...6 billion people? (A bit facetious, I know, but it's nice to put scale on these things). The closing of a path in my home town can get more than 8000 signatures, and it's not a very big town (maybe 20,000 people?).

And name dropping Linus and Alan doesn't make me suddenly change my opinion, sorry. They are human, and can be wrong too.

My personal view is that the DMCA won't be revoked because it is not unconstitutional, no matter how much you protest. At least, not once you work out who the constitution was written for.

Lots of love,

(1) Currently. I don't believe I have seen enough of both sides of the argument to make a clear judgement on it. I have seen the "hacker community" go off on pointless whines before. But maybe when I am presented with both sides, I can make a judgement.

(2) Like free software, you can do what the hell you want, if that makes you happy.

FREE! FREE! FREE! FREE SATPAL RAM! (At least ADF managed to make a much better song than "Dmitri and the DMCA")

Well, That's Cool, posted 28 Jul 2001 at 07:00 UTC by MisterBad » (Master)

Hey, sounds like you have some good reasons to be apathetic.

I think you forgot the best reason, though: you have some of the smartest, funniest, schemingest people in the WHOLE WORLD out there fighting for your rights as a programmer. No wonder you feel complacent!

Media spins versus freedoms, posted 28 Jul 2001 at 07:03 UTC by sethcohn » (Master)

Iain, I've explained to the non-techy person the story this way: A guy is in jail for writing and talking about a big companies poorly written software. That he is Russian is ironic, that he is in jail without bail is tragic, and that Adobe was able to file a complaint/charges is sickening. This is to the average person.

People will respond to this. That can be shown by example.

What will people NOT respond to: Another hacker is arrested for breaking the law. Another computer geek does something he shouldn't be doing, and get arrested.

The difference is the media spin, and it's QUITE bad. Yes, you can point to articles that don't cover it with that sort of spin, but many have. The media overall HAS.

Don't blame a clueless public for what the people who explain the news of the world are doing.

If you explain the importance, people care. They are disgusted that their country, the 'free world bastion' is imprisoning people the way they expect a "Russia" too, so the irony is very important to note and makes it all the more interesting.

People care, it's the media that doesn't. Who owns the Media? The same corps that backed DMCA to start with.

I really think a IT walkout day is crucial... and maybe even more. Tee idea of an IT strike might be well suited if Dmitry isn't free by August 1st. If every US IT/IS/MIS person would walk out, you know the world media will cover it. And it's hard to spin and say he's a bad guy if everone is walking out for him.

It's time to reclaim the denied greatness... geeks run the world, and if they pass bad laws, we can voice our feelings by stopping the world.

(Yes, I'm reminded of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged... like it or not)

I dont think it's the media's fault, posted 28 Jul 2001 at 16:03 UTC by Iain » (Master)

That there's no interest when people walk past a protest. That comes from something else.

Maybe I should read Atlas Shrugged. People seem to like claiming it's very insightful, although from the bits I've heard about, it doesn't seem to be saying very much that's not been said before.

Let them fight all their little wars, gaining "victories". "Look maw, 200 of us went and stood out in various parks around the country and Adobe backed down. Aren't we wonderful". My take on the whole Adobe backing down thing is that it was carefully planned: Adobe gets this guy arrested to flex their muscles, and once the world has seen it's not afraid to do so, drops the charges.

Who are the funny people fighting for my rights?

The general public DOES care., posted 29 Jul 2001 at 06:59 UTC by witten » (Journeyer)


Today I went to help hand out several thousand flyers with a bunch of fellow coders at a major pedestrian walkway in Los Angeles (3rd Street Promenade). What really surprised me was the reaction of the crowds of people who we were grabbing the flyers. I expected them not to even take the flyers in the first place, or maybe just take them and throw them away when they saw all the intimidating text.

But not only were the flyers going like hotcakes, people actually read them, and then came back to ask questions and voice their opinions about how screwed up the whole thing is! This included everyone from teenagers to grandmas and everyone in between. I had conversations with students, movie producers, musicians, etc. And nearly everyone seemed very supportive once we answered the inevitable, "So who's this Dmitry?"

I think that, as Seth says, if this situation is cast in the right light, there is a whole heck of a lot that can resonate with your average person on the street. This is, after all, about freedom of speech. And deep down, even your most apathetic couch potato sees something at least a little wrong with throwing a student in the slammer because of what he says about some company's software.

So poo-poo our protests all you want. That's definitely your right. But I can't let stand your claim that the public doesn't care, because as I saw today, if they at least hear a little about the issue, then they suddenly become very interested.

The public, posted 29 Jul 2001 at 08:23 UTC by Iain » (Master)

Obviously you had a different experience with the public than I did (or the people I spoke to did). But everything is interesting, if cast in the right light.

Propaganda provides the leadership with a mechanism "to mold the minds of the masses" so that "they will throw their newly gained strength in the desired direction."
Noam Chomsky: Profit Over People (quoting Edward Bernays - leading figure in the PR industry in the 40s)

So in essence what you are doing is spinning the story to look good for your side, while the "media" is spinning it another way.

apathy, posted 29 Jul 2001 at 09:45 UTC by mbp » (Master)

I am an optimist. It does not seem much use being anything else.
-- Winston Churchill

(Of course, Churchill was arguably a fairly horrible imperialist in his own way, which perhaps goes to prove Iain's point about the people who write the constitution.)

Re: Oh, alright then, you've convinced me, posted 29 Jul 2001 at 19:47 UTC by Bram » (Master)

Iain wrote:

The simple reason I say "nobody cares" is from asking numerous people who were at Monday's protest (I was in bed, it was at noon, you understand I'm sure) the question "So, did any passers by care, or seem all that fussed?" The answer in all cases was "No" (or some variation on the same theme). So, a quick straw poll, seems to suggest that no-one cared.

I was actually at that that protest. Numerous fliers were handed out, mostly to people in cars, and got a fairly sympathetic response, and several members of the media were covering it.

Why were most of the fliers for people in cars? Well you see, there's nothing really on that block but the Adobe building, and there were suspiciously few (as in, almost no) people coming in and out. The story I heard is that Adobe decided to give their employees free lunch that day.

And Adobe seemed to care a lot - they dropped their complaint that day after negotiations with the EFF in which the EFF didn't have a bargaining position other than 'You see that protest outside? If you don't play nice there are going to be more of those, and bigger.'

Spin doctoring, posted 29 Jul 2001 at 23:31 UTC by witten » (Journeyer)


First of all, in response to your quote: We are not "the leadership." We aren't some multinational media conglomerate molding the "minds of the masses" to serve our corporate agenda. We're just an indignant bunch of coders handing out flyers on the street. And sure, we're casting the story in a certain light. Call it "spinning" if you want. But while much of the media, when they even cover the story at all, is spinning this thing to be about an evil Russian hacker taking down the internet and intellectual proeprty and the American way (we actually talked to one guy who insisted that Dmitry writes destructive viruses, because of what he had heard), our presentation of the facts is a whole lot closer to reality. We may be simplifying the issue a little because almost no one on the street is going to respond favorably to a sign that reads, "DMCA makes ROT-13 illegal". So of course we have to spin the issue in such a way that your average joe can care about it. But we do not feel that we're misrepresenting the truth at all. And so by trying to put us on the same level as your standard "The Internet is Evil -- Film at 11" media coverage, you are the one misrepresenting the facts.

Free Dmitry?, posted 30 Jul 2001 at 05:25 UTC by nelsonrn » (Master)

Iain, you know, you don't have to count yourself as part of hacker culture if you think we're such whiners. You could start by certifying yourself as an Observer instead of a Master.

Free Dmitry -- get one in every box!

Good idea, posted 30 Jul 2001 at 17:46 UTC by Iain » (Master)

That was set about .... 15 months ago purely tongue in cheek when I had made no worthwhile contributions to the world. But yeah, it's been changed now.

No, it <em>does</em> matter., posted 5 Aug 2001 at 03:45 UTC by Ankh » (Master)

That no-one cares (which isn't true anyway) does not make an issue unimportant.

When almost everyone believed that the world was flat, did that make them right? No.

The Dmitry case is about freedom of speech. It is about the sovereignty of the US over nationals of other countries. It is about the power of large corporations over the rights of individuals.

If you go to the US, Iain, and are arrested and kept without arraignment, because some large corporation says you did something they didn't like, and you have no rights, no ability to defend yourself, and are subsequently thrown in jail for ten years, this will have been the case that gave precedent.

And the reason for choosing a foreigner? It's someone who is not a US Citizen, and can't argue a right to freedom of speech in the US.

So yes, we need to oppose this.

And yes, the EU is considering similar legislation, as is Canada.

Ankh, posted 5 Aug 2001 at 21:37 UTC by Iain » (Master)

I didn't say it didn't matter, I said I didn't care nor does the general public. It's too late to do anything about it in the US. The US was created by, created for and ruled by the weathly landowners of the day. Those landowners are now corporations, who do everything in their power to maintain the status quo. There is no hope in hell that the DMCA will ever get revoked, simply because the corporations have the government in the palm of their collective hand.

Maybe there's a chance to stop it in Canada and Europe, but I dunno.

"There are around 3,000 Lobbyists registered at the European Parliament, and add this to the numbers registered at the Council and the Commission and it is well over 10,000 (Europe Inc is a good reference for facts on Lobbying.)" (Mark Thomas Comedy Product 2001)
"In the affairs of men, I am an pessimist, as I cannot take disappointments. Thankfully, so far, I have not been let down." (Me).

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