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
Sklyarov Mailing List and start it?