Grand Jury Indicts Russian Company and Programmer

On August 27, a US grand jury handed down a five-count indictment that charges Russian company Elcomsoft and one of its programmers, Dmitry Sklyarov, with trafficking and conspiracy to traffic devices that circumvent copyright protections. The charges stem from software Sklyarov wrote called Advanced eBook Processor (AEP), which circumvents the security of Adobe Acrobat eBook Reader technology. AEP lets a user save eBook content into unprotected Adobe Portable Document (PDF) files. Sklyarov came to the United States to attend the recent Defcon 9 hacker convention in Las Vegas, where he demonstrated the software to attendees.

Adobe developed its Acrobat eBook Reader based on eBook technology acquired in 2000 from Glassbook, whose eBook security attackers had cracked in March 2000 before Adobe's acquisition. Someone found a way to decrypt Steven King's electronic version of "Riding the Bullet."

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested Sklyarov on July 16 based on Adobe's complaint that he violated the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The hacker community protested, and Adobe quickly bowed to the pressure, officially withdrawing its support for criminal prosecution of the matter.

"We strongly support the DMCA and the enforcement of copyright protection of digital content," said Colleen Pouliot, senior vice president and general counsel for Adobe. "However, the prosecution of this individual in this particular case is not conducive to the best interests of any of the parties involved or the industry. ElcomSoft's Advanced eBook Processor software is no longer available in the United States, and from that perspective, the DMCA worked. Adobe will continue to protect its copyright interests and those of its customers."

Both Adobe and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) asked the FBI to release Sklyarov from federal custody, but that didn't happen. Instead, the judge set Sklyarov's bail for $50,000.

Elcomsoft posted Sklyarov's bail, and the EFF has taken up his legal defense . Under the charges handed down in the indictment, he faces a maximum of 25 years in jail and fines up to $2.25 million. Elcomsoft faces a $2.5 million fine. Sklyarov will be arraigned at 9:30 AM (PST) on August 30, 2001, in Federal District Court in San Jose, California.

"We were hoping that the government would see the wisdom and justice in not pursuing a case against Sklyarov," said his attorney, Joseph M. Burton of Duane Morris in San Francisco. "Even if one were to ignore the serious legal questions involving the DMCA, this case hardly cries out for criminal prosecution. Sklyarov's and Elcomsoft's actions are not conduct that Congress intended to criminalize. We will vigorously contest these charges."

Vladimir Katalov, managing director of ElcomSoft, told Rueters that Sklyarov wrote the software as part of his doctoral dissertation at Moscow Technical University. Elcomsoft intends to market its AEP software in Europe.

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