LONDON (ZDNet UK)--As Russian computer programmer Dmitry Sklyarov was due
yesterday to be indicted for circumventing the US Digital Millennium
Copyright Act (DMCA), the prosecution and defense lawyers revealed
plans to negotiate a possible plea bargain.
In a case that has sparked off global protests, Sklyarov could today
face a five-year prison sentence for creating software that
circumvented the copyright protection mechanism in Adobe's eBook
reader. But on the morning of the hearing, both sides confirmed that
they will be asking the federal judge to postpone the proceedings for
"We're talking about whether or not there are any potential ways to
dispose of the case," lead defence attorney Joseph Burton told the
Associated Press on Wednesday. "We've been talking to them for a
The Russian employee of ElcomSoft, a Moscow-based company,
was held in custody for over a month after the FBI arrested him at the
DefCon hacking conference in Las Vegas. Sklyarov is charged with
trafficking a copyright circumvention mechanism, for publishing a
program that cracks the encryption protection on Adobe's eBook
format, converting it to Adobe PDF format. The DMCA makes
activities considered entirely lawful in most other nations illegal in the US.
Sklyarov's supporters stress that he has not broken any laws while in
a US jurisdiction, and note that Sklyarov's work was conducted in
Russia. The U.S. government has faced harsh criticism for trying to
enforce the controversial DMCA--which censors the publication of
academic research--in another nation state.
"They shouldn't have arrested him in the first place--if they leave him without charging him, I hope he sues for false imprisonment, as you can't be bound by the laws of another country [when you are not there]," said Yaman Akdeniz, lawyer and director of Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties. "The only sensible move would be to release him immediately," he added.
The 26-year-old Russian has emerged as an unexpected hero in the
battle being waged over the DMCA. On Tuesday, Sklyarov issued a
statement voicing his thanks for the rallies that have been organized
around the world to protest against his arrest. According to Akdeniz,
it would be possible for the prosecution to drop the case, but they will
need to consider the political problems that this may cause.
"The US government made a mistake in arresting a Russian citizen, and
weren't expecting the level of protests that occurred so quickly," said
Akdeniz. "He was simply doing his job and has committed no crime--he was simply showing that Adobe software is insecure."