"When it comes to aiming a blow at a contentious
copyright protection law, using a Russian hacker as your hammer
doesn't seem like the best way to go about it. But opponents of the
law that programmer Dmitry Sklyarov allegedly violated, the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act, see his very public arrest in July as a
good opportunity to bring attention to the DMCA's deficiencies. And
while the issue is extremely complex and his case seemingly cut and
dry, these opponents from library, programmer, and civil-liberties
groups, have good reason to keep the case in the public eye.
At first glance, the facts don't seem very contentious.
Sklyarov, a Moscow graduate student, and ElcomSoft, the company he
works for, were charged on Aug. 28 for trafficking and conspiring
to traffic in technology that circumvents copyright-control
technologies in Adobe's eBook reader, a device for reading digital
texts (see BW Online, 7/25/01, "Don't Judge an eBook Case By Its
Coverage" ). The defendants acknowledge that Sklyarov wrote a
program that allows people to use eBook to copy and print text,
breaking the copyright protections that Adobe designed into the
software. ElcomSoft also sold that program over the Net. The
defendants argue that the practice is legal in Russia, but that's
not really the heart of the debate here in the U.S.
The argument around the DMCA isn't whether we shouldn't have
protections: Most everyone agrees that we need to safeguard
copyright, as the electronic publishing of music, movies, and books
increases. The debate is really whether the act will have the
unhappy effect of infringing on freedom of speech, intellectual
exchange, and consumers' rights. With the Sklyarov case, DMCA
opponents are drawing attention to the underlying effects that
broad restrictions on circumventing copyright protection could have
on intellectual or individual interests. "