The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today welcomed the announcement of Joseph M. Burton as defense attorney for jailed Russian computer scientist Dmitry Sklyarov. Burton has represented Sklyarov since July 20.
Sklyarov was arrested July 16 on charges of distributing software that circumvents copyright protections, in violation of provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
The FBI arrested Sklyarov shortly after he gave a presentation at the DEF CON conference in Las Vegas outlining security flaws in Adobe eBook software. A Ph.D. student from Moscow, Russia, Sklyarov showed that industry claims about electronic book software were unfounded.
"I believe absolutely in Dmitry's innocence," Burton said Thursday. "I feel particularly confident, given the widespread support he's garnered, that we will be able to prove that innocence. This prosecution raises serious issues that need to be addressed if we are to enjoy the same rights in the new digital millennium as we have in the past."
Burton, a former Assistant United States Attorney, was chief of the Silicon Valley Office of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California, where he brought several pioneering high technology prosecutions. He is a member of the White Collar Crime and Complex Crimes committees of the Section of Litigation of the American Bar Assocation and former chair of the Computer Crime Subcommittee. Burton is also a member of the Bar Association of San Francisco's Judiciary Committee, the Federal Bar Association and the Charles Houston Bar Association.
EFF, which has called for Sklyarov's release, praised the choice of Burton, a partner in the San Francisco office of national law firm Duane, Morris & Heckscher LLP.
"His experience in criminal law and technology cases is exactly what Dmitry needs," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Lee Tien.
Cindy Cohn, legal director of the San Francisco-based EFF, said "We are very pleased that Dmitry Sklyarov has capable criminal representation."
"We did not seek to represent Mr. Sklyarov ourselves because our legal expertise is concentrated in civil liberties, not in direct criminal defense," said Cohn. "However, as experts in the implications of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we plan to work closely with Mr. Burton and the rest of Mr. Sklyarov's defense team. And, of course, we will continue our role in informing the public and in organizing and participating in other efforts to free Dmitry."
The DMCA, enacted in 1998, imposes civil and criminal penalties for circumventing technologies that protect a copyright holder's interests. EFF, along with computer professionals, academics, librarians, and others, has maintained that the law goes too far, criminalizing legitimate activity and threatening computer security research.
EFF is counsel for defendants in an earlier civil DMCA case, Universal City Studios v. Reimerdes. In that case, currently on appeal, the defense team argued for 2600 Magazine's right to publish and link to a computer program that decrypts DVDs, allowing them to be played on Linux and other operating systems. In addition, EFF represents Princeton University Professor Edward Felten and his colleagues in a recent civil case challenging the DMCA and defending their right to publish academic research on copy protection systems.