Publishers Hail Government Action Against Russian Ebook Hackers

Washington, DC: The nation's largest association of book and journal publishers today hailed the actions of the U.S. Department of Justice in arresting and charging a Russian cryptographer for trafficking in software that was primarily designed to "hack" technological safeguards that prevent unauthorized copying and distribution of ebooks.

The actions at issue were taken in accordance with provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which was enacted by Congress in 1998 to implement two international copyright treaties that were adopted by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and endorsed by the United States and nearly 100 other nations two years earlier. Among other things, the DMCA prohibits the manufacture or distribution of products or services that are primarily designed or produced to circumvent technological protection measures used by copyright owners, thereby meeting the treaties' requirement that signatory countries provide "adequate legal protection and effective legal remedies against circumvention" of such measures.

According to news reports and documents filed by the Justice Department in the case, Dmitry Sklyarov is the alleged author of a program, "Advanced eBook Processor," which was designed to unlock and strip the technological protection measures from the "eBook Reader" produced by Adobe Systems Incorporated. Sklyarov, who was arrested a day after addressing a "hackers convention" in Las Vegas on the subject of this software, is an employee of ElcomSoft, a Russian software company that has allegedly been selling the software through its website.

Pat Schroeder, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Association of American Publishers (AAP), hailed the Justice Department's actions as consistent with the DMCA's "anticircumvention" provisions and the underlying Congressional intent to promote the availability of books and other copyrighted works on the Internet and in other digital formats.

According to Mrs. Schroeder, "It's only common sense to expect that, if the public wants desirable books to be available online and through other digital media like the Adobe Reader, the authors and publishers who have the legal rights to commercially exploit such works in the global digital marketplace must have reasonable assurances that the market value of their works can be protected from the extraordinary risks of illegal reproduction and distribution that are made possible by the capabilities of digital media. Congress understood this when it enacted the DMCA to help promote the online availability of copyrighted works."

"Distribution of the means to strip ebooks of their access and copyright protections is not a public service, any more than it would be a public service to distribute the keys that unlock a bookstore or public library," Mrs. Schroeder said. "It merely facilitates theft, and makes it less likely that ebooks will soon become a popular reading format."

The Association of American Publishers is the national trade organization of the U.S. book publishing industry. AAP's 310 members include most of the major commercial publishing houses, along with many small and medium-sized houses, university presses, and scholarly societies. Among the Association's top priorities is the protection of intellectual property rights in all media.