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EFF Press Release Archives

Press Releases: February 2002

February 27, 2002

Asks Court to Rehear Ditto.com Case


San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
today filed a brief on behalf of Ditto.com, urging the U.S.
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider a ruling that
threatens to make all linking on the World Wide Web a
copyright infringement.


In order to hold Ditto.com liable for copyright
infringement, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals created a novel legal
rationale. It found that linking to a website without
permission infringes the public display rights of the
website owner.


"Extending copyright law to all linking on the Web would
be a nightmare," said EFF Senior Intellectual Policy
Attorney Fred von Lohmann. "A whole new flurry of lawyer
letters would chill linking on the Web, striking at the
heart of free expression on the Internet."


Ditto.com is a search engine that helps people find publicly
available image files on the Web. So, for example, by
entering "sailboat" into the Ditto website, the searcher
would be shown a selection of images of sailboats from
around the Web. Ditto both presented the images in reduced
form, known as thumbnails, and also provided links that
would allow the searcher to open the full-size image in a
new web browser window.


Ditto was sued by Les Kelly, a photographer, after Kelly
discovered that Ditto had indexed his website and the
images found there. Ditto.com prevailed before the trial
court, but suffered a defeat on appeal before the Ninth
Circuit in San Francisco. Although the Ninth Circuit found
that Ditto.com's use of thumbnail images was allowed under
the copyright law doctrine of "fair use," it held Ditto.com
liable for copyright infringement for opening a new window
to display the image. This technique is known as "in-line
linking" or "framing" and is commonly used by numerous other
Web search engines, including Lycos, Google, and Altavista.
By concluding that these common linking techniques infringe
copyright law, the Ninth Circuit has seriously threatened
linking on the Web.


EFF filed an amicus brief on Ditto.com's behalf, asking the
Ninth Circuit to reconsider its decision. The case title is
Kelly v. Arriba Soft Corp., No. 00-55521, decided on
February 6, 2002. [Arriba Soft is the former name of
Ditto.com Inc.]

Links:


For documents related to the Ditto.com case:

  http://www.eff.org/IP/Linking/Kelly_v_Arriba_Soft/

February 4, 2002

Defends Public's Rights in Russian eBook Format Case

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today filed an amicus brief in federal district court asking that the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) be found unconstitutional because it impinges on protected speech and stifles technological innovation. The case arises from the criminal prosecution of Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov and Elcomsoft, the Moscow-based company where he works.

Despite essentially dropping its prosecution of Dmitry Sklyarov on December 13, 2001, the U.S. government has maintained that the Russian company Elcomsoft should still be held criminally liable for creating software that converts Adobe eBooks into PDF format files.

The Computing Law and Technology and U.S. Public Policy Committees of the Association for Computing Machinery, the American Association of Law Libraries, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Consumer Project on Technology, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, and the Music Library Association signed on to the EFF brief that, along with a brief from 35 law professors, supports Elcomsoft's own motions to dismiss the case.

"The Adobe eBook technology hands complete control of the user's experience to publishers," noted EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "They can prevent lending or selling of eBooks, transferring eBooks from one machine to another for more convenient reading, printing segments of an eBook for use in criticism or commentary, or enabling text-to-speech software, often used by blind people."

"The law should protect the First Amendment rights of eBook purchasers, not just eBook publishers or corporations trying to lock down eBook formats," stated EFF Intellectual Property Attorney Robin Gross. "If Elcomsoft is convicted under the DMCA, it will be illegal for competitors to write software or build digital entertainment devices that compete with those from the established media companies."

At Adobe's request, the FBI arrested Elcomsoft employee Dmitry Sklyarov after he delivered a lecture in Las Vegas on July 17, 2001. In August, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted both Sklyarov and Elcomsoft on five counts of violating the DMCA's anti-circumvention measures and conspiracy. After weeks of protests and an international letter-writing campaign opposing the prosecution of the then 26-year-old father of two, the Justice Department finally agreed to drop the criminal charges against Sklyarov in late 2001 in exchange for his promise to testify in the case.

Elcomsoft's motion to dismiss on constitutional grounds is set to be heard before Federal District Court Judge Ronald Whyte on April 1, 2002 in San Jose, California. An earlier set of motions filed by Elcomsoft to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction and and for lack of proof of a "conspiracy" are set for hearing on March 4, 2002.

February 3, 2002

Defends Public's Rights in Russian eBook Format Case

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today filed an amicus brief in federal district court asking that the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) be found unconstitutional because it impinges on protected speech and stifles technological innovation. The case arises from the criminal prosecution of Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov and Elcomsoft, the Moscow-based company where he works.

Despite essentially dropping its prosecution of Dmitry Sklyarov on December 13, 2001, the U.S. government has maintained that the Russian company Elcomsoft should still be held criminally liable for creating software that converts Adobe eBooks into PDF format files.

The Computing Law and Technology and U.S. Public Policy Committees of the Association for Computing Machinery, the American Association of Law Libraries, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Consumer Project on Technology, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, and the Music Library Association signed on to the EFF brief that, along with a brief from 35 law professors, supports Elcomsoft's own motions to dismiss the case.

"The Adobe eBook technology hands complete control of the user's experience to publishers," noted EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "They can prevent lending or selling of eBooks, transferring eBooks from one machine to another for more convenient reading, printing segments of an eBook for use in criticism or commentary, or enabling text-to-speech software, often used by blind people."

"The law should protect the First Amendment rights of eBook purchasers, not just eBook publishers or corporations trying to lock down eBook formats," stated EFF Intellectual Property Attorney Robin Gross. "If Elcomsoft is convicted under the DMCA, it will be illegal for competitors to write software or build digital entertainment devices that compete with those from the established media companies."

At Adobe's request, the FBI arrested Elcomsoft employee Dmitry Sklyarov after he delivered a lecture in Las Vegas on July 17, 2001. In August, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted both Sklyarov and Elcomsoft on five counts of violating the DMCA's anti-circumvention measures and conspiracy. After weeks of protests and an international letter-writing campaign opposing the prosecution of the then 26-year-old father of two, the Justice Department finally agreed to drop the criminal charges against Sklyarov in late 2001 in exchange for his promise to testify in the case.

Elcomsoft's motion to dismiss on constitutional grounds is set to be heard before Federal District Court Judge Ronald Whyte on April 1, 2002 in San Jose, California. An earlier set of motions filed by Elcomsoft to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction and and for lack of proof of a "conspiracy" are set for hearing on March 4, 2002.

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