Once again, the Digital Millineum Copyright Act (DMCA) is proving itself to be as harmful to civil liberties as we predicted it would be. The latest victim is a Russian programmer named Dmitry Sklyarov, who authored a program that permits copying, printing and lending of electronic books by unlocking a proprietary Adobe electronic book format.
Mr. Sklyarov has been brought up on criminal charges under the DMCA for distributing a product designed to circumvent copyright protection measures. This is different than the 2600 and Felten cases, which are civil lawsuits. In a civil lawsuit, one private citizen (or company) sues another for money and/or the cessation of a particular action. In a criminal case, the government brings charges against an individual (or company) and the punishment for conviction can be prison and/or fines.
EFF has been in contact with the Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA)'s office trying to track Mr. Sklyarov's whereabouts and speak with him directly. While the arrest took place in Las Vegas, the complaint was executed in San Jose, meaning that Mr. Sklyarov will be sent to California to stand trial. We have spoken with his colleagues, criminal defense attorneys and others to help with his defense. After he arrives in California, our first order of business is to get Mr. Sklyarov out of jail on a bond pending his trial. EFF has begun to pull together a top-notch legal team to help him defend his right to talk about and distribute the Advanced eBook Processor software program, and we'll be ready to step in as soon as it is appropriate.
EFF knew when we took on the 2600 Case over a year ago that fixing the DMCA would require several legal challenges. EFF remains committed to chipping away at this law until it no longer poses a threat to our right to free speech.
Lest anyone be confused, this case is not about copyright infringement. Mr. Sklyarov is not accused of infringing anyone's copyrights. He is accused of building the Advanced eBook Processor, a tool that allows the legitimate purchaser of an e-book to translate it from one digital format into another (from Adobe's eBook format into Adobe's Portable Document Format). Mr. Sklyarov is not being prosecuted for using the tool himself -- in fact, such a prosecution would be impossible, since using such a tool (as distinguished from building or distributing one) breaks no law. Mr. Sklyarov has entered the strange Twilight Zone of the DMCA, where using a tool is legal, but building it is a crime.
We invite your support. If you are not yet an EFF member, please join with us at http://www.eff.org/support. If you already are a member and wish to make a donation, you can use that same link to get to our donation page.
Together we will keep the pressure on anyone who chooses to degrade our basic rights. Thanks for your help.