July 20, 2001, 3:58 PM — The arrest of Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov for alleged violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act has sparked plans for protests in three cities, calls to boycott Adobe Systems Inc., the company whose complaint led to Sklyarov's arrest, and a stock divestiture movement.
Sklyarov was arrested Monday in Las Vegas after the end of the Def Con hacker conference, at which he had given presented a lecture, for allegedly violating the terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which prohibits distribution of tools or software that can circumvent copy protection technologies. The program that ran Sklyarov afoul of the DMCA is Advanced eBook Processor, which can decrypt electronic books in the Adobe eBook format and translate them to the less-secure Adobe PDF (portable document format). Adobe did not immediately return calls for this article.
Adobe's eBook format prevents owners of eBooks from doing a number of things that they can do with regular electronic files or with books printed on paper, including making a back-up copy, printing or reselling the book. EBooks, in fact, may narrow a number of traditional consumer rights, including the Fair Use and First Sale doctrines, according to legal experts.
Sklyarov is one of the first people prosecuted as a criminal under the DMCA, which was passed in 1998, and could face up to five years in prison and a fine of US$500,000 if convicted.
The arrest has elicited outrage across the Internet, on open source software site Slashdot.org, on the Def Con mailing list and on Planet eBook.com, a site devoted to eBooks.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a leading cyber-rights organization and a key player in a number of other DMCA-related suits, released a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft Friday, urging Ashcroft to release Sklyarov, calling his arrest "shameful and opportunistic." The letter also says that tools such as Advanced eBook Reader are both legal and required by law in Russia and that the DMCA is out of step with the U.S. Constitution.
New e-mail lists and Web sites have also sprung up to denounce Adobe and agitate for Sklyarov's freedom.
One such new site, Boycott Adobe says in a posting on its front page that Sklyarov's real mistake was not copyright infringement but "pointing out major security flaws in Adobe PDF and eBook software."
The site also urges readers to write or call Adobe to register their objections, do the same with their Congressional representatives, sell Adobe stock, try alternatives to Adobe products or to hold off upgrading Adobe products until Sklyarov has been freed.
As part of the movement to protest Sklyarov's arrest, demonstrations are planned for Monday, July 23 in three U.S. cities. Demonstrations are planned at the Adobe offices in Denver, the federal Building in Portland, Oregon and at Adobe headquarters in San Jose.