August 1, 2001

Free Sklyarov advocates: More public pressure needed

Author: JT Smith

- By Grant Gross -

They've organized street protests around the world. They've convinced the software company that was supposedly wronged to back off. They've made their case to the U.S. Attorney's Office. The groups advocating the release of Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov have seemingly done everything they can, yet he remains in a U.S. jail. So what's next?

Although the next big move is uncertain, one thing's for sure: The loose-knit group of civil libertarians, Open-Sourcers, programmers and opponents of Digital Millennium Copyright Act who have worked together on the Free Sklyarov campaign are not giving up.

Robin Gross, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says protests from the U.S. public, in addition to growing pressure on the U.S. government from Russia, can still be effective. Sklyarov was arrested by the FBI in July after speaking at Def Con in Las Vegas. He's accused of violating the DMCA, only a law in the United States, for creating a program that allows users to back up Adobe's eBook format, or open eBooks in unsupported operating systems such as Linux.

"We are calling for stepped-up public pressure on the [U.S. Department of Justice] to dismiss the case -- now that Adobe, the purported 'injured' party, is calling for his
release and to drop all charges against him," says Gross. "The will of the public
is to release this computer programmer for writing software that can compete
with Adobe's eBook viewing software."

Both Paul Holman, founder of the now-inactive BoycottAdobe site, and C. Scott Ananian, organizer of the Boston protests and spokesman for FreeSklyarov.org promise to continue the protests.

"There are more protests this week scheduled for (among other places) Salt Lake
City and London," Ananian says. "Many groups are setting their next protest date two weeks from now, to give them a little more planning time; we will continue to
be involved."

Ananian's Boston crew is planning another protest for Aug. 6, and the group is working on a petition campaign, with the results to be delivered to U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, who voted for the DMCA in 1998. "This campaign will probably culminate in a march on Kennedy's office shortly after the current congressional term ends, returning
Kennedy to Boston," Ananian says.

Since the EFF convinced Adobe to back away from the prosecution of Sklyarov, Holman has been working on protests against the U.S. Department of Justice, instead of Adobe. "More protests are being planned to draw attention to the fact that Dmitry
Sklyarov still is not free, and that the federal prosecutors are
responsible for this," he says. "There will continue to be protests of the DMCA
until it is repealed or modified to respect our First Amendment rights."

The focus for most of the protesters is two-fold -- the more immediate goal of getting Sklyarov released from jail and the repeal or wholesale change of the DMCA. Holman, a programmer/computer security expert from San Francisco, would be happy with the first goal, for now. "I want to get Dmitry out of jail so I can retire from activism," he says. "Sadly, this is only the first of many battles in our war against the DMCA, but
the rest of the army of supporters can take it from here, I need a break!"

Michael "proclus" Love, who's GNU-Darwin distribution project site has run "Free Dmitry" links and information, says he's not sure what else can be done on the site.

"I have to admit that I'm somewhat at a loss, as far as Dmitry is
concerned," Love says. " I have been trying to decide if there is anything more that
the Distribution can do for him. We will keep the Free Dmitry banners
up until he goes home, and I want to continue our news coverage. The
incarceration of Dmitry is an outrage, and people who visit our news
links should be able to clearly see why we are outraged."

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