August 8, 2001

Libertarians call for Dmitry Sklyarov's release

Author: JT Smith

The Libertarian Party of San Francisco
joined the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Adobe Systems Inc. in
calling
for the end of criminal proceedings against Russian programmer Dmitry
Sklyarov.

Sklyarov was arrested in Las Vegas on July 16 for violating the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), based on a complaint filed by
Adobe. Adobe has dropped the complaint and called for Sklyarov's
release,
but the US Attorney's Office is continuing the prosecution
nonetheless. Sklyarov is currently free on $50,000 bail pending trial.

"This case demonstrates the immediate dangers of big government," said
Christopher Maden, a San Francisco Libertarian and professional ebook
consultant. "When the government is permitted to pass restrictive,
unconstitutional laws like the DMCA, it's natural, and even rational,
for
companies like Adobe to use them to their best advantage."

"What we have here is a modern retelling of the Emperor's New
Clothes. Unlike the Hans Christian Andersen fable, when the little
Russian
boy tells the world that the Emperor has no clothes, the Imperial Guard
beheads the kid before anyone else can hear," said Robert Hansen, a
Libertarian and cryptanalyst. He points out that public exposure is
the
best way to build secure computer systems; however, the DMCA
discourages
researchers from publishing their analyses, despite a research
exemption in
the law. "In order to protect these anemic security mechanisms,
businesses
and governments will rely on the brute power of the courts to keep
those
who understand from sharing their knowledge."

Maden called Adobe's tactics "bullying by government proxy," saying,
"Adobe
knew that a civil action was more appropriate, but as their general
counsel
told National Public Radio with a laugh, 'Honestly, we didn't think the
likelihood was terribly high of getting any money out of a Russian
company'
- so they put a man in jail. The effort backfired and they dropped the
complaint, but the Department of Justice wants to show it's tough on
'cybercrime,' and who better to demonstrate on than a scary 'Russian
hacker'?"

Sklyarov is a 26-year old Ph.D. candidate at the prestigious Bauman
Moscow
State Technical University. He is married with two children, a
two-and-a-half-year-old son and a three-month-old daughter. He is
charged
with "trafficking in forbidden technology," as Maden put it in an
article
in the LPSF's newsletter, for creating the algorithms in Elcom's
Advanced
eBook Processor.

Maden wrote, "There are several important reasons to set him free:

"1) He is charged with trafficking in forbidden technology. He did not
sell the program; his employer did. Although three ElcomSoft employees
were at the conference, including the president, it was Sklyarov who
was
arrested. It seems obvious that an example is being made of him.>

"2) The DMCA specifically allows for narrow fair use exemptions from
the
civil and criminal violations it defines. AEBPR will only unlock a
book
legitimately purchased by the user; it can not be used to steal others'
books. It is thus probable that the program does not even violate the
law.

"3) The DMCA is a very bad law. It has a demonstrably chilling effect
on
speech... AEBPR is a tool with legitimate and illegal uses, like a
lockpick, a crowbar, a car, and a gun. Outlawing the tool does not
help."

Copyrights were created to encourage authors to publish their work.
The
legal doctrine of "fair use" says that, copyright notwithstanding,
freedom
of speech gives people the right to use copyrighted work in parody,
satire,
and criticism. The DMCA lets publishers take those rights away with
technology, and outlaws other technology that would restore those
rights. "Now we have the ironic situation of a Russian martyr to
freedom
trapped in America, thousands of miles from his family, for helping
people
to read," said Maden.

About LPSF:

The Libertarian Party of San Francisco (www.lpsf.org) is the local
affiliate of the Libertarian Party (www.lp.org), the largest "third
party"
in the United States. Libertarians believe in personal freedom, in
both
social and economic spheres, and in minimal government to protect those
freedoms.

Contact: Christopher R. Maden
E-mail: crism@maden.org
Telephone: +1.415.845.8202

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