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Prosecutors and defense attorneys for the Russian computer programmer charged with circumventing electronic book copyright protections are negotiating a possible plea bargain. In a case that has generated worldwide protests, Dmitry Sklyarov, 26, is charged in a criminal complaint with violating the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, though he has not yet been indicted. Sklyarov was to be arraigned Thursday, but both sides planned to ask a federal judge to postpone the hearing by a week, lead defense attorney Joseph Burton said Wednesday. “We’re talking about whether or not there are any potential ways to dispose of the case,” said lead defense attorney Joseph Burton, a former federal prosecutor, on Wednesday. “We’ve been talking to them for a while.” Sklyarov, who could face five years in prison, is one of the first people to face criminal prosecution instead of a civil lawsuit under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. In worldwide protests, critics of the law have assailed Sklyarov’s case as an example of how the law stymies free speech and legitimate computer research. San Jose, Calif.-based Adobe Systems Inc. complained to the FBI that Sklyarov had written a program for his employer, ElcomSoft Co. Ltd. of Moscow, that let electronic book users disable certain copyright restrictions on Adobe’s eBook Reader software. Sklyarov’s program, for example, let users transfer e-books from a personal computer to a handheld device. Sklyarov’s supporters said that his program was legal in Russia, and that his work lets users enjoy “fair use” privileges traditionally allowed under U.S. copyright law. Adobe later dropped its complaint. Sklyarov was preparing to return home to Moscow after speaking at a computer security convention when he was arrested July 16 in Las Vegas. He is free on $50,000 bail but must remain in Northern California. Sklyarov is staying with a Russian-American computer programmer in Cupertino, Calif. In a statement released recently through the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an Internet civil liberties organization that has generated support for Sklyarov, the programmer said he was impressed by the attention his case has received. “It was unexpected by me that so many people would support a guy from another country that nobody heard about before,” Sklyarov said. “This experience is going to change me in a profound way that I cannot even appreciate fully as yet.” Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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