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In an extraordinary about-face, Adobe Systems has joined the “Free Dmitry” movement — just one week after FBI agents arrested Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov in Las Vegas, in response to Adobe’s complaints. And now the Free Dmitry movement hopes to persuade Robert Mueller, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California and the Bush administration’s nominee to head the FBI, to drop the prosecution of the 27-year-old father of two. “He shouldn’t be rotting in jail for writing software in Russia. And Adobe agrees,” declared Will Doherty, spokesman for the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the advocacy group that brokered Adobe’s change of heart. After over four hours of talks on Monday, EFF and Adobe released a joint press release urging that Sklyarov be released. Adobe also said it is withdrawing its support for the criminal complaint against Sklyarov. Doherty said that Mueller, who on Friday flanked Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft at a Silicon Valley press conference to herald new initiatives to battle cybercrime, would be wise to reconsider the prosecution. “We don’t think he should be prosecuting a case that’s ill-advised and a potential embarrassment to him in his confirmation hearing,” he said. “He is trying to come out strong against cybercrime, but to come out against a university student writing software in his own country who comes here to deliver an academic paper? I don’t think so.” Sklyarov, being held without bail, faces a potential five-year prison sentence and a $500,000 fine. Securing his release may yet prove difficult, EFF attorney Robin Gross says, because the court may consider him a flight risk. A graduate student and employee of Moscow-based ElcomSoft, Sklyarov was targeted by the FBI as the principal author of a program that breaches Adobe e-Book Reader security. Arrested on July 16 after delivering a presentation at the Def Con hackers’ convention in Las Vegas, Sklyarov quickly became a martyr to critics of the controversial 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The Sklyarov case would serve to test the constitutionality of a copyright statute that outlaws technologies rather than behavior, EFF attorney Robin Gross says. Indeed, some activists suggest that Adobe should reward Sklyarov for exposing flaws in its products. Reuters reported that Sklyarov, in a recent interview with Las Vegas television station KNTV, said: “I wrote the program to demonstrate security flaws, not to violate copyright law. It’s not illegal in Russia.” The ElcomSoft program allows people who purchase books in digital form to circumvent protections in Adobe’s eBook Reader that are designed to prevent copies from being made. Adobe was subjected to an onslaught of complaints from activists who argue that Sklyarov’s supposed crime was exposing flaws in Adobe’s e-book security systems. Online petitions and a boycott movement were launched. Activists on Friday were planning protests when EFF leaders decided to first try to persuade Adobe to change its position, Doherty says. In addition to Gross and Doherty, EFF was represented by executive director Shari Steele, board chairman Brad Templeton and co-founder John Gilmore in the talks at Adobe’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters. According to Doherty, six Adobe representatives participated, led by Colleen Pouliot, senior vice president and general counsel. In the end, both sides agreed that the case against Sklyarov should be dropped, but disagreed over the legitimacy of the copyright law that led to his arrest. In the press release that appeared on both Adobe and EFF’s Web sites, Pouliot said, “We strongly support the DMCA and the enforcement of copyright protection of digital content. However, the prosecution of this individual in this particular case is not conducive to the best interests of any of the parties involved or the industry. ElcomSoft’s Advanced eBook Processor software is no longer available in the United States, and from that perspective the DMCA worked. Adobe will continue to protect its copyright interests and those of its customers.” And Steele said: “EFF praises Adobe for doing the right thing. We are pleased to see that Adobe has lived up to the high standard of integrity that has made the company successful. While we don’t agree on every detail of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we look forward to working together with Adobe to secure Dmitry’s immediate release.” Related Articles from The Industry Standard: Bertelsmann Manager to Become New Napster CEO Code Red Worm Set to Return AOL Expands Online Music Offerings Copyright � 2001 The Industry Standard

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