Release Russian programmer

Information technology and the distribution, sales and ownership of digital information are all changing the ways copyrights are upheld. The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act is the core piece of legislation that proponents of strict digital copyright protection had hoped for to preserve valuable code and encryption methods. Until recently, no individual had been charged under the act, but now the case of Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov is a frightening example of how the act’s flaws overlook the intent of the violator and the benefits of cryptanalysis.

Sklyarov, a 26-year-old Russian, was arrested after giving a presentation at a hacker convention in Las Vegas. His speech covered the topic of eBook security, and he pointed out how the standard format for encrypting eBooks is not secure. In Russia, Sklyarov works for a company called ElcomSoft that distributed software based on the security flaw. The program allows people to view encrypted eBooks in the PDF format, designed by Adobe Systems Inc. The software also lets people extract the text of the book and do whatever they want with it.

This is where the major problem with the act comes into play. Cryptanalysis is the practice of combing through code-based security systems for flaws. Not only do software developers praise this kind of work, but it is legal and encouraged in Russia where there are different laws regarding eBook protections. Also, Adobe itself asked for the charges to be dropped against Sklyarov, recognizing how his actions will help the company in the future. However, the DMCA prohibits more than the actual breaking of copyrights. It also makes creating certain technologies a federal crime, regardless of the intent or conduct.

The DMCA should be repealed because it will hinder the industry it is trying to protect by preventing people from exposing security flaws that were missed in the professional development stage. ElcomSoft was to pay Skylarov regardless of whether or not he could write software circumventing the security flaw, so he was clearly not intent on making personal gains from the technology. The Justice Department should not be holding Sklyarov responsible for the company’s decisions, not to mention the fact that he was visiting the United States to discuss possible solutions to the security flaw. Differing international laws must also be considered in the case before Sklyarov is tried under U.S. law. All of these circumstances would set a horrible precedent for the DMCA, and the prosecuting attorney should drop his investigation and the suit.

All of this comes down to publishing books in a digital medium, an enterprise that hasn’t even been embraced by the public. With this in mind, as well as the problems with the DMCA itself and the questionable jurisdiction that holds Sklyarov here, this case should not be the precedent setter for the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and U.S. authorities should release Dmitry Sklyarov immediately.