Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Courts Government News Your Rights Online

Sklyarov Discusses the ElcomSoft Trial 270

Posted by michael
from the joseph-k dept.
DaytonCIM writes "Dmitry Sklyarov talks openly about the ElcomSoft trial to CNET News. The 'Russian programmer thinks it was unfair of prosecutors to play his videotaped deposition at the ElcomSoft trial rather than calling him to the stand.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Sklyarov Discusses the ElcomSoft Trial

Comments Filter:
  • by pilot1 (610480)
    whether a video tape is played, or he is called to the stand to say the samething? He couldn't change what he said since he was under oath, so it seems the same.
    • by Moofie (22272) <lee&ringofsaturn,com> on Friday December 20, 2002 @12:43PM (#4930715) Homepage
      Two words.

      Cross examination.

      It's, like, a fundamental part of our legal structure. The opposing side gets to IMMEDIATELY challenge your statements on the stand, obviously with the intent to lessen the impact of those statements on the jury.

      • by Alsee (515537) on Friday December 20, 2002 @02:59PM (#4931793) Homepage
        I agree with you, just want to enhance one point...

        challenge your statements on the stand, obviously with the intent to lessen the impact of those statements on the jury.

        I wouldn't say it is to lessen the impact, I would say it is to clarify and balance the statements.

        The US legal system is an adversarial system, each lawyer tries to turn the testimony to support his side as much as possible. Witnesses are not allowed to simply get up there and announce the "truth". They can only answer the lawyer's questions. The laywer has a lot of control of what information is presented and how it is presented. Without cross examinaton it can be extremely distorted.

        With recorded testimony the control is even greater. If the lawyer doesn't like the way one of his questiones was answered I think he can "unask the question" by not including the question in the tape.

        Was this a misscarrige of justice? No, the defence was able to add him to their witness list and call him themselves. It just strikes me as a stupid stunt by the prosecution.

        If I were on a jury and this sort of think happened I'd certainly wonder why the hell the prosecution didn't want him on the stand.

        -
    • by frankie (91710) on Friday December 20, 2002 @12:52PM (#4930804) Journal
      since he was under oath, so it seems the same.

      Hmm... held under guard in a foreign country and not allowed to go home until you make a video tape that incriminates you and/or your friends... nope, I can't think of any reason the testimony might be faulty. Of course, when folks in "the axis of evil" do things like that, our freedom-loving leaders tend to call it "hostage taking" and "terrorism".

      • Sigh. As so many other have explained just because the prosecutition showed the tape did not at all exclude him from testifying, it just meant that the defense had to call him as a witness. the prosecution isn't required to call or not call any given person, they can make their witness list as they choose. Same goes for the defense.
  • Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cali Thalen (627449) on Friday December 20, 2002 @12:35PM (#4930651) Homepage
    Video someone before the trial, edit the tape, and play that back in court...and with no intention of letting him stand up and defend himself?

    Sounds like someing you'd hear about in a _really_ backwards country somewhere...

    • Re:Hmm... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sweetooth (21075)
      Oh, you mean like the new and improved United States of America?

      I swear, I'm gonna move to New Zealand, or Australia, or Canada or something.
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Jason Earl (1894) on Friday December 20, 2002 @12:49PM (#4930780) Homepage Journal

      It was evidence, and the prosecution probably guessed that actually having Dmitry on the stand would hurt their case. Of course, since this isn't one of those really backwards countries the defense was able to put Dmitry on the stand as one of their own witnesses.

    • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Informative)

      by AyeRoxor! (471669) on Friday December 20, 2002 @12:53PM (#4930809) Journal
      "with no intention of letting him stand up and defend himself?"

      You have to remember that the charges against him were dropped. As soon as he accepted the bargain of exchanging his testimony/recorded whatever for dropped charges, he lost his right to defend himself and/or his actions. Any defendant has the right to face his accuser in court, not just anybody involved. And in any case, Elcomsoft's attorney could call him at any time.
    • and with no intention of letting him stand up and defend himself

      How do you figure? The defense could have called him to the stand, but chose not to. The prosecution cannot call the accused to the stand--pesky little thing called the Fifth Amendment. The defense chose not to call Dmitri to explain the statements, probably because, if called, Dmitri would be subject to cross-examination by the prosecution, which usually bolsters their case (even when there's no case to be made). Sounds to me like the prosecutor did his job correctly, and the defense attorney made a good decision. Incidentally, it looks like the defense attorney's decision was correct--they won.

      • The defense could have called him to the stand, but chose not to.
        The defense later called Sklyarov as its own witness...
        Incidentally, it looks like the defense attorney's decision was correct--they won.
        Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Fred von Lohmann said he's not surprised that many jurors found Sklyarov sympathetic. "The jury saw this serious young man and not a copyright pirate," he said. "They must have said, 'Where's the bad guy here?'"
      • The prosecution cannot call the accused to the stand--pesky little thing called the Fifth Amendment

        I think they can call--but he just don't have to answer if he doesn't want to.
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DeepRedux (601768)
      Sklyarov was not on trial here, so he has no right to present testimony on his own behalf. The one with rights is the defendant, ElcomSoft, his employer. ElcomSoft had the right, which they exercised, to have Sklyarov testify live in court.

      In the US, it is not the job of the prosecution to fairly present both sides. The prosecution's job is to make the best case they can against the defendant and the defense's job is to rebut the case. The judge has the task of making sure that both sides have the opportunity to present their case, within the rules of evidence.
    • Video someone before the trial, edit the tape, and play that back in court...and with no intention of letting him stand up and defend himself?

      He wasn't the one on trial, though, so he didn't need to defend himself.

  • The 5th amendmant (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ACNeal (595975) on Friday December 20, 2002 @12:35PM (#4930655)
    They can't compel him to testify, so why ask him to? It would have wasted everyones time to call him to the stand.

    If he had something to say his lawyers would call him to the stand in rebuttal to the prosecution.
    • Re:The 5th amendmant (Score:3, Interesting)

      by crumley (12964)
      Part of Dmitry's "plea" agreement was a provision that required him to testify for the government. As he said on several ocassions he was perfectly willing to do that since he had nothing to hide. Dmitry was not the defendant in the case that finally went to trial - his company was. Dmitry did eventually testify for the defense, but it still was pretty sketchy for the government to use his taped deposition instead of calling him to the stand.
    • I'm surprised no one noticed this - he doesn't HAVE 5th amendment rights. He's not an American citizen. There may be something equivalent in a situation such as this, with a non-citizen bearing witness in a courtroom, but I'm relatively sure the 5th amendment doesn't apply. But, as everyone here is so fond of saying, IANAL, so I could be WAAAAAY off base here.
      • I believe you are. I believe that once you are in the offical courts of America you have the same rights citizen or non citizen.
      • I'm surprised no one noticed this - he doesn't HAVE 5th amendment rights. He's not an American citizen.

        Actually, all legal residents and citizens of the United States are entitled to equal protection of the law, thanks to to the equal protection clause in the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

        Equal protection for foreign nationals residing in the U.S. was affirmed by the Supreme Court in the decision on Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356 (1886) [cornell.edu]. I think the most relevant part of this decision is [...]The guarantees of protection contained in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution extend to all persons within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, without regard to differences of race, of color, or of nationality. Those subjects of the Emperor of China who have the right to temporarily or permanently reside within the United States, are entitled to enjoy the protection guaranteed by the Constitution and afforded by the laws.
        • Military courts have upheld that "enemy combatants", on the other hand, have noonstitutional rights. Personally, I believe that it's the height of hypocrisy to deny those rights to anyone, American or not, but there you go.
          • Military courts have upheld that "enemy combatants", on the other hand, have noonstitutional rights. Personally, I believe that it's the height of hypocrisy to deny those rights to anyone, American or not, but there you go.

            I'll probably agree with you, but my point was that Sklyarov was legally residing in the US on a tourist visa (or whatever kind of visa you need for attending conferences), and was therefore under the same legal protection as any American citizen. I don't think enemy combatants should classify as legal residents; the question as to whether they're treated in accordance with international treaties and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a different story altogether.
          • I might agree with you if I knew WTF a noonstitutional right was.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 20, 2002 @12:35PM (#4930661)
    Skylarov is a citizen!
  • by davmct (195217) on Friday December 20, 2002 @12:36PM (#4930667)
    YOU testify for the VIDEO TAPE

    in US
    the VIDEO TAPE testifies for YOU
  • Not offering you a chance to change your testimony after the fact!
  • by Interrobang (245315) on Friday December 20, 2002 @12:38PM (#4930675) Journal
    ...how did they settle the jurisdictional questions? I mean, last I heard, Skylarov was working in Russia. One assumes the US government just did it by fiat, or was there more diplomacy involved than what I'm led to believe?

    If the US just went ahead and did it anyway, that's kind of a scary precedent, meaning that now, no matter where you are in the world, the long arm of US law enforcement can come after you for doing something it doesn't happen to like? If that's the case, as sort of a quid pro quo, I would like some of the priveleges of US citizenship to go along with the burdens.
    • Sklyarov came to the US to give a talk on breaking Adobe e-Book encryption, which was a violation of the DMCA. As such, he was detained... for six months. The 'right to a speedy trial' apparently means under a year or two. He was allowed to go home without prosecution only in exchange for testifying against his employer, Elcomsoft. As such, there are no 5th Amendment issues here, because he's not testifying against himself. Elmcomsoft was doing business in, and has servers in the US. Therefore it's in the US's jursidiction -- they can force the company's presence out of the US. (Which would then bring us into fair trade issues with certain unnamed intranational arbiters.)
      • Talking about it isn't illegal. Manufacturing and selling a device which facilities bypassing the protection on a copy-protected product is illegal. Now since it was manufacturered in Russia and Dmitry never personally sold the product in the states himself, the justice department never did have much of a case against him (Unless he was peddleing copies of the program from his briefcase after the talk.) The first ammendment trumps the DMCA, so you can talk about breaking that encryption scheme all you want to. You can write a book about it. You could probably even publish source code examples in a book since a book's not machine readable format so your source code wouldn't be considered a "Device."


        The court's still out on code-as-speech though it's pretty obvious to us. If the supreme court decides that source code is speech, distributing decss and other such programs in source form would then be undeniably legal. Distributing binaries would remain illegal under the DMCA.


        Sorry. Kind of drifted there. I do seem to recall something about there being legal standards as to what would be considered "speedy" and that timeframe is longer than I'd want to spend in jail. Win or lose, you can generally expect the whole process to be more of a pain in your ass than you want it to be. Dmitry might be able to sue someone (Adobe, most likely) for something but I also seem to recall that you generally can't expect a whole lot from civil cases involving the criminal process.


        obIANAL, but I've watched all the episodes of "Ally MacBeal"

    • If the US just went ahead and did it anyway, that's kind of a scary precedent, meaning that now, no matter where you are in the world, the long arm of US law enforcement can come after you for doing something it doesn't happen to like?

      Why do folks keep misrepresenting what actually happened here? The bottom line is, he was in this country, giving a talk and selling a product which was thought to violate the DMCA. Foreign nationals are not immune from our laws when they are in our country. Where he came from didn't matter; only that he was thought to be breaking the law, here, on U.S. soil.

      Is it a bad law? Yes. Was he (or Elcomsoft, later) violating it? Apparently not. But these are seperate issues. Questioning whether or not we had the right to arrest him merely distracts from the more important issues at stake here.
      • Why do folks keep misrepresenting what actually happened here? The bottom line is, he was in this country, giving a talk and selling a product which was thought to violate the DMCA.

        Umm, first of all, he was not in this country selling anything. He sold the product from his home. Secondly, his talk was not illegal, and was not in the indictment. You are the one who is misrepresenting what actually happened. Read the fucking indictment.

      • by Interrobang (245315) on Friday December 20, 2002 @01:51PM (#4931194) Journal
        Why do folks keep misrepresenting what actually happened here?

        The fact is, he did all his work on the product (which is legal in its country of origin) in Russia, where, last I heard, US laws don't apply. The fact that they were waiting to arrest him, apparently, for giving an academic lecture on a product he produced where it was legal is far more disturbing than you make it out to be.

        ISTR that Skylarov isn't the first person to whom this sort of jurisdictional knucklebones has happened at the behest of some large, US-based money-wielding entity. As you may recall when the DeCSS story broke, the US wanted Jon Johansen to stand trial in the US for breaking a US law when he wasn't even in the US when he allegedly "broke" it (how can you break the law of another country when you aren't even there, I'd like to know?), but that quickly passed off around the same time as the Norwegian authorities decided to go ahead and prosecute him for related offenses, real or imagined. Also, you may recall Edward Felten's legal difficulties surrounding his paper on encryption.

        All of which, in my (paranoid?) mind, adds up to the US's playing very fast and loose with international law (what else is new?) and an immense chilling effect in the technology field.

        If it were provable that Elocomsoft was deliberately and knowingly (with malice aforethought) selling products to customers not legally able to buy them, that would be another matter, which I think was upheld with the verdict here. However, the very clear perception that I'm getting from the Elocomsoft case in general is that the US wants to enforce the DMCA worldwide, and will do just about anything it can to make sure that it gets what it wants. Note, please, I'm not a US citizen, and so don't have US patriotism getting in the way of my natural impulses to be skeptical and cynical of the US government's motives in any given instance, so I could be erring on the side of hostility here.
        • All of which, in my (paranoid?) mind, adds up to the US's playing very fast and loose with international law (what else is new?)

          This isn't even close to "very" fast and loose; once you enter a country, you're bound by the decisions of local gov't/law enforcement; if they decide to arrest you because you once had the wrong kind of haircut in your home country, they can.

          Compare this to, for example, the US gov't trying to overthrow the government of Venezuela [guardian.co.uk] because they have the wrong kind of oil policy.
  • I honestly expected Sklyarov to humbly search for all those people who might be exploiting his software.

    "I don't know who pirated, but I'm gonna get them for improperly using my software"

    At least until he got back to mother Russia.

    Hey, it worked for OJ.

    -S
  • It's Amazing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 20, 2002 @12:42PM (#4930712)
    The US Constitution says that you have the right to own a gun. A tool with but one purpose and that is to kill. Killing is illegal - but you write a piece of software that could potentially be used to pirate something but has several other good purposes and they throw you in jail. I will never underestimate the stupidity of american lawmakers.
    • I think you have to remember guns have more than one purpose. Guns are NOT just for killing.

      According to your thinking everyone who owned a gun is also a killer, making the US have about 80 million killers, from what numbers I can find.

      According to your logic, I am a killer also since I own a gun, which its only purpose "is to kill"

      • Can you name anything else the designers of the firearm thought you might do with it, other than attempt to kill something/somebody with it?

        The fact that you choose not to kill with it doesn't mitigate the fact that it's designed to kill. The fact that you can now come up with other things to do with it (say, sport shooting) doesn't mitigate the fact that it was designed, originally, to kill people.

        As opposed to, say, the ball point pen, which was designed to make ink marks, but it was later discovered that, yes, you could stab somebody with it. That wasn't, however, the design intention.

        • The original intent of the knife was to kill as well, so we should ignore any and all other uses anyone can come up with and make knives illegal on that basis alone

          Plus you are making the assumption that killing is always bad. I'll bet you would find it hard to find someone who felt that there was NEVER a valid reason to kill someone. As distastful as it is, sometimes in is necessary (and legal), whether it be self defence or to stop a violent crime in progress.

          This is not a simple "guns are bad, mkay" black and white issue. Just as it is not a "hacking software is bad, mkay" type issue.

          Finkployd
          • I don't think killing is bad; I'm actually quite for it, in the right circumstances.

            My point here is that the *designer's intent* was to create a device to kill people more efficiently; that doesn't make it good, or evil, or assign it an intrinsic role; it was, however, explicitly designed to kill people.

            Designer's intent. Say it with me...designer's intent.

            • Right, but I fail to see what "designer's intent" has to do with ANYTHING.

              I mean, there have been plenty of software programs in which the designer's intent was to create a hacking (cracking) tool, but it was discovered to be a useful tool for the 'forces of good' as well (think BackOrifice)

              Finkployd
        • "Can you name anything else the designers of the firearm thought you might do with it, other than attempt to kill something/somebody with it?"

          It might have been better to say that guns can be used for more than just murder. Guns can be used in self-defense or as a military tool. Certain guns are even useful for hunting. In short, there are both legal and illegal uses for guns.

    • Guns are made for killing. Killing equals illegal.

      Last time I checked, it was perfectly legal to go out and shoot a deer (licensed, in season). I can't see much reason for anyone having semi-automatics etc though.
      • All a semi-automatic gun is load the next round from a magazine into the chamber. It allows you to clean up a kill that you might have made messy by allowing you to fire off another round quickly.

        To be bluntly honest, a deer rifle or other bolt-action rifle can be as deadly or deadlier if you're trying to kill someone. Most semi-autos are carbines, good for brush shooting (close-quarters deer hunting, etc.) and aren't very accurate much past a football field in distance. Brush hunting is seldom done with a scope and I'd rather be hunting with one of my semi-auto's in those conditions than the lever action 30-30 I also have.

        However, the 30-06 that most people hunt with hails from the M1 Grand, a military weapon from WWI- and has an accurate lethal range of well over a mile with a scope. I'll ask you do people need that? Yes- to ensure a clean kill at larger distances like you'd find in Colorado, New Mexico, etc. where a LOT of deer and antelope hunting occurs.
    • Re:It's Amazing (Score:2, Insightful)

      by penguin_dance (536599)
      What's amazing the above post being rated as "insightful" instead of what it really is..."flamebait."

      And no, it isn't illegal to kill someone if you are defending yourself. Not in the US anyway. Which is exactly the example Sklyarov made.
    • The US Constitution says that you have the right to own a gun. A tool with but one purpose and that is to kill. Killing is illegal

      Murder is illegal. Killing to defend yourself or someone else from great bodily harm or death is not illegal. Yes, someone could use a gun to commit a murder or to kill someone in self defense. Most frequently handguns, in this country, are brandished to deter an attack. Guns are thus an effective way to both defend oneself and not bring harm to your attacker.

      • Man, I'd really like to see the evidence you have that "most guns are brandished in defense." As far as I know, in the US it is illegal to carry concealed weapons without a difficult-to-obtain permit, and so you must mean that people are using them to defend their homes. Last I heard more people end up getting shot by their own handguns in the home. Frankly I'd really like to know who all these attackers and defenders are that you refer to, because I never hear such stories reported in the media here in Oregon, nor in Massachusetts where I used to live.
        • BTW, I know this is getting off the topic of the ElcomSoft trial, but I want to make a point here.

          There are a number of things to consider with having many people owning handguns for defense in their homes:

          1) There are many people who successfully use handguns to stop "home invasion" crimes. One problem with this is that the number is not really kept in the same group of statistics that are kept for felony crimes (murder, robbery, rape, etc.) This makes the comparison between the number of people stopped vs. the number of people who die from accidental firearm discharge a very hard number to come up with.

          2) The deterent effect of handguns. To be honest here, you need to keep in mind that potential home burglers are not going to even want to take a chance of getting shot at if they can help it. If they know that, for example, New York State bans handguns and for that matter all firearms, and New Jersey let's all their citizens use whatever guns they want, there will also be a direct correlation with the amount of crime done in both states.

          So please define what you mean by "most people end up getting shot by their own handguns". That implies more than 50% of all handgun owners are going to end up shooting themselves with them. I just don't see that happening.

  • by DaytonCIM (100144) on Friday December 20, 2002 @12:44PM (#4930734) Homepage Journal
    If you want to know more about this case, ElcomSoft, or Dmitry Sklyarov, EFF.com has a great FAQ. Check it out here [eff.org].
  • Why was he forced to accept the prosecution doing this? Couldn't he have literally forced his way into the courtroom if he really wanted?
  • Before everybody gets up in arms about this great injustice, let's have a brief look at the facts*, shall we?

    1. Dmitri gave his deposition, presumably voluntarily. Before questioning, he would have been apprised of his rights, and of the fact that anything he said (including the deposition) could be used against him in court.
      That means he knew they could use the deposition in court, and chose to give it anyway
    2. The Constitution specifically forbids the prosecution from calling Dmitri to the stand--that whole pesky "Fifth Amendment" thing, which states, in part, "nor shall [he] be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself."
      That means that the prosecutor couldn't call him to the stand, even if he wanted to

    Unless I'm missing something here, the system worked exactly as it was supposed to. If Dmitri wanted to testify, his lawyer, the defense attorney, could have called him to the stand; that he didn't indicates that he (the lawyer) felt that putting him on the stand, where he'd be subject to cross-examination by the prosecution, would be more harmful to the case than allowing his deposition to go unexplained.

    Given the outcome of the case, I'd have to agree.

    IANAL.

    (*Yes, I know, facts, on Slashdot. It's so crazy it just might work!)

    • That means that the prosecutor couldn't call him to the stand, even if he wanted to.

      Actually, since Dmitri wasn't the defendant, they could have called him. Testifying against ElcomSoft was also part of his plea agreement.

    • The fifth amendment gives you the OPTION to not testify against yourself. If you want to be called, you certainly can. It's not until you're sitting in the witness box that you have the option to excercise your fifth amendment right.

      Travis
    • Read the article.

      1. What's messed up here is the fact that an edited, taped deposition is used in lieu of live testimony from a man who has flown thousands of miles to be present for the hearing in the first place, thus making cross examination at the time of the testimony impossible. Timely cross is very important in order to lessen the impact of the prosecutor's questions. Elcomsoft was effectively denied the right to confront its accusers in open court by this method.
      2. The defense attorney DID call Sklyarov to the stand. Further, since Dmitri wasn't a co-defendent in the case, he could have testified without a worry against his employer, especially since the government had already agreed not to prosecute him in exchange for his testimony.

      You're missing quite a lot, read the article next time before you post. What the prosecution did is dirty pool, a constitutional sidestep, and I don't like it. I expect higher ethical standards from my government. (*Yes, I know, FUD, and uninformed opinions from people who didn't read the article. It's just par for the course around here)

    • This case was not against Dmitry Sklyarov, it was against ElcomSoft Co. Ltd. While it is true that a statement that he made to the government could be used against him without him being called to the stand, it is legally questionable that the prosecution could use a video tape in place of actual testimony. According to the Constitution, the accused has the right to face their accuser in court and cross-examine them.

      For reference, the Miranda Warning is "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to be speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense."

      Keep in mind a couple of things: the jury found that ElcomSoft did violate the DMCA because the software could be used to break the e-book controls. ElcomSoft was not found guilty because the jury found that they did not intend to break the law. That's why ElcomSoft was not found guilty: their actions lacked intent, which is required for a criminal conviction.
    • 2. The Constitution specifically forbids the prosecution from calling Dmitri to the stand--that whole pesky "Fifth Amendment" thing, which states, in part, "nor shall [he] be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself."
      That means that the prosecutor couldn't call him to the stand, even if he wanted to


      This also means they couldn't have used the deposition against him nor even depose him- for the same reasons you give. Your line of reasoning doesn't work.

      The reason why they used the deposition was that there was no way for cross-examination of the "Witness" in the case of the taped deposition. If they would have called him to the stand, the defense could have cross-examined Dimitry and weakened the prosecution's case. They didn't want to take chances on their case because it was somewhat shaky to begin with.

  • Sad times... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kaosrain (543532) <root@noSPam.kaosrain.com> on Friday December 20, 2002 @12:51PM (#4930799) Homepage
    He said if someone came to him with another project focused on cracking copyrights, "I would ask you, if you're sure this is legal." If the answer is unclear, Sklyarov said he would suggest the person find a lawyer who could figure it out.

    I'm sure he was told his previous project was legal. It's sad that now lawyers will have to say "Yes, this is legal. Except in the USA."
  • by titaniam (635291) <slashdot@drpa.us> on Friday December 20, 2002 @01:18PM (#4930899) Homepage Journal
    I was just about to release to the world the greatest invention ever, when I read Sklyarov's
    article, and that part about the lockpick possibly being illegal got to me! I realized a teleporter could be used to bypass shrink-wrap licenses, pop cd's out of thir unopened jewelbox vaults, or maybe even make "secure" adobe pdf documents useful (I haven't figured that one out yet, but it MAY be possible). Sorry, world! My lawyer has advised me to destroy all the evidence, make my lab notebooks useless by converting them to MS-WORD format, and additionally to re-format my brain to avoid any chance of this big-media-busting technology being used against me in court.
    • I was just about to release to the world the greatest invention ever, when I read Sklyarov's article, and that part about the lockpick possibly being illegal got to me! I realized a teleporter could be used to bypass shrink-wrap licenses

      Good analogy. A better one would have been that such a teleporter, other than saving the world from the oil crisis by making cars and trucks redundant, would also allow people to teleport themselves into and out of bank vaults.

      You'd think it'd be an easy choice: save the ecosystem, or ban a tool because it might have illegal uses.

    • If anyone ever invented a teleporter, that would be the most dangerous thing ever invented, and would probably mark the end of civilization. Just imagine a how much trouble a terrorist could cause, teleporting nukes and radioactive waste without worrying about silly border checkpoints.
  • by Sloppy (14984) on Friday December 20, 2002 @03:26PM (#4931850) Homepage Journal
    At least when we US Citizens get screwed by our government's new goofy laws, we sort of deserve it. It's our problem: we allowed it to happen, it was (infuriatingly) done in our name, and we are ultimately responsible for doing it and undoing it. We voted people into power, largely on the basis of how much money they spent campaigning, and we know that the money didn't just fall out of the sky into their laps.

    Dmitri didn't get to vote in those US elections. He wasn't represented by any of the people who passed DMCA. His responsibility is Russia and its own load of problems. He really wasn't responsible for DMCA, not the way US Citizens (even those of us who oppose DMCA) are.

    You can say it's all part of the risk of working in a foreign country, and he didn't have to do that. Much like the missionary who goes to Afghanistan (pre-9/11/1) and gets in trouble with one of the Taliban's demented laws, he should have known to stay out of the more dangerous parts of the world. But it was still more deeply unjust than all the other DMCA cases have been.

    Dmitri, I'm sorry and ashamed that we did this to you.

  • by deblau (68023) <slashdot.25.flickboy@spamgourmet.com> on Friday December 20, 2002 @04:38PM (#4932376) Journal
    From the article:
    Although jurors agreed the product was illegal because it was designed to crack antipiracy technology controls, they declined to convict because they didn't believe ElcomSoft intended to break the law.
    Note to programmers: if you push the legal uses of your software, then should you ever go to trial, you increase your chances of getting just such a ruling.

    On its face, this seems a paradoxical ruling: a product is illegal because it breaks the law (duh), and furthermore it was designed to do so, but the company that created it didn't intend to break the law! Nevertheless, it's possible to apply similar standards to any technology. Consider cars, for instance. There are many laws which are broken, using cars in the manner in which they were designed: criminal evasion, homicide, reckless endangerment, etc. Yet cars aren't illegal. Neither are guns, but that is a more controversial issue.

    This example is important. If you build a tool (or write software), that tool could be used for good or ill. The crux of the matter is that it is up to the individual user of that tool to decide how to use it. Also remember that juries are swayed heavily by intent. If the user of your software has a good intent (exercising fair-use or property rights, for example) then that user should have nothing to fear from its government, at least on ideological grounds.


  • There is one lasting result of the Dmitry Skylarov trial: Adobe got bad publicity that won't go away.

    Adobe found an amazingly efficient way to get its name in front of the computer-using public. By attacking Skylarov, Adobe got $100,000,000 in almost free, extremely negative, publicity.

    Remember when Adobe attacked Dr. Kai-Uwe Sattler [uni-magdeburg.de] who named the KDE illustrator program Killustrator [slashdot.org]? (See also Killustrator Author Required to Pay Two Grand [slashdot.org].) It is entirely understandable that the program was named that way; every KDE program begins with K. But Adobe didn't see any humor in it. The company attacked Dr. Sattler legally instead of calling him up and joking with him about the name, and asking him to change it. This had the following results:
    1. Tons of bad publicity.
    2. Dr. Sattler's program was advertised internationally, possibly attracting developers and hastening the day when the program can compete with Adobe Illustrator.
    3. Millions of good programmers decided maybe they didn't want to work for Adobe.
    This was all done under the guidance of Bruce Chizen, Adobe CEO. He also was responsible for attacking China, a country with a piracy rate of "90 percent" that also has a poverty rate of maybe 80 percent. See Adobe Considers Withdrawing from Asian Markets [slashdot.org]. By Monday after he made this statement, Adobe's publicity department was trying to undo the damage.

The key elements in human thinking are not numbers but labels of fuzzy sets. -- L. Zadeh

Working...