Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
The Courts Government News Your Rights Online

Sklyarov Released On $50,000 Bail 534

Mike Schiraldi was the first to write about Dmitry Sklyarov's release from jail, even before it happened: "According to this live report from the courtroom, Dmitri will probably be out of jail real soon now. Of course, he still won't be allowed to leave Northern California, but it's a start ..." Soon after, inaneboy pointed out this Reuters story on yahoo which says that Sklyarov has been released, on 50,000 dollars bail, raised by his employer, ElcomSoft. phalse phace wrote to say that the EFF has just posted an announcement as well as some background.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Sklyarov Released On $50,000 Bail

Comments Filter:
  • by Malcontent ( 40834 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @02:23AM (#2139522)
    I guess I'll jump in here.

    your attitude seems to me that the penalty for vandalism and assault ought to be death. Not only death but death without a jury, a trial, a lawyer, a sentence. No chance at appeals or the opportunity to call witnesses or defend yourself. In your eyes if a person commits vandalism then he or she ought to be summarily executed by any police officer who happens to be at the scene.

    Unfortunately there are plenty of people like you in this world and that's why brutal opression exists all over the planet.
  • by mpe ( 36238 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @11:32AM (#2144077)
    If the above is factually correct, then the prosecution's only hope is to find relevant US law, precedent, or theories under which an ordinary employee of a corporation can be held to have criminal liability for the actions of the corporation.

    Which is something which US corporate interests would not want to happen...
  • Sklyarov's release (Score:1, Insightful)

    by jcronen ( 325664 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @03:55PM (#2163932) Homepage
    I think I speak for all of us when I say, "It's about time."

    In addition to the $50,000 raised by ElcomSoft for his release, will they be helping with his legal defense as well?

    I'm sure that the EFF and hopefully even the ACLU will pitch in to his ongoing legal defense also... what other groups could get involved as well? And do they even know enough to get involved?

  • Adobe (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AntiNorm ( 155641 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @03:57PM (#2163952)
    If, as they claim, Adobe doesn't want him prosecuted any more, then why don't THEY pay the $50000 bail?
  • by Entropy_ah ( 19070 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @03:59PM (#2163975) Homepage Journal
    Just because its "doing your job" dosent make it legal. Hitmen do there job, and get put in jail for it. The question is not whether he broke the law, he did. The question is whether the law is unconstitutional and or unethical. The feds at this point cannot just be like "You know what, this law just isnt right. Let him go." Thats not their job. It will be a long process for him to ever be released.
  • Amazing victory (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MAXOMENOS ( 9802 ) <maxomai&gmail,com> on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:03PM (#2164000) Homepage
    This is an amazing victory for Sklyarov. $50,000 bail is a lot of money, I agree ... but this is peanuts for an alleged criminal who poses a substantial flight risk (he does, after all, live in Russia). I'm personally hoping that this says good things for the judge's attitudes towards Sklyarov and his alleged "crime."

    (Usual disclaimers: IANAL etc.)

  • by kaszeta ( 322161 ) <> on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:04PM (#2164007) Homepage
    What is Think Geek going to do with all of those Free Dimitri shirts they just got in? Nobody is going to want them now....

    Ummm, he is most certainly not free. He is just out on bond awaiting trial. He has no passport, and no freedom of movement (he can't leave California, and he most certainly can't go home to Russia).

    Yes, this is an improvement of his general situation, but this is far from over. He still faces the possibility of hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and years in prison.

    For now, he just has a much bigger jail cell.

  • by Hemos Love Troll ( 240085 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:05PM (#2164011)
    So what you're saying is that we shouldn't be upset with the Feds for throwing somebody in jail for no good reason because they're just doing their jobs...
  • by kiwimate ( 458274 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:06PM (#2164021) Journal that it doesn't clarify the real difference between the legality in Russia and the illegality in the States -- i.e. that the reason you're allowed to do this in Russia is to make backups for personal use.

    Overall, I think it's a reasonable story, and not slanted. But the average reader (side-note: how much do we think this will be picked up by the mass-circulation papers?) will end up thinking that this is a symptom of the decline of the Russian ex-empire in that it's legal to pirate CDs there. The reality, of course, is the reverse: it's legal to make a fair-use backup for your own purposes, as opposed to out-and-out piracy, and that is what Sklyarov's software addresses.
  • by tb3 ( 313150 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:09PM (#2164040) Homepage
    Interesting, the first article states that, now that he has been released on bail, the U.S. attorney has 10 to 20 days to indict him. Does this mean that if they don't do anything after 20 days he walks? If so, would this be a convenient face-saving measure for the government?

  • by Hemos Love Troll ( 240085 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:14PM (#2164080)
    I know how the system works, but doesn't it bother you just a little to be saying that Sklyarov can't say "I was just doing my job!", but the FBI can? Both of them are just doing what they're told, but one should know better and one shouldn't? Doesn't that strike you as just a little hypocritical?
  • by TheRogue ( 71674 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:17PM (#2164105)
    Define Irony: Fleeing to Russia from the US for the sake of Freedom...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:24PM (#2164156)
    Gee, I thought we claimed at Nuremburg that "just doing my job" isn't sufficient reason in all cases.

    Yeah, I'm looking in your direction, FBI... Killed any kids lately?
  • by lobsterGun ( 415085 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:28PM (#2164180)
    He'll get his ass back to Russia. Once he figures out the legal costs and his potential for incarceration I think he'll realise that it's in his best interest to flee prosecution. Hell! it's in ElcomSoft's best interests if he flees. $50,000 might sound like a lot, but once you start to think in terms of billable hours its really isn't that much. The sooner he's back at work the better it will be for them. It may be in the DOJ's best interest too. If you consider that this isn't exactly a popular case for them. Come to think of it... isn't $50,000 bail for someone that is as much of a flight risk as Sklyarov a bit low? Granted, he won't be able to return to the US again....but would he really want to? If it were you would you want to?
  • What gets me is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:28PM (#2164181) Journal
    What gets me is how it seems like DS is arrested for violation of American law for things here did in Russia, really. And the rest was merely a snow job to make it look legal. I guess that since he is russian, free speech rights do not apply?. Because he was speaking. Maybe he even said "Go to my webiste and buy stuff".

    The last time I checked, even though the west won ther cold war US law was NOT the Law of the Land in Russia.

    There is the legal concept of "Fighting Words". This covers things like inciting to riot, or other illegal acts. The Supreme Court has issued many rulings on this. These are the rulings that allow Nazis to stroll through a jewish neighborhood, while under police protection. This area of law is part of free speech rights, and basically knocks down the idea that you can be arrested for incitement to an illegal act. IANAL. A search for the phrase will turn up many referances.

    People can buy instruments of violence in the US. But tread on someone's imagined profits, and watch out. Even if you are just speaking, or selling.

    There could be a tremendous constitutional legal issue tied up with this. I hope the DCMA gets nailed.

  • Great! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:32PM (#2164208)
    Anybody else wondering if there's any connection between Sklyarov's release and John Tobin's parole? Eh, best not to look too close at these things, huh?

    Just hope they junk the DMCA and stop imprisoning people for a little dope while Wall Street jerks off over the prospect of hooking us all cheap, generic happy pills (Prozac).

    Rogue Bolo
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:33PM (#2164215)
    If the FBI breaks the law while doing their job then they goto jail as well. After all, this is what Internal Affairs is for. What would bother me is if the executive branch started to decide how to interpret laws and they were allowed to get away with it. That's basically martial law. Be gratefull we don't have a bunch of Judge Dreds running around.

    The difference here is huge, the FBI is not breaking any laws by arresting him. Sklyarov knew what he did was illegal in the US, so what does he do? Comes to a convention there. I high profile hacker convention no less. Although i'm not comparing the crimes outright, when was the last time you have seen a Columbia drug lord attend a pharmacutical convention in the US?

    Its pretty clear that it is his own ego that in the end was his undoing. Kind of like returning to the scene of the crime. To be honest tho, this whole thing is pretty silly. Who the hell really cares about eBooks anyway? And as has been stated, it doesnt apparently seem that you needed to be a genious worth the worlds admiration simply because he hacked something so trivially simple.

    Unfortunately for him, his 15 minutes of hacker fame has caught up to him and bit him in the ass.

    I may not like the law, you may not like it, but you can't just throw the whole system out the window on a case by case basis.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:36PM (#2164230)
    ...and yet only today was an article in the Chicago Tribune about Skylarov being in jail, essentially a rehash of what appeared in the NYT (was talked about last week? in slashdot).
  • by beme ( 85862 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:40PM (#2164253)
    I'm not sure how releasing him on bail qualifies as doing the right thing.
    IMHO, doing the right thing would be dropping the charges and letting him go home.
  • Re:What for? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TheOnlyCoolTim ( 264997 ) <> on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:42PM (#2164267)
    It is a definitely "OK" to break laws that are wrong... Civil Disobedience...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:44PM (#2164285)
    I agree with you -- partially -- in the sense that the "Nuremberg Defense" used by Nazi honchos after WWII (namely, "We were just doing our job") failed miserably under any reasonable moral/human right standard. I also agree that the DMCA fails on similar standards when considered in the light of free speech, basic liberty, self-expression, etc.

    But to me there is a big practical difference between the former example -- which involved the unambiguous butchering of human beings -- and the latter, which involves issues that are arcane and technical for the typical "Joe on the street" (even though it may seem much more clear and obvious to /. readers and tech-savvy people in general). Unless the Feds did due diligence in looking very carefully at the crypto and interoperability exemptions in the DMCA [], sections 1201(c)(1) and 1201(c)(4), then they were basically (and, IMHO, not unreasonably), following the law as written. Since this case is not nearly so obvious to a lay person as murder would be, and since there is zero case law on the books for the DMCA, it's not that unreasonable for them to take the "seems like the right thing to do; if not, the court will tell us" approach. Unfortunately this means that an (again, IMHO) innocent person gets thrown into a federal detention center for several weeks.

    I'm not saying it's right -- just understandable.

    Remember: it takes a solid, clear-headed understanding of US constitutional history and philosophy; a good knowledge of the pertinent recent history in the technological realm (Betamax, PC-BIOS, DAT, Diamond Rio, DeCSS, and now this); and a decent technical understanding of how this affects crypto folks, researchers, everyday users, and the net in general; to truly appreciate the implications of this case in its full context.

    I've been trying to educate my parents (who immigrated to the US from Soviet Russia in 1977) about this case, and even for them it has not been an easy sell. It makes for an interesting barometer, though, and I suggest anyone trying to educate their less-tech-literate friends about this keep that idea in mind.


  • How? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MrPerfekt ( 414248 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:45PM (#2164287) Homepage Journal
    If Calif. Supreme Courts just ruled victims can't sue gun makers, how in the heck can Adobe even THINK of sueing Dimitry?
  • Re:How? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Daffy Duck ( 17350 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:53PM (#2164332) Homepage
    I asked myself the same question when I heard about it on the radio. The only answer I can come up with is that in both cases there are large and very well heeled corporations that are being "protected" from us dangerous little citizens.
  • by Relic of the Future ( 118669 ) <> on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:07PM (#2164436)
    Hehe. I like the part in the first article that says: "If programmers are allowed to crack eBook encryption,the next Napster-style trading system will be exchanging copies of "Moby Dick" instead of songs by Moby, they warn."

    That book is over 150 years old (isn't it?). It should be public domain and completely legal to trade electronic copies of online. Right?

    This, I think, is perhaps one of the most frightening signs of the difficult times we have ahead of us: common people don't expect that they should have the right to share "copyrighted" information.

  • by ehintz ( 10572 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:18PM (#2164530) Homepage
    Notes on this: Dima is not yet out of jail. Bond is posted, but he now has to process out of Santa Clara County Jail.

    Background: When I was a dumb college kid many years ago, I flaked out on several speeding tickets and such, and wound up with several warrants for Failure to Appear. The total dollar amount was $1400, and as a minimum wage cashier for a pet shop there was no way in hell I could pay it. So, on Sunday evening of Spring Break week, I turned myself in to the local PD. 2 court appearances later (different jurisdictions) both judges declared time served, making me a free man in theory. Reality was it took a day and a half from the judge declaring me free to me walking out of LA County Jail a free man. Dima is a bit higher profile than I am, but it's still going to take some time.

    Even when he hits the streets, he is still imprisoned, just in a 3000 mile wide cell. He is not a free man until he hits international airspace on a jet bound for Moscow. He is still separated from his family, his job, and his school, and facing 5 years imprisonment in a foreign country.

    Ergo, we must continue to turn up the heat. This is yet another small victory, like Adobe, but the war is far from over. On a positive note, press coverage is picking up, and more publicity is a very good thing. Let's not lose our momentum here folks, onward... Free Dima!
  • by Gogl ( 125883 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:19PM (#2164537) Journal
    But you forget....

    Dmitry didn't plan on being a martyr for an anti-DMCA crusade. Yes, the DMCA is a bad law. Yes, it would be good to challenge it.

    But at this point, this has nothing in my mind to do with the DMCA. It was to do with a foreigner, the "breadwinner" of his family, who was detained wrongly in this nation.

    Give him back to his family. Worry about the DMCA after you worry about humanity. Intellectual property will wait.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:24PM (#2164585)

    Remember your Senator next election. These, to my knowledge, are the Senators who voted for the DMCA. Write letter, make phone calls, but above all else don't forget to VOTE THE BASTARDS OUT.

    AK Frank Murkowski Republican
    AK Ted Stevens Republican
    AL Jeff Sessions Republican
    AL Richard Shelby Republican
    AR Dale Bumpers Democrat
    AR Tim Hutchinson Republican
    AZ John McCain Republican
    AZ Jon Kyl Republican
    CA Barbara Boxer Democrat
    CA Diane Feinstein Democrat
    CO Ben Campbell Republican
    CO Wayne Allard Republican
    CT Chris Dodd Democrat
    CT Joe Lieberman Democrat
    DE Joe Biden Democrat
    DE William Roth Republican
    FL Bob Graham Democrat
    FL Connie Mack Republican
    GA Max Cleland Democrat
    GA Paul Coverdell Republican
    HI Daniel Akaka Democrat
    HI Daniel Inouye Democrat
    IA Charles Grassley Republican
    IA Tom Harkin Democrat
    ID Dirk Kempthorne Republican
    ID Larry Craig Republican
    IL Carol Braun Democrat
    IL Richard Durbin Democrat
    IN Dan Coats Republican
    IN Richard Lugar Republican
    KS Pat Roberts Republican
    KS Sam Brownback Republican
    KY Mitch McConnell Republican
    KY Wendell Ford Democrat
    LA John Breaux Democrat
    LA Mary Landrieu Democrat
    MA John Kerry Democrat
    MA Ted Kennedy Democrat
    MD Barbara Mikulski Democrat
    MD Paul Sarbanes Democrat
    ME Olympia Snowe Republican
    ME Susan Collins Republican
    MI Carl Levin Democrat
    MI Spencer Abraham Republican
    MN Paul Wellstone Democrat
    MN Rod Grams Republican
    MO John Ashcroft Republican
    MO Kit Bond Republican
    MO Max Baucus Democrat
    MS Thad Cochran Republican
    MS Trent Lott Republican
    MT Conrad Burns Republican
    NC Jesse Helms Republican
    NC Lauch Faircloth Republican
    ND Byron Dorgan Democrat
    ND Kent Conrad Democrat
    NE Chuck Hagel Republican
    NE Robert Kerrey Democrat
    NH Bob Smith Republican
    NH Judd Gregg Republican
    NJ Frank Lautenberg Democrat
    NJ Robert Torricelli Democrat
    NM Jeff Bingaman Democrat
    NM Pete Domenici Republican
    NV Harry Reid Democrat
    NV Richard Bryan Democrat
    NY Al D'Amato Republican
    NY Daniel Moynihan Democrat
    OH John Glenn Democrat
    OH Mike DeWine Republican
    OK Don Nickles Republican
    OK James Inhofe Republican
    OR Gordon Smith Republican
    OR Ron Wyden Democrat
    PA Arlen Specter Republican
    PA Rick Santorum Republican
    RI Jack Reed Democrat
    RI John Chaffee Republican
    SC Fritz Hollings Democrat
    SC Strom Thurmond Republican
    SD Tim Johnson Democrat
    SD Tom Daschle Democrat
    TN Fred Thompson Republican
    TN William Frist Republican
    TX Kay Hutchison Republican
    TX Phil Gramm Republican
    UT Bob Bennett Republican
    UT Orrin Hatch Republican
    VA Charles Robb Democrat
    VA John Warner Republican
    VT James Jeffords Republican
    VT Patrick Leahy Democrat
    WA Patty Murray Democrat
    WA Slade Gorton Republican
    WI Herb Kohl Democrat
    WI Russ Feingold Democrat
    WV Jay Rockefeller Democrat
    WV Robert Byrd Democrat
    WY Craig Thomas Republican
    WY Mike Enzi Republican

  • Re:What gets me is (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ronin Developer ( 67677 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @06:34PM (#2164954)
    A man has has to know his limitations. He *JUST* had to challenge the media and then come to the US and expecting not to get caught.

    Although, his actions are not a crime in his home land, he did commit a crime against a company protected by US law (no matter how ridiculous the law may be). The instant he set foot on US soil, he could be arrested, charged and prosecuted accordingly.

    People are wondering why he is still being prosecuted despite having the charges dropped. Bottom line is that although the "victim" dropped charges, the federal gov't is aware a crime has been commited. Hence, they have to prosecute. Clearly, somebody wants his ass in sling and are determined to make an example out of him.

    Somebody pointed out that they hope he flees because he won't get a fair trial here. Because they are trying so hard to force the DCMA on us, that statement is probably true. A conviction will set precedent. If he does manage to flee, he only has to wait for the statute of limitations to expire before he can attend his next conference in the US.

    I'd like to see this tried in world court where they'll laugh at the DMCA and open the path for him collecting civil damages for violation of his rights.

    BTW, what *IS* the Statute of Limitations on the DCMA? Knowing the forces behind it, it's probably knows no time limitation (like murder). Lord knows, they will make a witchhunt out of this and burn the little bugger at the stake just to get their point across.

    Let's wish this guy luck, hope he runs fast, hides well, and pray the somebody in the High Court comes to their senses.

  • An EU perspective (Score:2, Insightful)

    by The_Other_Kelly ( 44440 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @07:47PM (#2165277) Journal
    From the EU perspective, the following question has popped up in my head:
    Adobe eBooks and the reader are available for sale in the EU, where it should be legal to make a single copy of an eBook for personal backup use.
    So how is it possible to make these legal copies?

    I've just mailed this question to Adobe Germany's customer support, and await an answer.
    Anyone got an idea about the backup obligations if any,
    a company has when selling software products in the EU?
    Although it is normally taken for granted , even if the product is shipped from the US, by being offered for sale and taxed in the EU, it is covered by EU consumer protection laws.
    So, where do the US DCMA and EU consumer laws conflict?
  • Justice for Sale (Score:2, Insightful)

    by guygee ( 453727 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @08:19PM (#2165383)
    To all of those making the naive assertion that "Sklyarov is accused of breaking the law, therefor he must stand trial": Time to open your eyes to see beyond the black and white illusion of idealized justice. Justice is for sale in this country, to the highest bidder and to those with the political muscle. Consider the selective enforcement of the "victimless" crimes (drugs, gambling, sexual proscriptions), tax laws and copyright laws (both skewed to favor the corporate interests): certainly the vast majority of Americans are "criminals" who have broken one or more of these laws, yet the prosecution falls overwhelmingly on the poor and the politically impotent. Unless a strong grassroots movement arises to support him, Dmitry falls into the latter category (evil communist hacker). If, on the other hand, programmers, scientists, and academicians can organize and bare their collective political fangs, the charges will be dropped, and deservedly so. We should not weaken our position unnecessarily with unrealistic illusionary concepts of idealized justice.
  • Re:Party (Score:4, Insightful)

    by meldroc ( 21783 ) <meldroc&frii,com> on Monday August 06, 2001 @09:22PM (#2165558) Homepage Journal
    It's occured to me that since Dimitry can't go home to his wife & kids, would it be possible to bring his wife & kids here? It would probably take some fundraising to pay for plane tickets, living arrangements, etc.
  • by meldroc ( 21783 ) <meldroc&frii,com> on Monday August 06, 2001 @09:34PM (#2165588) Homepage Journal
    I'd like to hear you say that again after taking a vacation in Afghanistan and being flogged for daring to shave or surf the web. Some laws are so unjust that they need to be broken.
  • Re:Adobe (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hearingaid ( 216439 ) <> on Monday August 06, 2001 @10:08PM (#2165762) Homepage


    good lord. You can't commit perjury unless you're IN COURT.

    the best Sklyarov could get against them is maybe some petty-ante little charge like laying a false complaint.

    anyway, if he shows to the trial, even if he's convicted, Elcomsoft gets its money back. It's being held by the bail bondsman now. Nobody can touch it unless he jumps.

    he may have a case against the California D.A. for malicious prosecution though. And get this through your legally-untrained skull: it's the federal government who's holding him. Adobe set the ball in motion, but they're not the ones that're doing anything now.

    the next time we should discuss Adobe is when their employees are called to the stand. That's when we find out where they really stand on the issues. Right now they can't do anything - good or bad.

  • by pdcull ( 469825 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @10:24PM (#2165838) Homepage

    That's the one thing I've been wishing somebody would say here on /. - doesn't someone have contact with Dmitry? Why doesnt someone ask him all those questions we've been theorizing over: what he thinks about it all, whether he wants to stay and fight this out (without asking if he plans to skip bail, of course!), his point of view on all of this.

    How about the next /. interview being with Dmitry?

  • My View of the Day (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ewhac ( 5844 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @11:19PM (#2166021) Homepage Journal

    I almost didn't go to this hearing. I thought to myself, "What's the point? The deck is stacked against me, the media will spin its own story regardless of the facts or what the EFF has to say, and we'll all be ignored, anyway." At the last minute, I decided that I had to go. I didn't want to, I had to. Though mine may be the proverbial voice in the wilderness, as an ethical software engineer of almost 25 years, I couldn't let this transgression against everything I hold dear go unanswered.

    I dressed up in uncharacteristically formal attire, in the event I was asked for an on-camera interview, and drove to downtown San Jose, arriving at about 09:45, and walked to the "Snake" at the end of Caesar de Chavez Park. There were about two dozen people there, most of them carrying hand-made pickets, including a former colleague, who coincidentally also happens to be a Russian named Dmitriy. Also milling through the group were a few media representatives (I saw units from KGO, KPIX, and TechTV).

    I didn't see any obvious representatives from the EFF there (though I was asked several times if I myself was a representative). Things seemed a shade disorganized to me. The march toward the Federal building one block away was supposed to start at 10:00. By 10:10, no one was moving, so I walked down myself to make sure I got a seat in the courtroom for the bail hearing which was to take place at 11:00.

    I arrived at the Federal courthouse, and made my way through the security gauntlet. (You remember that scene in The Matrix where Keanu Reeves shows up in the lobby with all those neatly-dressed security guards? It was a lot like that. Seven Marshalls stood nearby as they X-rayed my mini-MagLite three times.) Finally convinced I was harmless, I went up to the fourth floor to Judge Infante's courtroom and waited to enter.

    There, I met some more reporters from TechTV and the LA Times. Again, I was asked if I was from the EFF.
    "No, I'm a software engineer," I said.
    "Oh, an actual real person!", said one of the reporters. I got asked why I was there, and tried to explain my concerns. I don't know how well I succeeded.

    While waiting, the rest of the protest group arrived at the front of the Federal building. We could see them from the windows of the waiting area. Not too long after, the corridor began to fill up with spectators awaiting admittance to the courtroom.

    I managed to buttonhole the LA Times reporter, and tried again to explain the issues as I saw them. I related this case to the DVD CCA debacle, which the EFF is still fighting on both coasts. I felt I was actually beginning to help him understand, when our conversation was cut short when the courtroom doors opened and we were allowed in.

    After inquiring with the Marshall what the rules were (laptops okay, cellphones bad), I pulled out my laptop and started making a few notes. While sitting there, I picked up a fragment of a conversation between the Marshall and a spectator who walked in.
    "Hey, aren't you on the wrong floor?" asked the Marshall.
    "Yeah, but this looked really interesting," said the gentleman.
    I didn't get his name, but it turned out that he's a bankruptcy lawyer who was also a computer programmer back in 1963. He saw the hearing listed on the court calendar, and stopped by to watch. We chatted a bit about recording devices and court stenography methods.

    At 10:55, Dmitry entered the courtroom with another man, Juan Valencia Rowa (sp?), who was under indictment for a drug and parole violation. Both were handcuffed, dressed in freeway-cone-orange scrubs. By the time court was in session at 11:00 sharp, the spectators' gallery was filled.

    Judge Infante banged court into session. It was immediately apparent that this man worked strictly by the book. He was formal and precise, almost to the point of stuffiness. The first case called was Dmitry's. Counsels for the defense and prosecution introduced themselves, and Judge Infante read the summary of the government's criminal charges aloud to Dmitry. Standing next to Dmitry was a Russian translator (identity unknown).

    Infante then asked for motions from counsels concerning bail. The government prosecutor stated that they considered Sklyarov a flight risk, since he is a Russian national and has nothing tying him to this area. Nevertheless, a deal had apparently been worked out whereby the government was willing to allow him go free, provided the following conditions were met:

    • That Dmitry sign a promise to appear,
    • That a bail be paid of $50,000,
    • That a custodian be assigned to him to vouch for his return,
    • That he report to a court-appointed clerk no less than once a week,
    • That his ability to travel be restricted to Northern California.

    Defense counsel, in support of this, presented character references from Dmitry's professors in Russia, as well as a letter from the Russian Consul. The Judge accepted this arrangement on its face, and ordered exactly those conditions be imposed on Dmitry for his release.

    The Judge expressed a concern that the US Department of Immigration might present complications. Dmitry is here on a travel visa. When that visa expires, Dmitry could theoretically be arrested again for violating immigration laws. Judge Infante inquired if Immigration was okay with Dmitry's extended stay. Defense counsel replied that arrangements were not yet finalized, but were underway.

    Defense counsel then announced that a custodian for Dmitry was available immediately. Sergei Osokine of Cupertino then stepped forward and introduced himself to the court. Judge Infante informed Osokine that he was vouching for Sklyarov's promise to appear, that he was to inform the court immediately if he became aware of Sklyarov's flight or intent to fly, and could himself become liable for the bail sum should Sklyarov disappear. Osokine indicated he understood and agreed to all this.

    Defense counsel then announced that the bail sum was also available immediately, in cash, paid by his employer. Dmitry was then uncuffed, and brought to the center of the courtroom to sign the papers indicating the conditions of his release. The date was also set for the preliminary hearing: 09:00, 23 August 2001. Having forgotten to do so earlier, the Judge then informed Dmitry of the maximum penalty for his alleged crime: $500,000.00 and five years in prison. Once everything was signed, Judge Infante ordered Dmitry's release upon payment of bail to the court clerk, and moved on to the next case. The spectators' gallery emptied almost immediately. The entire process took about twenty minutes.

    Outside, an actual representative of the EFF :-) stood before a camera claiming victory in this round of the dispute. Defense counsel, in a different interview, also said he was pleased with Dmitry's release, but that there was still a long way to go before a final resolution.

    I stood around with Dan Kaminsky and helped answer questions from a reporter from Reuters wire service. Dan and I can get a bit animated about these issues, and I fear we ranted a bit. Hopefully the reporter wasn't put off by it.

    What I did find off-putting were the chants that suddenly broke out from the picketers (who had moved to the other side of the courthouse). "What do we want? Free Dmitry! When do we want it? Now! Hey-hey, ho-ho, DMCA's got to go," etc. I know I have absolutely no practical experience in social agitation for political change, so please accept it as my woefully uneducated personal opinion that I see this sort of thing as infantile. It is not effective or witty, it is lame. It makes you look like brainless, uncreative drones on television, and people will tune you right out. Please think of something different.

    After the Reuters reporter left, we answered a few more questions from the reporter from WiReD News, then I left for an appointment at 13:00. On the way to my car, I bumped into Brad Templeton, president of the EFF, who hinted that you may expect to see some new fundraising events in the not-too-distant future.

    Why do I give a damn about this? When I first touched a computer at age 12, I saw it as the ultimate tool of creative expression. Theoretically, there was nothing you couldn't do with these machines, no idea that could not be expressed in a myriad of ways. In that instant, I immediately knew that this was what I would be doing for the rest of my life. Not everyone gets the chance to spend their life doing what they love, and I value very highly my good fortune of my vocation also being my dearest hobby.

    One of the reasons I've gotten nice jobs in the Valley is because I'm fairly good at what I do. Apart from my enthusiasm, one of the primary ways I got so good was by taking apart things other people did, seeing how they worked, and using those discoveries to build new ideas. I even described my discoveries to others, in the hopes they would get new ideas, too.

    In other words, I built much of my professional career doing exactly what Dmitry Sklyarov did.

    When the Judge read the charges to Dmitry -- "trafficking in a device to circumvent a technological measure that protects a copyright" -- I nearly became nauseous. There is not so much separating me from Dmitry. I have often thought about -- and perhas will one day -- writing a display hack that takes whatever DVD is in your drive, wraps the movie imagery on to an OpenGL sphere, and bounces it around the screen ("Boing 2001", if you will). To do that, I would have to use the DeCSS code fragment published by Jon Johansen. And doing so would make me a "criminal," a threat to the State and public safety, just like Dmitry.

    In a brief flash, I saw myself up there, humiliated, in a hostile place where no one knows me, no one understands what I do -- nor do they care -- answering terrifyingly punitive criminal charges for doing nothing more than what I have loved doing all my life.

    I am Dmitry Sklyarov. What the hell am I supposed to do now?


  • by Chris Y Taylor ( 455585 ) on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @12:45AM (#2166285) Homepage
    If the police never enforce laws they think are bad, then what is the point of having a legislature; we could just have the police make up the laws.

    The police SHOULD enforce even laws they think are stupid*; that is the only way the stupid laws can be corrected. Otherwise the public and congress never get any feedback that the law isn't working right. So they just go on and make more bad laws; which the police would then edit as they see fit, etc., etc. and so forth. Eventually almost everything would be illegal and the police would just arrest people they didn't like.

    I realize that the police and DAs are human, and they are going to learn from The Courts which cases have enough merit to likely get a conviction and which ones aren't worth their time. I understand that they will have to make those kind of decisions at some level. But I'd rather the police err on the side of being automatons than have them err on the side of being "street judges". Let the real judges and the jurors be the ones to decide which laws are unconstitutional. Let the Governors and the President decide who should get pardons. Let the public get enraged and call their congressmen when bad or stupid laws cause good people to be arrested. That is the way the process is designed to work; that is where the checks and balances are; those are the people who should be making those decisions. That way bad laws get refined into good ones.

    Don't get mad at the FBI for doing their job when they do it right; they have been dropping the ball enough lately that you have plenty of incidents where agents did their job poorly that you can get mad about instead.

    *In the town I grew up in, it was illegal for women to wear pants. Of course they did; and didn't get arrested. The law was part of some old "blue laws" that everyone (including the police) thought were archaic. Ideally I'd like to see some city councilwoman arrested for wearing pants; then the law would get changed and the case would almost certainly be thrown out or she'd get a pardon or some such. As long as the laws are ignored they will stay on the books. And every kid who reads about them in school and laughs has their respect for other laws diminished. Worse, every time a policeman knows about such laws and chooses to ignore them, he (and really the rest of society as well) get conditioned to the idea that the police get to choose what laws they want to enforce.

The absent ones are always at fault.