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Sklyarov, Elcomsoft Plead Not Guilty 484

squared99 writes: "I'm sure it has already flooded slashdot, but Dmitri has entered his plea, not guilty. This NYTimes article talks about it. Not sure I like the mention of bumper stickers, as opposed to the real people who have been protesting, but at least it talks about the support he has been getting. It even appeared as one the main newsworthy item on my daily NYTimes newsletter, Yay! Let's keep up the support and protests. As my brother said to me the other day, "The only way to beat bullies is to stand up to them."" See also Elcomsoft's statement about the case, a story in the Boston Globe, and this cute fable about a DMCA future. Update: 08/31 19:37 PM GMT by M : one more link - the Russian Foreign Ministry has warned its programmers not to travel to the United States.
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Sklyarov, Elcomsoft Plead Not Guilty

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  • But he is guilty in the eyes of the law, as far as I can see. The DMCA may be an unfair law, and not 'justice', but there is a greater thing at stake here - the overall Justice of the law. Even where the law is wrong it must be obeyed, and must only be amended through democratic action. I for one support the actions against Skylarov, with heavy heart, for I support the rule of law above all else.

    This is not to say I won't be campaigning against the DMCA, however.

    I think I am in line with the more controversial [adequacy.org] commentators on this issue, but I feel it is the only honest line.

    • "Even where the law is wrong it must be obeyed"

      Is the criminal justice system not part of our democracy? You seem to imply laws can only be changed if the Congress passes a law to repeal it. That's not true at all. If the law is unconsititutional, the judicial system has more than enough power to declare it so.

      Sounds like you're fighting for the wrong side.
    • by fcd ( 89027 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @03:39PM (#2240530)
      An unjust law does not demand being followed simply because it is the law. Our country has a history of unjust laws. Take for example the Jim Crow laws in the south. You state that you agree with the people who put MLK in jail. The people who turned dogs and hoses on protestors, civil protestors, not violent ones, simply because it is the law?

      It is our duty as Americans to protest and commit acts of civil disobiedience when we believe a law is unjust. We must, of course, expect to be punished for our actions, but we must never fall blindly into the belief that we should obey and accept people punsihed under unjust laws, to do so is to sign away our freedoms one by one, because as many of you know waiting and writing to Congress to get something done, is not the most effective thing you can do.

      Someone who is being punished under an unjust law is being unjustly punished, and you should not support punishing him, if you do not believe the law is just, to do so is hipocrasy.

    • I fully agree with the gist of your post, but let's not call him guilty, that's not up to you or I to say. If you are such a strong believer in Justice of the Law, let the courts decide. And yes, I saw the "as far as I can see" part.

      On a side note: what I understand from this is that everyone who is or has been an employee of ElcomSoft, or anyone who has somehow contributed to the "effort" is subjected to arrest upon entering the USA. Maybe one wouldn't even need to enter the USA (think Noriega). I think this extreme scenario highlights how law and justice can be apart, as you suggested.
    • Skylarov not guilty in the eyes of Justice, but he is guilty in the eyes of the law, as far as I can see.

      Not quite. Two simple points prove this statement wrong:

      • It is arguable if parts of the DMCA is constitutional. If the law is unconstitutional, it can not be upheld.
      • It is arguable if he violated the DMCA while in the US.

    • As cmorriss points out, laws in the U.S. are not only amended through the legislature, they are also declared null and void if they are found unconstitutional by The Court. This does NOT require any sort of "democratic action". In fact, if the Supreme Court rules that a law is unconstitutional then it doesn't matter how popular it is with the public, it is gone. Personally I rather like it that way; it prevents a "tyranny of the majority" and protects even unpopular rights and the rights of unpopular groups (to a point).

      I suspect DMCA is very unconstitutional, and hopefully if EFF can make a good enough case The Court can be convinced to overturn it; so supporting them in this effort is important.

      Your "democratic action" does have its place. Even if it doesn't reverse this law, making your displeasure over DMCA known (in an thoughtful, clear fashion) to your representatives in Congress gives them feedback on the quality of their legislation and may prevent future similar "bad laws" from being enacted in the 1st place. This feedback is very important, but often times legislatures get insulated from the results of their work, and then some poor person (like Dimitri) has to be the "test case" victim to get it corrected in The Courts.

      "Democratic action" has its place, but democracy (or in our case a republic) without constitutional restrictions and a judiciary system is tyranny waiting to happen.

      While in theory I also disagree that all "wrong laws" must be obeyed, in this context the difference is only academic. The injustices and tragedies of war are so great that I think the laws must be very, very wrong and very, very uncorrectable before that step can be justified. But having your gov't know in the back of their mind that they could never rule out such a response is a useful deterrence to extremist bureaucrats.
    • I would've partly agreed with you a few days ago, because if there's even a significant chance that he could be convicted, I would prefer to see him take a plea and get back to Russia. But I'm no lawyer, and I assume you're not either. I don't support the actions against him, for that reason, and for the same reasons fcd pointed out; that, by our nature, Americans don't support the rule (as in reign) of law. I can't pretend to know better than the EFF lawyers what path to take. Anyway, wouldn't those scales of justice things that sit in courtrooms mean something here?
    • Sometimes, the only way to wake the public up to the fact that some laws are immoral or unjust is to violate those laws.

      What if the State prohibited protest, and in fact prohibited trying to change the law in any way. Then even "democratic action" to change that law would be illegal. Thus, violating the law could be considered a moral imperative.

      To put it another way, laws exist to try to keep society ordery. But when the laws are unjust, they must be changed, and it is possible that those laws will need to be broken to reform them. Laws do not equate to morals. I think there are many things that are illegal but not immoral, as well as many things that ARE immoral but not illegal.

      Not everybody has the same morals, though on a Federal level this country has unified laws. However, some of those laws have been bought and paid for by large corporations, in a very undemocratic manner. When corporate lobbyists and greedy politicians ignore their constituents (which is easy since most Americans are now complacent tv-absorbing vegetables anyways, thanks to corporate america and the dumbing-down of media as well as education) then democracy is broken.

      Turn it around - what if the law REQUIRED that all Blacks and Jews be rounded up and turned into the police for extermination. You'd be violating the law by providing safe harbor to those people whose lives were at stake. Would such a violation of the law be wrong? When slaves in America were just property with no rights, were the people who freed and protected them from unjust laws doing something wrong? How is it forgivable to obey the law (and thus allow innocent people to suffer) just because you don't want to break the law?

      There's another point to be made. It's damn hard to get a law overturned, especially if nobody's been affected by it. If Sklyarov and the EFF manage to get the DMCA repealed (or modified), by showing how the law as it stands is unjust, then wasn't Sklyarov doing the RIGHT thing (albeit unknowingly) by violating an unjust law and thus provoking a TEST CASE to get the unjust law thrown out?
    • I am not certain of that Sklyarov will have a jury trial but I would think that a jury or a judge would share many of the same guidelines for the determination of guilt. That being the case I would just like to point out this site [fija.org]. which outlines many of the powers that a jury has. Note this fourth bulleted item.

      When they believe justice requires it, jurors can refuse to apply the law. Jurors have the power to consider whether the law itself is wrong (including whether it is "unconstitutional"), or is being applied for political reasons. Is the defendant being singled out as "an example" in order to demonstrate government muscle? Were the defendant's constitutional rights violated during the arrest? Much of today's "crime wave" consists of victimless crimes--crimes against the state, or "political crimes", so if you feel that a verdict of guilty would give the government too much power, or help keep a bad law alive, just remember that you can refuse to apply any law that violates your conscience.

      By these guidelines I would say a jury (or judge) would be perfectly justified in declaring Dmitry not guilty.
    • "Even where the law is wrong it must be obeyed"

      Hogwash. When the law is wrong, it is the DUTY of decent people to disobey it.

  • Burning Dmitry (Score:2, Informative)

    by zangdesign ( 462534 )
    This article [wired.com] on WIRED shows what is probably the general level of concern for most Americans. Especially the final quote.
  • law and guilt (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Proud Geek ( 260376 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @03:30PM (#2240476) Homepage Journal
    Sklyarov is clearly guilty of violating the DMCA. The not guilty plea is stupid nonsense.

    I'm not saying he should be charged or jailed or such. God forbid I support the government's actions here. Thing is, the issue isn't his guilt (as he is clearly guilty) but why the DMCA exists in the first place.

    Don't proclaim Sklyarov's innocence, because he isn't. Instead, proclaim the injustice of a law that imposes draconian punishments for things that should not be illegal in the first place.
    • Re:law and guilt (Score:5, Insightful)

      by furiousgeorge ( 30912 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @03:42PM (#2240552)
      Please explain how is is guilty of doing work in another country where this activity isn't illegal? When did the US's jurisdiction become international.

      There's probably fifty things you've done today that are crimes in other countries (read much about Afghanistan lately) - keep things in perspective.

      ALSO - if you plead guilty, then this doesn't go through the courts with the potential result of the DMCA being declared unconstitutional. If everybody pleads guilty there is ZERO chance of the law being struck down.

      Don't be obtuse.
      • He came here and spoke about his program, hence he trafficked his information here, which is illegal under the DMCA.

        Dmitry violated our law on our soil and has been locked up for it. I hate the DMCA as much as any of us, but he is guilty, and proclaiming him as innocent merely makes one look uninformed.

        • by Zwack ( 27039 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @04:01PM (#2240672) Homepage Journal

          He came here and spoke about his program, hence he trafficked his information here, which is illegal under the DMCA.

          I don't believe that talking about weaknesses in software is illegal. It certainly isn't trafficking.

          The trafficking in this case is the sale in the US of software that he first wrote. The fact that he was outside the US is allegedly irrelevant as he/Elcomsoft used a US based server/service to sell the software.

          Claiming he is guilty is surely against US judicial protocol as he is "Presumed Innocent until Proven Guilty".

          Proclaiming him one way or the other merely makes one look uninformed.


          • I wonder if trade laws come into play at all. I know a little about trade restrictions, but I don't even know if laws exist that would require US borders to allow trade; as in software from Russia that is about as illegal as a paper clip (having legal and illegal uses).

            It might be interesting to note that I can buy a wife [russianwives.com] from Russia, but not a piece of software.
        • by singularity ( 2031 ) <nowalmart@@@gmail...com> on Friday August 31, 2001 @04:04PM (#2240696) Homepage Journal
          Funy you should mention *he* looks uninformed.

          Pleading not guilty means that he gets his day in court when he (and his representation) can argue that the DMCA is unconstitutional.

          *That* is the way that laws can be struck down.
        • ...proclaiming him as innocent merely makes one look uninformed.
          No, it makes one look like they understand that under our legal system, he is innocent until proven guilty. Saying that he's unquestionably guilty, especially when one has only read mainstream news reports, makes one look like an ignorant moron.


        • I misspoke, shouldn't have used the word guilty. The intent of my message was to demonstrate what laws he was correctly charged with violating here in the US, and not just in Russia, as the parent message implied.

          No he is not guilty(yet). Yes I look uninformed.

      • He and his company offered the product for sale in America from a server in Chicago. There's clearly no dispute over jurisdiction. The fact that he's not a citizen and that the work was done elsewhere is irrelevant.
      • The software was sold in the United States, by a distributer in the United States. That means his employer, and possibly he himself, appear to have broken the law in the United States. It isn't even a case of the web site being in Russia and someone downloading the software form there. Read the articles.

    • Don't proclaim Sklyarov's innocence, because he isn't. Instead, proclaim the injustice of a law that imposes draconian punishments for things that should not be illegal in the first place.

      If all that was needed to institute change was people "proclaiming" against immoral unethical laws then you folks in the US of A would still be a colony of the Brits. The fact that actions speak louder than words and that action is often the only way to effect change *was* the whole point of the Boston Tea party I believe..

      As I see it, the only unfortunate aspect is that it's a non-US citizen involved; an American in his place would have been a much better symbol of how slippery the slope has become.
      • sorry, but nope (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Seumas ( 6865 )
        Sorry, but if it was a non-american involved, he would still be ignored by the public and the media. Any little attention he would manage to receive would be with the accusation that he is a rampant cracker and criminal spawned by bullying through his highschool years and society's general lack of morality, yadda yadda yadda.

        American's don't care about things unless it affects their religion, the children or their cable television prices.
    • Im not sure how familiar with the US court system you are, but juries (and possibly judges?) can find someone not guilty they object to the law itself. This is called "Jury Nulification".

      IMHO if they pleaded guilty, there would be no trial and the judge would skip directly to sentencing -- thats not a good thing.

    • So he should plead guilty and throw himself on the mercy of the Court? I don't think so. If you plead guilty, you get sentenced. This is an adversarial process - plead your case, man!
    • Sklyarov is clearly guilty of violating the DMCA. The not guilty plea is stupid nonsense

      You're confusing the casual usage of the word "guilty" with the legal use of the word.

      Yes, he violated the DMCA in a literal sense, but that doesn't make him "guilty" in any way (at least until he is convicted by the proper legal process).

      You can kill someone and not be "guilty" of it because it was self-defense. You can kill someone and not be "guilty" of it because you were mentally incapable of understanding the difference between right and wrong.

      The issue here very much is one of guilt -- that's the only reason we take people to criminal court in this country.

      Dmitri is presumably going to claim that he is not guilty of anything because by the Constitution the DMCA itself is not an enforceable law -- thus there is nothing to be guilty of.

      If the DMCA is unconstitutional, legally it is as if it had never existed in the first place (except of course as a legal precedent)-- there will be no such thing as being guilty of violating it.
    • It's not quite that simple. He is guilty in some sense - he sold a program (for $99) to Americans that allowed Americans to break the law. If he'd only sold it to Russians, it's unlikely that he'd have been arrested.

      The problem here is coming up with the proper analogy - I don't think there is one. Here's some bad ones:

      Imagine there's a country where pornography depicting 16 year olds is legal. In the US, the legal age is 18. Would it be legal for him to sell it here? (Obviously not.)

      Imagine he's from a country where Marijuana is legal. Is he guilty of a crime if he sells it to an American in the US. (Obviously.)

      You sell a gun to a convicted felon. He's not allowed to own it and you know it. He then kills someone with that gun. Are you guilty of anything? (I believe so.)

      Imagine all our guns had gunlocks. Imagine Dmitry sold a device (legal in Russia) that circumvented the gunlocks. Someone uses his device and subsequently commits a crime with that gun. Is Dmitry liable? (Probably.)

      And that last analogy might be closest - he (his company) knowingly sold something to someone who is not allowed to own it. Like selling alcohol to a minor. You get in trouble for that.

      If he'd just given his crack away, I'm not sure he'd have been prosecutable. But he sold it. Profiting from a crime. However we might feel about the constitutional validity of the DMCA, right now it's a law. Breaking it is a crime.

      I can't wait for the justice department to start arresting all the Dutch tourists on drug charges.

      Oh, and as a naturalized American citizen (ex-German), I'm deeply ashamed. This is not why I came to this country for. I would like to tell all non-American /.ers that we're working to rectify this, but it will take some time. Meanwhile, it would be most helpful if you could convince everyone in your country to go somewhere else for holiday. Some less repressive country. A big drop in the tourist industry would be felt and would help us achieve our goal of returning to a democracy. Thanks for your support. We now return you to your regularly scheduled trolling.
      • Re:law and guilt (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Frums ( 112820 )
        The problem with these analogies is that they are all wrong

        Sklyarov wrote the software and the company sold it. So, imagine you are a photographer in a country that allows the sale of porn with 16 year olds. You take pictures and get paid for it. The company sells their magazines in America. You visit america for a conference on risque photography and get arrested.


      • Re:law and guilt (Score:5, Interesting)

        by technos ( 73414 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @04:47PM (#2240892) Homepage Journal
        If he'd just given his crack away, I'm not sure he'd have been prosecutable. But he sold it. Profiting from a crime. However we might feel about the constitutional validity of the DMCA, right now it's a law. Breaking it is a crime.

        Doesn't matter. This is a criminal action against an employee of ElcomSoft. ElcomSoft paid him to do programming for the eBook processor. He did not place the program on a US server, he did not engage a US company to handle credit card orders, he did not sell the product. He just wrote code.

        Think about it this way; I, in the normal course of my employment, am instructed to make a program to aid the mastering of an inhouse DVD/VCD video product. As part of the program, I write a decryption algo to reduce our pre-mastered DVD discs to plain files so they can me shuffled, re-encoded, etc. The company finds this acceptable, and in fact good enough it thinks it can get some of its partners to use the software for a fee.

        What I did, as a programmer, was legal. Even if I had knowledge that the company may decide to sell it as a commercial product, the burden is on them to acquire the relevant permission. Licensing for sale the CSS IP, the MPEG encoder, etc. Their problem. Not mine. If they are called up on the carpet for IP violations, contributory infringement, DMCA violation, etc, only the company and its officers are legally responsible. Not me.

        Same with ElcomSoft. They are liable if their sale of the product violated law, not DS..
      • Blockquoth the poster:

        However we might feel about the constitutional validity of the DMCA, right now it's a law. Breaking it is a crime.

        This is simply not true. If a law is unconstitutional, then it's not a law. It cannot be enforced. Of course, the DMCA has not (yet) been found unconstitutional, so people can be prosecuted under it. But if Sklyvarov and his attorneys hold that the DMCA is unconstitutional, then his plea of "not guilty" is perfectly valid because -- from his viewpoint -- he did not break any law.
      • Your analogies are absolutely flawed because AEBPR's intent is not to allow people to break the law. That isn't why it was written and that wasn't why it was published.

        It's a competitor to Adobe. It reads ebooks and exports PDF's. Free market, right? Nope, Adobe doesn't like competition.

        His software has legal purposes too. Yes, it has illegal purposes but it's more analogous to someone manufacturing a gun in Russia and selling it in America. Oh wait! You can kill someone with this gun! We better arrest this guy because Smith&Wesson informed us that it exists and he's coming into town to give a speech on How to build hunting rifles for maximum damage.

        I think it's very important for individuals to understand exactly why the DMCA is flawed and who it is there to benefit. It's not there to prohibit illegal software, it's there to prohibit competition that is unlicensed. But who's going to license their technology out to a competitor? Not Adobe, apparently.

    • Point 1: Sklyarov wrote a program to defeat Adobe encryption while he was in Russia. This is undisputed. This is also perfectly legal both in Russia (where, apparently, Adobe violated the law by not providing this functionality) and in the States (as he is neither a US national nor on US soil when writing the program). In fact, writing the program is arguably legal according to the DMCA, but the distribution is not.

      Point 2: His employer sold this software (for commercial gain) through a third party that apparently hosted the files on servers in Chicago. This is the *entire* basis of the Government's case. The culpability of Dmitry for the actions of his employer and a third party is certainly a matter of some debate, though I tend to think he should be held harmless. From my understanding, his employer and the third party removed the offending files and remedied the situation.

      Point 3: The fact that he gave a speech about his work at a conference has nothing to do with the case, witness the actual indictment against him (I'm sure www.cryptome.org has a copy). The only bearing that it has on the case, is that he was in the country, which allowed the US's Federal BI to arrest him within its jurisdiction.

      As for calls by Slashdotters for "Jury Nullification" - we (I presume to speak for many Slashdotters) would prefer to see the DMCA struck down completely or substantially rather than see it on the books. Dmitry, apparently, will pay the price for a chance for us to strike down the law. Please contribute to his defense fund and please support the EFF (www.eff.org).

      Of course, there are other causes out there, too. War, genocide and disease in Africa are problems that readily come to mind.


    • Actually, it's not entirely clear that the DMCA applies. The DMCA only applies if the copy-protection is "effective", whatever that means. Possibly encrypting the document with a key which is stored in a constant string in a large binary reader is "effective", but using pkzip and then xoring each byte with 102 (IIRC) is very possibly not.

      It's also not clear that Acrobat doesn't circumvent the copy-protection; after all, even after using Dimitry's program, you need a PDF reader. A PDF reader is much much more complicated and difficult to write than xor. It's even more complicated than trying all of the possible bytes to xor with. Since Adobe hasn't even been raided yet, one might guess that what Dimitry did is fine, too.

      The law may be unjust, but it's not so bas as to actually apply to what seems to have happened. After all, I can't sue all US computer companies for breaking my copy-protection method of XORing every byte with 0.
    • The not guilty plea is stupid nonsense.

      No. The "not guilty" plea is how he gets a trial in the matter. He's perfectly within his rights to do that.

      A guilty plea would have been stupid.
    • Therefore you are guilty of a myriad of things. If I was to canvas all laws from the entire world I should be albe to come up with a reason to imprision/punish/physically harm/or even be-head anyone I walk up to today.

      your point of view is very flawed, as badly as every United states law passed in the past 10 years.
    • If he does not plead "not guilty," he cannot excercise his right to a trial and, probably more importantly in this case, appeals. If the DMCA is found to be unconstitutional on free speech grounds, then he is indeed not guilty because the law was invalid in the first place. And even if it is an enforcable law, it is still not clear that he is guilty because of jurisdictional issues (and the additional problem of holding an individual liable if the corporation owns the copyright on his software).
    • Hmmm... No.

      He is indeed innocent of what he is charge for. The actual writing of the code was done in Russia, where the US has no jurisdiction. The US recognizes that (presumably) and they're not charging him for anything of that sort. What they're charging him for is trafficing the code since apparently they used a web host and payment processing service that's based in the US. OK, well, isn't it Elmosoft and Elmosoft only that's responsible? Since when are employees responsible for the misdeeds of their employers? This is like getting sued because your employers poluted some river somewhere (sorry for the analogy, but I work for a Steel company...)

      That being said, I don't even believe in the charges at all (and needless to say I don't believe in the DMCA). It looks to me that the US would have charged him even if it wasn't hosted in the US. They'd probably figured out a way to prove that the internet traffic between the host and the person downloading passed through a cable that goes through some Guam airforce base that's American sovereignty. These charges are just a loophole they found to try to enforce a law makes no sense.
  • by kjj ( 32549 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @03:31PM (#2240485)
    The Russian Foreign Ministry is warning programmers not to go to the US or they could be arrested. Check out the story here [zdnet.com].
    • There is also a story at the NYTimes Russians Deem Arrest Insult to Their Industry [nytimes.com] that has some interviews with other Russian programmers and their take on the whole mess.
    • by JeremyYoung ( 226040 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @04:27PM (#2240803) Homepage
      My country has humiliated me. My country, the United States, has deeply embarassed me. How is it that the country that stood for freedom of speech has now gone so low as to begin warping laws that it's citizens granted artists to restrict civil rights? Worse yet, we're not restricting the civil rights of our own citizens, WE'RE RESTRICTING THE CIVIL RIGHTS OF CITIZENS FROM COUNTRIES WHOM WE ENCOURAGED TO EMBRACE FREE SPEECH. In fact, we're doing such a good job of it, that now Russia is warning it's citizens not to travel to our country, just like our country constantly warns us not to travel to China.

      This is exceedingly humiliating and depressing. It was less than 15 years ago that we encouraged Gobachev to tear down the wall, to enact change in a totalitarian regime that completely restricted freedom of speech.Now that same country is warning it's citizens against our lack of freedoms.

      Words fail.
      • For what it counts, this sentiment is sadly shared by myself. I do not understand how so easily consumers have lost their voice to corporations, and the masses. It's sadly growing into a nebulous entity no longer controlled by the government, a government established by the people for the people.

        I have paid my taxes, and my dues. I'm strongly considering re-rooting myself into a true free economy and country. I know nothing is perfect, but there are many countries that are much better than what we're finding here. I try to relate this to the automobile industry, and the rail road industry. It takes a while for thought transition to change. For individuals to accept the new innovation into daily life and then a balance will occur. Unfortunately, through all those "revolutions" we have kept our speech. Here, we have lost our voice. Our freedom of speech has been abolished and placed into the hands of other individuals, not appointed by state, to determine what is ok to say.

        I feel useless to change this, but I will never stop protesting. I'll never stop sending emails to everyone I know. I believe in freedom, sadly enough I don't believe in America anymore.

  • Bullies (Score:2, Funny)

    by Maskirovka ( 255712 )
    "The only way to beat bullies is to stand up to them."

    I like this Tom Clany quote better:

    There are two ways you can deal with bullies
    You can shock them; or
    you can kill them.

    Needless to say there are at least 50000 bullies (ie, industry lobiests) in washington alone, so killing is out. Any great ideas on how to collectively shock them? The sheer logistics are mind bogling, but it would be fun to try 8)


    I don't care that my spelling stinks.

    • Re:Bullies (Score:2, Funny)

      by tbone1 ( 309237 )
      Needless to say there are at least 50000 bullies (ie, industry lobiests) in washington alone, so killing is out.

      Well, if we keep them in DC, they'll probably get shot anyway.

    • Okay, so you get a REALLY REALLY big capacitor bank and then... um never mind.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 31, 2001 @03:39PM (#2240535)
    It may (and should) outrage all Europeans, but within a year, Dmitry's actions are going to be made illegal in Europe too. Yes, that's right - they've put together a DMCA in Europe called the European Union Copyright Directive. It bans circumventing encryption in the same way. In a year's time, all governments in Europe are obliged to enact it as law.

    We can still stop this! Check out here [eurorights.org] and if you're in Britain, write a letter to your MP [faxyourmp.com]. You can and should make a difference.

  • by brulman ( 183184 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @03:45PM (#2240566)
    for showing up in court yesterday to stand by his employee. He certainly didn't have to come all the way from Russia, and risked getting arrested himself to do so. It impressed me a great deal, and hopefully it will have a similar effect on the court.

  • by M_Talon ( 135587 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @03:47PM (#2240583) Homepage
    To those who were criticizing the not-guilty plea and saying he is guilty, this needs to be said. Had he went ahead and pleaded guilty, there would be no legal examination of the DMCA. He would have been fined and sentenced to prison, end of story. The United States NEEDS this examination of the DMCA, if for no other reason than to bring the flaws in the law to light in an official manner. It will be up to the courts to make the decision, and in the mean time, the issues surrounding the DMCA will hopefully become more public knowledge.

    I'm really saddened that Russia had to issue its advisory, but again maybe that will be a wake up call to everyone that there is something very very wrong with the way the DMCA is being enforced. One would hope that we can settle the issue internally before it becomes more of an international issue than it already is. The US preaches so much about "human rights" and begs for other countries to "do the right thing" even though their laws are written differently. It's time we practice what we preach.
  • Ok, the above comment is an obvious troll, but I'm curious about how American law actually works. Do they really think they can enforce their own laws globally? This strikes me as really bizarre. I know the French did something similar with Yahoo, but presumably Yahoo at least has an office or something in France (I don't really know, I'm just guessing).

    Any lawyers who know better?

  • by guygee ( 453727 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @03:57PM (#2240644)
    The sixth principle of the IEEE/ACM Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice [computer.org] states:

    6 PROFESSION - Software engineers shall advance the integrity and reputation of the profession consistent with the public interest.

    One implication of this principle is that we all need to stay informed on events related to the intergrity and reputation of our profession in order to defend ourselves against unjustified external attacks. Clearly, the Sklyarov case represents an attack of unprecedented ferocity on the profession of software engineering. Iam currently teaching 2 sections of a graduate-level software engineering course, and in an informal poll last week Iwas shocked to learn that less than five out of sixty students had heard of the DMCA or Dmitri Sklyarov. I emphasized that it is our professional duty to keep informed and to speak out against the persecution of software engineers. Besides linking to information on this and related cases on my course webpages, Iam considering some type of assignment that will encourage students to respond in some way to the threat represented by the DMCA. Letter writing campaign? Protest actions? I am writing slashdot to solicit recommendations.

  • This is not a troll. I'm quite serious.

    How does one pronounce Dmitri Sklyarov's last name?

    There used to be the controversy of Linus' first name (and of Linux), and Linus thankfully provided us all with a .au or .wav file of it.

  • by Bluesee ( 173416 ) <michaelpatrickkenny@@@yahoo...com> on Friday August 31, 2001 @04:07PM (#2240713)
    That story about Derek was funny, and it reminded me of the book I am currently reading, The Gulag Archipelago, by Solzhynetsin (sp!). That non-fictional story is an account of how power can corrupt, basically. The problem in Stalinist Russia was that the Reds were, if I have this right, basically trying to create a new society the ideology of which was vulnerable to the thoughts of objective people who could see the shortcomings of it. In their effort to control thought, the officials found it necessary to root out all possible instances of anti-communist behavior; unfortunately this included such things as not reaching the party farm production objectives (ten years in prison for not growing enough grain!) and not surrendering to German armies in WWII (when the POWs were returned to the SU in '45 - by Churchill, incidentally, against the soldiers' wills - rather than being welcomed back as heroes, they were arrested, tortured, and given 10-yr sentences, since they must have been spies to have survived the German camps!). Basically, Stalin, in his paranoia, and by extension the entire nation, found it necessary to control behavior by draconian means.

    My point (and I do have one) is that the enforcement of infinitesimally minute behaviors requires the rooting out and punishing of the majority of the citizens of a nation: the mother country goes to war on its citizens. The way to do this is to put each and every citizen at risk of loss of liberty; i.e., each citizen is breaking some law or another. In this manner, the State gains control over the behavior of its population, and in a greater degree than just copying ebooks. Once you have copied an ebook, or, taken to the logical extreme, say, exceeded 55 mph (or snuck a beer into a college football game), you are a criminal.

    But, while speeding doesn't leave a record of itself, ebook copying does and so leaves a legacy, a record of the crime. It can be likened to arresting you for a failed drug test; you are not doing a crime now, but there is proof that you once did.

    For these reasons, the framers of the Constitution would wisely refrain from endorsing the bastardization of their concept of protection of Science and Arts through copyright. The prosecution of the law requires that we become Stalinist in the degree to which we must root out the crime. Napster points this out effectively, in my opinion: the only way to catch all those crimes is to monitor each and every terminal 24/7. And that gives away too much power to the government for freedom to be guaranteed, even in a Democracy.

    If you didn't follow that, feel free to email me with any questions you might have...

    • by sdo1 ( 213835 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @04:25PM (#2240796) Journal
      But, while speeding doesn't leave a record of itself, ebook copying does and so leaves a legacy, a record of the crime

      The way things are headed, I can GUARANTEE you that things like speeding WILL INDEED be monitored. It starts slowly, but we're already on that slope. Put a toll transponder in your car. We've already seen these transponders used to track people [yahoo.com]. Next up, you'll get a ticket if you jump on a toll road and get from Exit A to Exit B in an average time that would exceed the speed limit.

      But why stop there? These things are cheap enough. Make them mandatory in all cars. Monitor your car speed through GPS. Violate the speed limit, get a ticket in the mail. Plus tracking devices can help the cops find any car at any time because they're ALL being tracked. That's a GOOD thing, right? Fight crime, right?

      This country is going to hell quickly. I fear for the life that my son is going to have.


      • by locust ( 6639 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @05:10PM (#2240997)
        It won't be the police that demand it. It will be the insurance companies. They have a profit incentive to know if: you are driving regularly through a bad nieghborhood, driving too fast, driving farther than you tell them you drive to work. All of these things impinge upon the chances they will have to have to pay you if your car is stolen, crashed, etc. Further as large scale computing power becomes cheaper it will be come more practical to generate much more detailed actuarial tables that reflect these changes. These will translate into higher profits in the reinsurance market (insurers get insured against having to pay claims).

        Finally, when it comes down to having an extra 20 bucks a month to feed your kids, or having that extra bit of privacy, I'm pretty sure where most people will come down.


        • by Wah ( 30840 )
          It will be the insurance companies.

          It is also the defense companies. I can't look up the story I read about it (dang dial-up), but basically it was about the installation of speed monitoring cameras set-up in Wash, D.C. They had generated nearly $37 million for the city by snaggin every speeder. The fun part is that Lockheed Martin (IIRC) set them up for free...with a 35% take of the total revenue generated. So once, we start moving to a corporate police state, no one can break a law (get tough on "crime"), and ho boy will profits go through the roof.

          Bush might see this as "saving the economy", but a 5 year old would probably see it as cutting open the goose to get the golden egg. Our system worked because of Freedom, capitalism was a stepping stone (and a dang useful one at that, but it has its downsides, see: our media, MS, RIAA, drug corps ad'ing on TV selling drugs no one needs until they think they do, the death of education, and yes, there's an etc. here too).

          • Two of the nightmare examples stated in this thread have already come true. The state of Indiana will ticket drivers on their toll highways if the timestamps on their toll cards indicate they were driving faster than the speed limit, and Progressive Insurance has been testing a system where the insuree has a GPS device installed in their car, ostensibly for an insurance discount. If the car is driven at night, or through a bad neigborhood, premiums go up. Acme Auto Rental has been slapping people who speed in their rental cars with surcharges automatically added to their credit card bill.

            Smile for the unblinking camera and welcome to Hell.

    • by Noer ( 85363 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @04:37PM (#2240842)
      You make some good points. Another way to look at this (esp. the whole Napster thing, or your speeding example) is that when a LARGE percentage of a population (need not be an actual majority) are breaking the same law, the law needs to be examined closely.

      Perhaps there's something quite wrong with society; if 30% of the population were murderers, this would definitely be the case. But perhaps it's an indication that the law should be changed. Should SO many people get speeding tickets all the time, especially when they're only a fraction ("selective enforcement" police units really scare me) of the total number of people speeding? Should everyone who used Napster be punished? Any society that has as large a percentage of its population in prison as ours does definitely has a problem (note: most of these people are in for drug-related offenses, which I think probably shouldn't be illegal).

      A friend of mine often rants against unenforced laws; he thinks the speeding laws should be STRICTLY enforced, so that people would get pissed and demand that the law be changed. Perhaps this is true; it's a variation on the idea that a society that criminalizes (whether or not it punishes) a large % of the population has a major problem.
    • Has anybody noticed that the U.S. has the DMCA and nobody else has anything similar? (rhetorical) :)

      How about that most of the entertainment industry is based in the U.S. and/or targeted towards U.S. audiences? (Not trying to be U.S.-centric here ... there IS plenty of foreign entertainment, I just think that it is bigger here).

      Then, is it so hard to believe that the U.S. would have the most oppressive laws regarding copyright protection? Much like France and Germany have the most oppressive laws regarding Nazi's? I'm sure middle-eastern countries bend over backwards to suit oil production. (etc.)

      We still need to get rid of the DMCA :). I just dispute the idea that the U.S. is a bastion of totalitarianism because we have bad laws for understandable reasons :)

    • by ErikTheRed ( 162431 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @04:52PM (#2240915) Homepage
      Speed monitoring [zdnet.com] has already been tried by car rental agencies, albeit without legal success.

      One of my biggest beefs with law in general is that there is far, far too much of it. Many laws are routinely disregarded by the population - underage drinking, speed limits on freeways, and especially taxes - because they are far too restrictive, to the point where they defy common sense. Because we (Americans, and I'm sure plenty of others) live in a land rife with dictu absurda, we have developed a sense that we only have to follow laws that makes sense to us.

      We also have a population largely willing to throw away its rights in order to combat the trendy social concern of the day. Of course, this is largely abetted by those with a political agenda that doesn't trust the common citizen to go about their day-to-day business without infinite hand-holding from big brother.

      In order to develop respect for the law, we need to have a set of laws worth respecting.
  • by sealawyer ( 473327 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @04:07PM (#2240720)
    I've seen a number of posts suggesting that there is no doubt about Dmitri's guilt. Here is a list of conceivable ways that Dmitri could be found not guilty.

    1) The DMCA is unconstitutional. No valid law to break means not guilty.

    2) No jurisdiction over whatever activities Dmitri did commit. I don't think Dmitri can be prosecuted for writing or using the program in Russia. He must be implicated in the sales activity.

    3) Although Dmitri is the copyright holder, the government does not establish that he colluded with Elcomsoft to sell the product in the US. Most countries don't have the same kind of "work for hire" copyright laws as the US, so it is perfectly plausible for a Russian employee to be a credited with the copyright and yet not be the motivating factor in his employer's sales strategy.

    I haven't read the latest charges so I don't know what evidence the government has other than what was alleged in the original affidavit.

    For those people who want to see the whole thing played out to the end, there is this encouraging news from Dmitri's lawyer:

    Mr. Burton said Mr. Sklyarov would not plea-bargain. "That is out of the question," he said.
  • by Pinball Wizard ( 161942 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @04:11PM (#2240738) Homepage Journal
    with the Skylarov case. First, there is a big difference between Ed Felton, who broke the SDMI encryption and Skylarov. Felton did his work as a purely academic excercise, whereas Skylarov made a product and distributed it for sale.

    Seems to me if Skylarov was only interested in promoting better security he wouldn't have tried to sell his product. This looks to me like someone trying to make a buck off an insecure product.

    Look at it another way. I come up with a key that can open and start any Ford vehicle. I have a couple of options. I could contact Ford and show them the tech that allows anyone to break into their vehicles. Or, if I don't want to deal with Ford directly I could publish the findings in an academic journal without trying to sell the key.

    Instead of doing that, however, I decide to market and sell keys that can break into every Ford. Now, don't you see what's wrong with that? I could have taken the high road, but instead I tried to make a buck. This is pretty much what Dmitry did.

    I can assure you, that if anyone tries to market a key that will unlock any Ford, that person will get thrown in jail if caught. Why should software be different?

    • Seems to me if Skylarov was only interested in promoting better security he wouldn't have tried to sell his product.

      So what? Nowhere in the Constitution or Bill of Rights does it say that your rights can only be exercised for nonprofit purposes.

      I can assure you, that if anyone tries to market a key that will unlock any Ford, that person will get thrown in jail if caught.

      As usual, most real-world analogies don't work well here. Dmitry's program doesn't allow users to "unlock" any ebook, only ones that they actually own. The MPAA's description of DeCSS as a "digital crowbar" is actually more accurate. Crowbars have both legal and illegal uses, and it is not illegal to sell, possess, or describe how to make one.

  • It seems clear that any action carried out in ANY other country may be grounds for prosecution in ANY OTHER country. (Australia now permits overseas defamation lawsuits, for example.)

    It follows that:

    • Anyone in the US can be tried and convicted of posession of a firearm, should they go to the United Kingdom, whether or not they bring any firearms with them.
    • Anyone in the US who publishes more than 1/3 of their news material in English can be convicted in France for inadequate use of French.
    • Anyone practicing medicine in the US is in -serious- trouble, unless licenced in all 50 States. Practicing -anywhere- in the US could be grounds for deportation and conviction in a State for which the doctor has no licence.

    These sound crazy, don't they? But, really, what's the difference between a South Carolina doctor being convicted of practicing in South Carolina, without a California licence, and some Russian geek being convicted of DMCA "violations" arising from work in Russia?

    Well, other than Russia is a lot further away, isn't even part of the US, and other such details. The doctor example I gave would actually be far more reasonable. At least the alleged events would have happened on the same Continent!

  • by VValdo ( 10446 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @04:29PM (#2240811)
    It is starting to get some national coverage...aside from the NYTimes story there are also these two:

    Time Magazine [time.com]
    Newsweek [msnbc.com]


  • by cvd6262 ( 180823 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @04:43PM (#2240875)

    From CNN [cnn.com]:

    The U.S. Attorney's office brought charges against ElcomSoft after purchasing a copy of the software over the Internet from ElcomSoft's Web site, which is hosted in the U.S. and uses a U.S.-based payment services provider, the indictment said.

    So, the way that they knew about the crime was to commit the crime of purchasing, and thus owning "illegal" software? I guess they probably think that this is like the cop who poses as a buyer for crack on the street?

  • Hell of a deal (Score:3, Insightful)

    by buss_error ( 142273 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @05:01PM (#2240957) Homepage Journal
    ...When Russia has to tell it's citizens not to vist the United States because they might be thrown in jail for something they did in their own country. It's just too ironic.
  • First of all, the "Justice" Department doesn't carry out justice. Our "Justice" system is based on the concept of Jurisprudence, which basically means that America has taken the stance that it is better to let someone go who actually did commit a crime rather than imprison (or kill!) someone who might not have. This is why we use the terms "Guilty" and "Not-Guilty" instead of "Guilty" and "Innocent."

    "Not-Guilty" does not imply that the person did not actually commit a crime, just that the person does not fit the legal definition of "Guilty." That's exactly why O.J. Simpson is walking the street a free man today. They could not say that Orinthal J. Simpson murdered Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldmann beyond any reasonable doubt.

    That said, even Sklyarov's arrest and imprisonment is definately against the grain. He is being treated at Guilty without a trial. He entered a plea of "Not-Guilty," because while he may have committed a crime, he and his legal team belive that he is not accountable to the law (under the law) for his actions. Specifically, they belive the DMCA is flawed and inherently unsupportable.

    My personal view of this should be quite obvious. For clarification purposes, I think the law is asinine. I don't think anyone has pointed out to the Justice Department that everyone who has a Web Browser (nay, a text editor, for that matter) is violating the DMCA. Section 117 of the law gives no exception for that kind of technology. The law specifically states that any computer program capable of displaying copyrighted material against the rules of the copyright is illegal. It makes no provision for the level of protection afforded. It could be argued that HTML is a form of copyright protection (i.e. META tags) as it obscures the text of the material. Furthermore, it should be pointed out that all it takes to make a copyright is to say "copyright 2001" and it's legally binding.

    From the perspective desk, think of this: I can legally obtain, sell, and distribute the components to make nitrogen tri-iodide (a highly unstable explosive, don't try this at home kids). All I need is to go to my local Osco Drug, buy some Iodine crystals, househole ammonia and coffee filters, and bingo, I've got a HIGHLY explosive chemical that requires no fuse mechanism other than a rock, BB or anything else that'll impart a kinetic shock to the material (including fingers). I cannot go to jail for that. However, I can be fined up to $500,000 and get 25 years in jail for writing:

    "UNLOCK COPYRIGHTED MATERIALS FROM SUBMITTED DOCUMENT" as soon as I write the compiler for this new language. Note, it's not illegal to write the compiler, just the words above.

    Of course, under the DMCA, slashdot will be guilty of violating the DMCA for distributing that code, and everyone reading this message will be guilty too. Just as soon as I write that compiler.....

  • by eddy ( 18759 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @05:37PM (#2241097) Homepage Journal

    Many of the issues here are discussed in a recent report:

    M. Skala. "New Media Copyright Extensions Would Harm Canada [sooke.bc.ca]", Aug 2001

    It is a long read for the weak, but it clear and to the point as to why "laws" such as the DMCA is a bad idea, giving a short history of copyright and a summary of recent events in the world of IP/DRM. I believe it can help people focus their arguments.

  • I love the United States, I really do. I think a lot of the reason why it's such a great place to live has to do with the government. But more and more I'm starting to think that it's getting seriously out of sync with modern life that I wonder if we're not headed for catastrophe.

    I'm part of a citizen's reform group that is working for change on an unrelated issue (website) [neoteric.nu]. But the things I see in the Skylov case are strangely similar to my group's fight: politicians that don't understand the trappings of modern life (in Skylov's case, technology), blindly make laws without consulting with what the people want, and then they afraid that they will look stupid if they back down on something they were obvious wrong about.

    What they don't seem to realize is that they look even dumber for not acknowledging that a mistake was made, that they misunderstood the situation, and that there are situations that they failed to forsee which were not fairly covered under the legislation they created.

    To a certain degree I hold the American people at fault for not being more proactively involved with their government, keeping a close eye on the things their representatives are doing. Hell, pretty much the whole purpose of the Neoteric website is to try to get people to contact their representatives. But I still think there's a failing to the entire system, something that is getting worse, and not better.

    I think we need to find a new way of doing things, and fast. Technology, and society as a whole, are changing too fast for our current government (good as it has been for the last 200 years) to keep up. And a government out of sync with its people is a dangerous thing indeed.
  • by goingware ( 85213 ) on Friday August 31, 2001 @07:33PM (#2241502) Homepage
    One has a moral obligation to disobey unjust laws. [goingware.com].
    -- Martin Luther King

    In more detail - the Supreme Court does not render advisory opinions. That is, you cannot simply ask the court to judge whether a law is constitutional or not. To have a law declared unconstitutional, one must actually violate the law and pursue one's defense to the highest court in the land.

    The benefit of having unjust laws struck down by the Supreme Court comes at the cost of risking one's freedom if one's attempt proves unsuccessful - or even one's life, in the event the law in question provides for capital punishment.

  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr@@@mac...com> on Friday August 31, 2001 @07:48PM (#2241548) Journal
    The *smart* thing to do, is pardon Sklyarov.

    That way, your corporate masters get to keep this blatantly unconstitutional bludgeon around to threaten anyone else who seeks to expose their incompetence. The longer you keep the DMCA out of court, the more damage it can do to the constitution your sock-puppet took an oath to uphold.


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