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U.S. To Drop Charges Against Sklyarov 329

Schmerd writes: "The New York Times has a story saying that charges will be dropped against Dmitry Sklyarov in exchange for his testimony against his employer ElcomSoft." Si adds: "It looks like Dmitri might be home for Christmas. This is not the end of the trial, but it appears Dmitri has been freed, pending certain stipulations." jij adds this breaking news article on the Associated Press wire as well. (The AP story is also at Wired). Update: 12/13 22:23 GMT by T : sam@caveman.org links to a slightly more in-depth AP report at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
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U.S. To Drop Charges Against Sklyarov

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  • A good deal... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Xerithane ( 13482 ) <xerithane@n e r d f a r m . o rg> on Thursday December 13, 2001 @06:22PM (#2701395) Homepage Journal
    The DMCA still will be tried, and may or may not withstand judgement. However, no single person is getting the shaft from the long arm of the law which will help make this much easier on everyone involved on the defensive end.

    Let him testify, my guess is his testimonial will serve ElcomSoft better in defense.

    ... So, if he weighs the same as a duck ...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 13, 2001 @06:29PM (#2701441)
    Well, now he can go back to Russia and pick up on his day job again, which is developing that program his company sells for harvesting email addresses from online forums for spammers to use.

    Yep. That's where he gets his money. By selling his skillz to the spammers. They'd never be as effective at harvesting email addresses as they are without the closed source product his company will sell them.

    Now that he's out of jail can we get back to hating him for being the spam-enabling fuck that he is? Can we? Please?
  • by eddy the lip ( 20794 ) on Thursday December 13, 2001 @06:39PM (#2701494)

    for some reason, the wired print version [wired.com] has more info, including this bit:

    ElComSoft's chief executive, Alex Katalov, said he was pleased that the company, not Sklyarov, would bear sole responsibility for the charges.
    i have to say, i'm very impressed with ElComSoft's generally enlightened attitude.

    wouldn't it be ironic if a russian company played a role in freeing america from an unjust law?

  • by Gonarat ( 177568 ) on Thursday December 13, 2001 @06:39PM (#2701496)

    Dimitry really did not have much choice. He was released from jail on bail provided he stayed in California. His wife and kids came to the U.S. because Dimitry was not allowed to return to Russia.

  • by zoomshorts ( 137587 ) on Thursday December 13, 2001 @06:50PM (#2701554)
    This farce, was ill conceived. The program was written in Russia. It was not against the law there, but US douchebags thought they would make a "statement". How pathetic are US anyway? Back-ups of software for archival purposes have been legal for years. Was everyone asleep at the wheel on this one? Shit, I am embarrassed at being an American. "Slick Happens"
  • Link (Score:2, Informative)

    by RageMachine ( 533546 ) on Thursday December 13, 2001 @06:56PM (#2701581) Homepage
    If anyone is interested in exactly what this program is and what it does. Here is the trial version produced by ElcomSoft. They had to strip it from their site. But here is the URL for the download. I would suggest version 2.2. Version 2.2 decrypts %25 of the e-book. The full version was originally sold for $99.

    It will be interesting to see if anyone will hack this version and make it able to decrypt %100 of the E-Book.

  • by craw ( 6958 ) on Thursday December 13, 2001 @07:08PM (#2701638) Homepage
    Points of clarification. The Federal Court can declare in this case (or others) that a particular section of the DMCA violated the 1st Amendment. We should be already aware that this could happen. For instance, in the DeCSS case, the Court ruled that the 1st Amendment was not violated. They could have easily ruled the other way.

    At this stage, an appeal to the Federal Court of Appeal can be made. The Court of Appeal does not necessarily have to accept to hear the case. If they don't then the lower court decision sets a precident.

    If the Appeal is heard, then the decision of this Court sets the precident. Then it is on the Supreme Court which may or may not wish to take up a potential appeal.

    Congress in passing laws do have staffers who do review the constitutionality of a particular law. However, you cannot say that a bunch of Congressional staffers will have the insight and knowledge of the Constitution that Federal judges have. Certainly, not at the level of the Court of Appeal or the SC.

    Furthermore, the SC only rules on less than 100 cases per year. In many (all?) instances, their rulings are focused on a few specific aspects of the law and the Constitution. It would be totally unfeasible for the higher courts to evaluate all aspects of the laws that Congress pass.

    Ironically, the Constitution does not state that the SC has the authority of judicial review of Federal laws. This precident was set forth in Marbury versus Madison whereby the SC declared that the Constitution implicitly granted them this power. The SC later set the precident that they also have the power of judicial review when it comes to state laws.

  • by bstadil ( 7110 ) on Thursday December 13, 2001 @07:15PM (#2701670) Homepage
    concealing any illegal activities the employer may have committed.
    The question about legality is the not simple as what they are accused of is n9t illegal in Russland. How would you feel if your caompny was charged with something say illegal in Saudi like selling alcohol and then had to go to jail . testify on the Henious nature of booze?
  • by thumbtack ( 445103 ) <thumbtack@nOSPAm.juno.com> on Thursday December 13, 2001 @07:15PM (#2701672)
    There is a big difference. Deffered is kind of like probation. "Do this for this long and we will remove the charges completely..If you don't the full charges will be reinstated and since we now have your confession your goose is cooked". This is often used to allow the prosecution to "drop" charges while saving face. Sometimes used to gain testimony, sometimes to force the person to adhere to certain conditions and often used to give a win-win spin to the case. "he did technically break the law, but we see no need to prosecute...blah..blah ...blah...

    From The US Attorneys Office
    December 13, 2001

    The United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California announced that Dmitry Sklyarov entered into an agreement this morning with the United States and admitted his conduct in a hearing before U.S. District Judge Whyte in San Jose Federal Court.

    Under the agreement, Mr. Sklyarov agreed to cooperate with the United States in its ongoing prosecution of Mr. Sklyarov's former employer, Elcomsoft Co., Ltd. Mr. Skylarov will be required to appear at trial and testify truthfully, and he will be deposed in the matter. For its part, the United States agreed to defer prosecution of Mr. Sklyarov until the conclusion of the case against Elcomsoft or for one year, whichever is longer. Mr. Sklyarov will be permitted to return to Russia in the meantime, but will be subject to the Court's supervision, including regularly reporting by telephone to the Pretrial Services Department. Mr. Sklyarov will be prohibited from violating any laws during the year, including copyright laws. The United States agreed that, if Mr. Sklyarov successfully completes the obligations in the agreement, it will dismiss the charges pending against him at the end of the year or when the case against Elcomsoft is complete.

    Mr. Sklyarov, 27, of Moscow, Russia, was indicted by a federal Grand Jury on August 28, 2001. He was charged with one count of conspiracy in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, and two counts of trafficking for gain in technology primarily designed to circumvent technology that protects a right of a copyright owner in violation of Title 17, United States Code, Section 1201(b)(1)(A), and two counts of trafficking for gain in technology marketed for use in circumventing technology that protects a right of a copyright owner in violation of Title 17, United States Code, Section 1201(b)(1)(A).

    In entering into the agreement with the government, Mr. Sklyarov was required to acknowledge his conduct in the offense. In the agreement, Mr. Sklyarov made the following admissions, which he also confirmed in federal court today:

    "Beginning on a date prior to June 20, 2001, and continuing through July 15, 2001, I was employed by the Russian software company, Elcomsoft Co. Ltd. (also known as Elcom Ltd.) (hereinafter "Elcomsoft") as a computer programmer and cryptanalyst.

    "Prior to June 20, 2001, I was aware Adobe Systems, Inc. ("Adobe") was a software company in the United States. I was also aware Adobe was the creator of the Adobe Portable Document Format ("PDF"), a computer file format for the publication and distribution of electronic documents. Prior to June 20, 2001, I knew Adobe distributed a program titled the Adobe Acrobat eBook Reader that provided technology for the reading of documents in an electronic format on personal computers. Prior to June 20, 2001, I was aware that documents distributed in the Adobe Acrobat eBook Reader format are PDF files and that specifications of PDF allow for limiting of certain operations, such as opening, editing, printing, or annotating.

    "Prior to June 20, 2001, as a part of my dissertation work and as part of my employment with Elcomsoft, I wrote a part of computer program titled the Advanced eBook Processor ("AEBPR"). I developed AEBPR as a practical application of my research for my dissertation and in order to demonstrate weaknesses in protection methods of PDF files. The only use of the AEBPR is to create an unprotected copy of an electronic document. Once a PDF file is decrypted with the AEBPR, a copy is no longer protected by encryption. This is all the AEBPR program does.

    "Prior to June 20, 2001, I believed that ElcomSoft planned to post the AEBPR program on the Internet on the company's website www.elcomsoft.com. I believed that the company would charge a fee for a license for the full version of the AEBPR that would allow access to all capabilities of the program.

    "After Adobe released a new version of the Adobe Acrobat eBook Reader that prevented the initial version of the AEBPR program from removing the limitations or restrictions on an e-book, I wrote software revisions for a new version of the AEBPR program. The new version again decrypted the e-document to which it was applied. The version of this new AEBPR program offered on the Elcomsoft website only decrypted a portion of an e-document to which it was applied, unless the user had already purchased a fully functional version of the earlier version and had both versions installed on the same machine. The new version was developed after June 29, 2001. At that time, Elcomsoft had already stopped selling the program. The version of this new program offered on the Elcomsoft website did not provide a user with an opportunity to purchase it or convert it to a fully functional one, and was developed as a matter of competition.

    "On July 15, 2001, as part of my employment with Elcomsoft, I attended the DEF CON Nine conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. At the conference I made a presentation originally intended for the BlackHat conference that immediately preceded the DefCon Nine in July 2001 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The same group of people organizes both BlackHat and DefCon Nine. Since there was no available slot for a presentation at BlackHat at the time when the paper was sent for the committee consideration, the organizers of both conferences suggested that the paper be presented at the DefCon rather than at BlackHat. The paper that I read at DefCon is attached as Exhibit A. A principal part of my presentation is comprised of my research for the dissertation. In my presentation when I said "we", I meant Elcomsoft."

    Mr. Sklyarov's employer, Elcomsoft, remains charged in the case, and the Court in that matter has set hearings for various motions on March 4, 2002, and April 1, 2002.

    The prosecution of Elcomsoft is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Scott Frewing and Joseph Sullivan of the Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property ("CHIP") Unit are the Assistant U.S. Attorneys who are prosecuting the case with the assistance of legal technician Lauri Gomez.

    A copy of this press release and key court documents filed in the case may also be found on the U.S. Attorney's Office's website at www.usdoj.gov/usao/can <http://www.usaondca.com>.

    All press inquiries to the U.S. Attorney's Office should be directed to Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Jacobs at (415)436-7181 or Assistant U.S. Attorney Ross Nadel, Chief of the CHIP Unit, in San Jose...
  • by dackroyd ( 468778 ) on Thursday December 13, 2001 @07:27PM (#2701739) Homepage
    From the US attorneys office of North California and their press release [usdoj.gov].

    "For its part, the United States agreed to defer prosecution of Mr. Sklyarov until the conclusion of the case against Elcomsoft or for one year, whichever is longer."

    Er, so that means the case is not dropped just deferred, but they aren't going to prosecute him until the case against Elcomsoft is resolved.

    Mr. Sklyarov will be prohibited from violating any laws during the year, including copyright laws.

    Er, so he doesn't get special permission to break laws ? :-?

    "Elcomsoft, remains charged in the case, and the Court in that matter has set hearings for various motions on March 4, 2002, and April 1, 2002."

    I don't think this case will get resolved for _years_. There's not that much of a dispute about what actually happened, it's just the interpretation of whether it's illegal or not....and it seems that the US government don't want to see this case resolved quickly, and so it isn't going to be sped through the courts or through the appeals.

    Hey, does that mean that my Free Sklyarov T-shirt is now a collectors item ?
  • Re:Dmitry The Rat (Score:2, Informative)

    by wildwood ( 153376 ) on Thursday December 13, 2001 @07:35PM (#2701790)
    What are you, on crack?

    He's available to testify for either side. He hasn't changed his story since the day of the arrest.

    In what universe is he a rat?
  • by hwilker ( 225377 ) on Thursday December 13, 2001 @08:01PM (#2701904) Homepage
    Well, in this neck of the global wood, several constitutional bodies have the right to challenge any and all laws before the local version of the Supreme Court. This would be Germany, and a construct called "Normenklage" allows at least members of parliament (I forgot the other, probably the president and the executive, as well as lower courts) to put a law up in front of the Bundesverfassungsgericht, which is the supreme court tending to constitutional questions, and basically ask "Is this constitutional?" No need for a case or anything.

    Wonder why the U.S. doesn't have something like that...?

  • by Will Dyson ( 40138 ) on Friday December 14, 2001 @02:42AM (#2703172)
    Back in the 30s (IIRC), the feds used this very tactic against doctors who were prescribing "too many" narcotics. They initially charged several perfectly legitimate doctors with violations of the Harrison narcotics act, but the courts kept aquiting them.

    So the feds waited until they caught some slimebag selling narcotics presriptions with no medical justification. They prosecuted that guy and won. Which is only sensible, since no jury wants to aquit some slimebag dope pusher.

    However, that case effectivly set the precident that the feds had the power to regulate what real doctors could and could not prescribe for their patients.

    Vaguely recalled source: "Drug Crazy", by Mike Gray.

Receiving a million dollars tax free will make you feel better than being flat broke and having a stomach ache. -- Dolph Sharp, "I'm O.K., You're Not So Hot"