Arrest sparks boycott of US

August 17, 2001

Foreign academics are boycotting US-based research programmes and conferences in reaction to the arrest of Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov, a lobby group has claimed.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties organisation that aims to protect rights in the digital world, is mounting a campaign to get the US Department of Justice to drop charges against Mr Sklyarov.

Mr Sklyarov was released on $50,000 (£35,000) bail earlier this month after being arrested on July 16 at the Defcon conference in Las Vegas for allegedly violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by "trafficking in a product designed to circumvent copyright protection measures".

He created software that decrypts the Adobe eBook format to bypass copy restrictions that publishers may impose. A pre-trial hearing has been scheduled for next Thursday.

The EFF is encouraging those concerned about his plight to write, call, fax and email US attorney general Robert Mueller.

The group said Mr Sklyarov and ElcomSoft, the Russian company for which he works, did nothing wrong or illegal under either American or Russian law.

"Pointing out security weaknesses in poorly designed systems is part and parcel of the computer security field, and helping people convert content from one format to another so that they can use it is not a crime," the organisation said.

Ross Anderson, a reader in security engineering at Cambridge University, has written to Mr Mueller. He said:"The prospect that I might be arrested in the US for research work done here at Cambridge University and published in a responsible way through the usual academic channels is alarming."

He added that a former student, Igor Drokov, has known Mr Sklyarov for some ten years and assured Dr Anderson that he was a talented researcher and law-abiding citizen.

Online campaigners have used the web to organise 18 demonstrations calling for Mr Sklyarov's acquittal. The case was further weakened when Adobe asked Justice Department officials to drop the charges.

Mr Sklyarov's passport is still held by the attorney general. The 26-year-old's wife and two children remain in Moscow.

  • An Indiana college student has violated Californian copyright law by posting a code that breaks DVD copy protection on a website.

Justice Eugene Premo ruled that Matthew Pavlovich's actions amounted to trade-secret theft and copyright infringement.

The EFF said the ruling meant film studios could sue anyone who published information on the internet that they claimed could affect their profits.

Mr Pavlovich was considering appealing to the California Supreme Court.

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