Adobe: No reponsibility to Sklyarov

Though he was arrested after Adobe Systems Inc. complained to the U.S. government about a program he had written and the company has since called for charges against him to be dropped, Adobe has no obligation or responsibility to aid indicted Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov, Adobe General Counsel Colleen Pouliot said Friday.

Sklyarov, who was arrested for violating the terms of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in mid-July, was indicted last week for trafficking and conspiring to traffic in tools designed to circumvent copy control technology. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison and up to a US$2.25 million. His employer, Moscow-based ElcomSoft Co. Ltd., was also indicted and faces up to $2.5 million in fines.

The program that ran Sklyarov afoul of the law is Advanced eBook Processor, an application that removes restrictions built into Adobe eBook Reader files which allows them to be copied, backed up, printed and more. The DMCA makes it a crime to provide tools or information designed to circumvent these protections. Critics of the DMCA charge that the law is unconstitutional, stifles free speech and abridges consumer rights such as fair use, the ability to lend, borrow or quote from a book, and first sale, the right to resell an item once it has been legally purchased.

Despite its initial support for Sklyarov's arrest, one week later the company reversed field and called, along with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a number of other groups, for Sklyarov's release. Charges against Sklyarov have not been dropped, however, and all signs indicate that the U.S. government intends to prosecute him, making him the first person to face criminal prosecution under the DMCA.

Though Sklyarov was indicted last week, "we do welcome the change in the case" that sees the government pursuing ElcomSoft, Adobe's Pouliot said. The company stands by its July statement and still wants to see Sklyarov acquitted, she said.

Despite that desire, the company will do no more than it has already done -- call for charges to be dropped -- to pursue his exoneration, she said.

"All we have done is express our public sentiment that we don't support the prosecution of this individual in this particular case" and Adobe will do no more than that, she said.

Pouliot also denies that Adobe has any responsibility for Sklyarov's prosecution.

"We provided information to the government about what ElcomSoft was doing" and the government made its own decision about whom to arrest and prosecute, she said. Because of this -- and even though the company's complaint led to Sklyarov's arrest, prosecution and possible imprisonment in a foreign country which would separate him from his wife and young daughter for as many as 25 years -- Adobe has no responsibility or obligation to help him further, she said.

If Sklyarov does go to jail, "that's an outcome our system has provided," Pouliot said.

Adobe continues to "absolutely support" another law provided by the system, the DMCA, Pouliot said.

The DMCA "really has helped support the explosion of online content" and has had little if any adverse affects, Pouliot said, pointing to a ruling handed down by the U.S. Copyright Office last week that said largely the same thing. If there are any discussions about changing the law, though, Adobe will be involved, she said.

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