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Sklyarov boss exhibits cojones

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Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov stood in the dock (so to speak) Thursday and pleaded not guilty to five charges that he violated the (purely American) Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) by trafficking in and committing conspiracy to traffic in a copyright circumvention device.

The device in question is the Advanced eBook Processor which cracks the access controls on Adobe's eBook Reader, made and marketed by Russian software company ElcomSoft, where Sklyarov works.

Sklyarov was arrested in Las Vegas on 16 July at Defcon, where he presented a talk on eBook's numerous security failures. Adobe had tipped the Feds to his whereabouts and urged the arrest, but has since distanced itself from his inevitable prosecution in hopes of polishing its reputation.

The 26-year-old husband and father of one is now facing up to 25 years in Club Fed along with a $250,000 fine if convicted on all counts; and his employer is in for a maximum fine of $500,000. We've been expecting Sklyarov to serve as scapegoat for the whole affair since company principals obviously can't be compelled to appear in a US court.

A Pleasant Surprise

Perhaps the greatest disappointment for any reporter covering Information Technology, fascinating though it may be, is its programmatic denial of opportunities to catch human beings in the act of being courageous. On Thursday we were pleasantly surprised.

ElcomSoft President Alexander Katalov -- voluntarily, proudly, manfully -- stood beside Sklyarov in the dock (so to speak) and answered charges on behalf of his company.

The symbolism was rare and delightful. Sklyarov is not going to face prosecution by an alien state, for performing a perfectly legal service in his home country, alone and unaided. We'd like to see an American or European corporate president exhibit a fraction of Katalov's cojones in the face of whingeing shareholders and scolding underwriters.

A trial will commence in only a few months if Sklyarov refuses to plead. Thus far, he's shown no inclination to do so, much to his credit. ®

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