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Case against Dmitry Sklyarov dropped

Russian programmer can leave US, but must testify against employer

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Charges against Dmitry Sklyarov were deferred yesterday allowing the Russian programmer to return home after a five-month enforced stay in the US.

Under the terms of a legal deal, Sklyarov must still return to the US to testify in the case that remains against Elcomsoft, Sklyarov's employer, when it faces copyright violation charges under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

The legal agreement (signed by US Federal Court Judge Ronald Whyte) should eventually clear Sklyarov of charges brought against him for distributing Advance eBook Processor, an app which busts the access controls on Adobe's eBook reader.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which campaigned extensively on Dmitry's behalf, welcomed news that the threat of jail had been lifted from Sklyarov, but sharply criticised tthe case.

"Dmitry programmed a format converter which has many legitimate uses, including enabling the blind to hear e-books," explained EFF Intellectual Property Attorney Robin Gross. "The idea that he faced prison for this is outrageous."

Sklyarov was arrested and slung into jail in July following a court case instigated by Adobe. The California software company pulled the legal trigger in response to a presentation made by the Russian programmer pointing out the shortcomings of eBook security at this year's Defcon conference in Las Vegas. He faced charges punishable by up to 25 years in jail.

Adobe attracted huge opprobrium for its actions, and in the face of a self-inflicted public relations nightmare, quickly withdrew support for prosecution. However, the Department of Justice took up the reins and even though Sklyarov was released on bail of $50,000 in August, he still had to remain in the US.

The case against ElcomSoft and Sklyarov become a cause celebre among white hat hackers, who objected to jailed a programmer simply for coding and distributing software. There were also concerns that, at the behest of the entertainment industry, the DMCA was been applied in a way which would stymie legitimate security research. ®

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Electronic Frontier Foundation statement and links to related documents

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