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'I'm no hacker', Sklyarov tells US court

Elcomsoft in DMCA test case

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Dmitry Sklyarov, the Russian programmer at the centre of the first Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) prosecution, yesterday delivered his long-awaited testimony in the trial of his former employer, ElcomSoft.

ElcomSoft is charged with supplying a tool which circumvents the copy protection in Adobe eBooks, which can be used in making audible copies of e-books for the blind, or copies of legitimately purchased electronic books. The prosecution argues the utility was primarily designed to circumvent copyright protection mechanisms and facilitate piracy.

ElcomSoft's Advanced eBook Processor is legal in Russia and was sold over the Internet (though it has since been taken off the market). The company faces five counts of violating digital copyright laws for supplying and marketing the programme in the trial, which began in a federal court in San Jose last week.

Sklyarov was also indicted in the case, and spent a month in a US jail (and four months on bail) before striking a deal which allowed him to return to Russia in exchange for testifying in any case against ElcomSoft.

Sklyarov told the court that got the idea for the program while studying for a doctorate in information security at the Bauman Moscow State Technical University. He wanted to demonstrate the flaws in Adobe's encryption scheme, while writing a utility that allowed legitimate purchasers to copy e-books from one computer to another, make backup, print pages and transfer documents to reading devices for the blind.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, tried to link Sklyarov as an affiliate to underground hacker networks who didn't give a stuff about US laws.

Sklyarov admitted that he was aware his program could be used for "bad purposes" such as piracy, but argued the benefits of his utility - which also demonstrated the weak security of Adobe eBooks - were more important than the drawbacks.

"The general public needs to have a way to choose which solution is secure and which is not," he said.

Sklyarov stated his action were legal in Russia but admitted under cross-examination that he failed to consider whether the program was legal under US law when he developed it.

"I cared about not violating the law of the country I am operating in," Sklyarov said.

Elcomsoft attorney Burton tried to dispel the government's attempts to portray ElcomSoft as disreputable.

"Do you consider yourself to be a hacker?"
HE asked Sklyarov.

Sklyarov replied. "I am computer engineer, programmer," he told the court, according to wire reports.

Testimony from ElcomSoft managing director Vladimir Katalov also delivered yesterday stated that its password retrieval programs were bought by the FBI, US district attorneys and police departments, as well as by corporations such as Microsoft, Motorola and (most surprisingly, perhaps) Adobe.

The trial continues this week. ®

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