Elcomsoft not guilty – DoJ retreats from Moscow

Your tax dollars at work

The Russian software company which has found itself on trial in an American court was acquitted on all counts of circumventing the DMCA today.

Elcomsoft's woes began in August last year, when programmer Dmitry Sklyarov was charged under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's circumvention 1201 clauses (one small part of which is under review by the Librarian of Congress) while visiting Las Vegas for a technical conference. Skylarov was imprisoned for his part in creating an Adobe eBook reader that permitted fair-use of copyright material, and imprisoned pending trial.

Facing a public backlash, Adobe urged prosecutors not to pursue the case, and Sklyarov was freed last December in a deal where he agreed to testify in the case against his employer. The US Department of Justice picked up the reins.

At the trial the prosecution compared Elcomsoft to Enron and tried to implicate Sklyarov with US computer hacker networks. An outraged prosecution attorney asked if Dmity had considered breaking the US law. Sklyarov, who lives and works in Russia, quite reasonably said that at the time he couldn't care less.

During the trial, it emerged that Elcomsoft's clients include US federal law enforcement agencies, and even Adobe itself.

The Judge asked the Jury to consider if the Elcomsoft had intended the eBook reader to be used for copyright violation, and today the Jury agreed that it hadn't.

"Today's jury verdict sends a strong message to federal prosecutors who believe that tool makers should be thrown in jail just because a copyright owner doesn't like the tools they build," said EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney Fred von Lohmann.

We'll get ya'! says the Business Software Alliance in its response to the verdict.

"The DMCA has clear criminal penalties that can and should be imposed in cases of direct or attempted theft of software and other digital content ... we would urge prosecutors to continue aggressively pursuing alleged violations of the law," it said in a shameful statement that willfully associates legal fair use with piracy. (Adobe is also a BSA member).

There's a long way to go. The DMCA was recently cited in a case that claimed price lists were trade secrets, and a successful attempt to takedown a parody site. ®

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