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Thursday, 30 August, 2001, 13:02 GMT 14:02 UK
Russian hacker indicted
crowd with Free Dmitry banner
Skylarov's arrest has sparked protests
US officials have charged a 26-year-old Russian programmer and the company he works for with breaking a controversial US law intended to curb digital piracy.

A statement issued by the US Attorney's office late Tuesday said Dmitry Skylarov and Elcomsoft have been indicted by a federal grand jury in San Jose.

Critics say that the law targets the developers of tools that also have legitimate uses, instead of going after those who break copyright law.

They were charged with selling and conspiracy to sell technology designed to circumvent the United States Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Mr Skylarov wrote a programme that allows people to break the copy protection built into Adobe Systems' electronic book software.

He was indicted after plea bargaining negotiations broke down.

The DMCA is a controversial piece of legislation providing for stiff penalties against the developers of software tools used to circumvent copyright protection.

Mr Skylarov is the first person to be charged under the new law, which took effect last year.

Jail term

If convicted he could face up to five years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

Mr Skylarov's arrest has sparked protests worldwide from free speech advocates and computer programmers who say the DMCA gives media companies broader rights than they had before the digital age.
Free speech advocates defend Skylarov

Critics say that the law targets the developers of tools that also have legitimate uses, instead of going after those who break copyright law.

The industry responds that the new laws are necessary to stop digital pirates from illegally duplicating copyrighted material and distributing it through the internet.

The charges were laid despite a change of heart by the company that wanted Mr Skylarov arrested.

Adobe Systems put out a statement calling for the hacker's release after company representatives met with a US free speech and electronic privacy pressure group.

Code breaker

Mr Skylarov's software allows users of Adobe's Acrobatic eBook Reader to move and make copies of electronic documents.

Adobe objects to this because when electronic books are sold, there are typically restrictions on the number of copies that can be made.

The programmer was reportedly freed on 50,000 dollars bail, and must remain in northern California in the custody of a Russian-US software engineer.

Mr Skylarov was arrested in the same week that US Attorney General John Ashcroft described computer security as one of the US's top problems and announced the appointment of extra prosecutors.

See also:

26 Jun 01 | Americas
US court backs authors' web rights
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