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This transcript is produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.

Crusade for the freedom to program without fear of jail 3/8/01

KIRSTY WARK:
I'm joined from San Francisco by Robin Gross, who is a supporter of Mr. Sklyarov, she's from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. And from Washington By Mark Bohannon from the Software and Information Industry Association. Mark Bohannon first of all. This man has done something legal in his country. You arrest him in your country. What could be the justification for that?

MARK BOHANNON:
Are you asking me the question?

KIRSTY WARK:
I am indeed.

MARK BOHANNON:
I think the assumption that this would be legal in Russia is misplaced. There has been a lot of misinformation about this case. We have gone back and looked at Russian law, as well as other laws in other countries, and we are not convinced that in fact the manufacture and trafficking of a tool that would break a security measure like this would be permitted in Russia. You have got to understand that the DMCA was adopted by the US after international consensus was reached in 1996. The copyright laws needed to be effective not only in the online world but in the offline world as well. We are pleased to see the US Congress in 1998 passing the DMCA but the recently adopted update of the copyright directive in the European Union, Japan Australia and others, quite frankly, reaching a balanced approach that respects the rights of users, creators and of the ISP's, all integral to making this work.

KIRSTY WARK:
Surely Mr Sklyarov knew that he was breaching US law, first of all, and secondly, isn't it reasonable that companies want to protect their own assets?

ROBIN GROSS:
First of all, I don't believe he knew that he was violating any US law. It's a relatively new law. This is the first time that a computer programmer has been criminally charged for making software with lots of lawful and legitimate purposes, so I don't think he necessarily knew that that was what he was getting into.

KIRSTY WARK:
It did sound, from what we heard of him, that he did know in fact that this was quite a controversial area. It seems inconceivable, when people in the computer industry are so well versed in copyright laws, that he wouldn't know?

ROBIN GROSS:
The problem here is that the DMCA doesn't do much to protect copyrights. We found that it's an incredibly powerful tool for American businesses to be able to smash their foreign competition, as in this case ElcomSoft simply wanted to be able to make viewer software to compete with Adobe, that would allow people to read the books that they downloaded in ways not supported by the Adobe software.

KIRSTY WARK:
So his own company wanted to take the Adobe software and use it for his own company's ends?

ROBIN GROSS:
Absolutely.

MARK BOHANNON:
I am quite concerned about this statement. ElcomSoft wasn't attempting to compete with Adobe. Their business is about selling tools they sell over the internet for 99 dollars, to people who feel frustrated that a company like Adobe, or any others for that matter, use legitimate legal means to ensure their copyrights are not used.

KIRSTY WARK:
Hang on a minute. For clarification, I want to ask you a straightforward question about this. If an Adobe internet book is available from you, it seems to be that you cannot copy it, for example, to transcribe it for a blind person to do a voice reading of it. Is that the case?

MARK BOHANNON:
Yes, there is a lot of misinformation going on about this case. I think the reference to tools that enable disabled individuals to participate fully in our society is really misplaced. Our industry has been at the forefront of developing very clear tools that enable those with handicaps and disabilities including sight to benefit from audio and other kinds of tools. If this were really designed and if the real goal was to get into the hands of those who cannot read, in audio or other kind of version, those tools are out there. This tool wasn't meant to help those with disabilities to get access. That's done through other legitimate means.

KIRSTY WARK:
It doesn't cost any more for a person with disability or perhaps imperfect sight to perhaps have a different recording of these books?

MARK BOHANNON:
The point is that the market has responded to that. The fact that this tool, which is illegal in the US and in other countries, was used to justify access to the disabled completely misses the point.


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