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Crusade for the freedom to program without fear of jail 3/8/01
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?
Are you asking me the question?
I am indeed.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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
So his own company wanted to take the Adobe
software and use it for his own company's ends?
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.
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?
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.
It doesn't cost any more for a person with disability
or perhaps imperfect sight to perhaps have a different
recording of these books?
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.