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Tuesday, 7 August, 2001, 12:27 GMT 13:27 UK
Russian programmer gets bail
Protesters calling for the release of Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov
Mr Sklyarov's arrest sparked a wave of protests
By BBC News Online technology correspondent Mark Ward

A Russian programmer arrested for allegedly flouting a US law on copyright protection has been released on bail.


Great result. It's a first step. He's out

Joseph Burton, defence lawyer
Dmitry Sklyarov was taken into custody last month for distributing a program that can crack the encryption protecting electronic books from unauthorised copying.

His arrest sparked protests and helped to force the company that called for his arrest to withdraw its complaint.

Despite this, US authorities are proceeding with the prosecution, and have released Mr Sklyarov on bail of $50,000 (32,000) pending a hearing later this month.

Copyright controversy

On 16 July, Mr Sklyarov was arrested in Las Vegas, shortly after making a speech to the DefCon hacker convention about his encryption-breaking software.

Dmitry Sklyarov BBC
Dmitry Sklyarov: The prosecution would be one of the first under the DMCA
The FBI arrested Mr Sklyarov following complaints from Adobe, maker of the eBook Reader encryption software, that its intellectual property was being abused.

Mr Sklyarov was charged with breaking the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which makes it a crime to distribute software that helps to circumvent copyright controls.

His arrest sparked a wave of demonstrations around the world with programmers taking to the streets in London, Washington and New York to protest about the treatment of Mr Sklyarov and the DMCA.

Programmer protest

Supporters claim that the Advanced eBook Processor Mr Sklyarov co-wrote has only been used by legitimate owners of electronic books to help them move titles on to different devices rather than to aid copyright pirates.

Free Sklyarov T-shirt Copyleft
What the well-dressed geek is wearing this August
Lobbying by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group, resulted in Adobe withdrawing its complaint against Mr Sklyarov and calling for his release.

On Monday, the Russian Foreign Ministry added its weight to the protests by making an appeal for Mr Sklyarov's release through the country's Washington Embassy.

"We have expressed concern that Mr Sklyarov still remains in custody although the US company on whose suit Mr Sklyarov was arrested has withdrawn its complaint and asked the US federal authorities to release Mr Sklyarov," a foreign ministry spokesman said.

Restricted movement

Despite these calls the US Government is going on with its prosecution, and has scheduled a hearing for 23 August. Prior to the hearing, Mr Sklyarov has been released on bail of $50,000 (32,000) raised by Elcomsoft, the Russian software firm that employs him.

"Great result. It's a first step. He's out," said defence lawyer Joseph Burton.

Mr Sklyarov's passport has been confiscated and the conditions of his bail restrict him to Northern California where he has been put in the care of a friend, Sergei Osoakine, who has lived in America for eight years.

If found guilty at trial, Mr Sklarov faces fines of up to $500,000 and a jail sentence of up to five years.

See also:

25 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
Security through censorship
07 Jun 01 | Sci/Tech
Legal challenge to US piracy law
11 Nov 00 | Sci/Tech
Pop goes protecting pop
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