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Friday, 14 December, 2001, 12:00 GMT
Deal to free Russian programmer
Protest in support of Sklyarov, AP
Sklyarov's arrest provoked global protests
The United States has agreed to free the Russian software programmer Dmitry Sklyarov in exchange for testimony against his company about alleged violations of copyright law.

It brings to an end part of a controversial case that has generated worldwide protests over the issue of free speech rights in cyberspace.

Under the terms of the deal, the Russian admitted to writing a program that allowed digital books to be copied but did not plead guilty to any charges.

The criminal charges against him will be dropped once he testifies against his employer, Elcomsoft of Moscow. He will then be allowed to return to Russia.

Relief

Mr Sklyarov said he was relieved that he and his family could finally contemplate returning home.

Sklyarov, AP
Sklyarov: Maintained his innocence
"Until I'm in Russia, it is too early to say that I'm happy," he said.

"But this agreement looks like the first significant change in my situation for last five months, my first real chance to get home," he said.

Mr Sklyarov was arrested after speaking at a hacking convention in Las Vegas in July.

He and his employer, Elcomsoft, were accused of releasing a program that let people using Adobe's electronic book software to copy digital books or transfer them to other computers.

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

The act, introduced last year in the US, bans the sale of technology that thwarts copyright protections in computer and electronic programs.

Critics of the case argued that the DMCA stifled legitimate computer research and gave book publishers, record labels and film studios too much control on online content.

Public pressure

As the first person charged under the controversial DMCA, Mr Sklyarov quickly became a cause celebre among free speech advocates.


There was a tremendous outpouring of grassroots support for Dmitry and against the current US copyright law

Shari Steele, EFF Executive Director
The case was one of the first criminal copyright prosecutions that did not explicitly involve copying, but focused on the distribution of a program that could crack software used to encrypt electronic books.

The civil liberties group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said public pressure had led to the agreement.

"There was a tremendous outpouring of grassroots support for Dmitry and against the current US copyright law," said EFF Executive Director Shari Steele.

"I'm disappointed, however, that the government has decided to string this along instead of admitting its mistake in bringing these charges against Dmitry in the first place."

See also:

30 Aug 01 | Sci/Tech
Protests greet copyright charges
07 Aug 01 | Sci/Tech
Russian programmer gets bail
07 Jun 01 | Sci/Tech
Legal challenge to US piracy law
25 Apr 01 | Sci/Tech
Security through censorship
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