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Plea bargain in accused hacker case

The Associated Press
Thursday August 23, 2001

SAN JOSE — Prosecutors and defense attorneys for the Russian computer programmer charged with circumventing electronic book copyright protections are negotiating a possible plea bargain and have agreed to delay an arraignment scheduled for Thursday. 

In a case that has generated worldwide protests, Dmitry Sklyarov, 26, is charged in a criminal complaint with violating the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, though he has not yet been formally indicted. 

Sklyarov is due in court Thursday, but both sides will ask a federal judge to postpone the arraignment by a week, lead defense attorney Joseph Burton said Wednesday. 

“We’re talking about whether or not there are any potential ways to dispose of the case,” said Burton, a former federal prosecutor. “We’ve been talking to them for a while.” 

Sklyarov, who could face five years in prison, is one of the first people to face criminal prosecution rather than a civil lawsuit under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  



Critics of the law have assailed Sklyarov’s case as an example of how the law stymies free speech and legitimate computer research. 

San Jose-based Adobe Systems Inc. complained to the FBI that Sklyarov had written a program for his employer, ElcomSoft Co. Ltd. of Moscow, that allowed electronic book users to disable certain copyright restrictions on Adobe’s eBook Reader software. Sklyarov’s program, for example, let users transfer e-books from a personal computer to a handheld device. 

Sklyarov’s supporters point out that his program was legal in Russia, and say his work merely lets users enjoy “fair use” privileges traditionally allowed under U.S. copyright law. Adobe dropped its support of the case on July 23. 

Sklyarov was preparing to return home to Moscow after speaking at a computer security convention when he was arrested July 16 in Las Vegas. He is free on $50,000 bail but must remain in Northern California. Sklyarov is staying with a Russian-American computer programmer in Cupertino. 


On the Net: 

Sklyarov supporters: 

Adobe Systems: