Dmitry Sklyarov yearns for family, friends, snow -- and life
Soon back home in Moscow, he plans to continue working for ElcomSoft and on dissertation

18 December 2001

By Kurt Foss, Planet PDF Editor

Spending most of the past five months living in California's scenic Bay Area hasn't warmed Dmitry Sklyarov to any notion of forsaking his native Russia. Of course, with the U.S. government dictating where he could live while awaiting trial on alleged violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and that he's not been free to leave the country, it's no wonder he can't fully appreciate the 'Land of the Free' concept.

So when a U. S. District Court judge last week told Sklyarov he is now free to return to Moscow, part of an agreement reached to remove Sklyarov as a defendant in the forthcoming U.S. versus ElcomSoft criminal case, there was little delay -- or surprise -- in an announcement of his travel plans: he and his family, who have been living with him in northern California since September, are Moscow-bound on December 31.

Planet PDF, whose sister site Planet eBook broke the news story of Sklyarov's initial arrest by the FBI -- based on allegedly circumventing the security of Adobe Systems' eBooks technology -- on July 16, recently had the opportunity to ask the young software programmer and Ph. D. student via an email exchange with his attorneys about his thoughts and plans.

"The U.S. is not a paradise," Sklyarov says, "and even if you earn more than hundred thousands per year today, you can not be absolutely certain about tomorrow. But if you have money, you could get almost anything -- maybe except sincerity -- from people around you." He's obviously a fast learner!

Earlier in the summer Sklyarov had issued a public thank-you to the many people world-wide who rose to his defense following his arrest, a chorus of protest so loud that Adobe Systems -- with persuasive prodding from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) -- withdrew its support for Sklyarov's prosecution. The generally soft-spoken Sklyarov said at the time that he was no Superman, and much preferred his prior anonimity to his sudden global name recognition. Protesters in many cities around the world took to the streets, fax machines, email discussion lists, etc., this past summer to defend him and to oppose the DMCA -- some even memorialized his cause in, for better or worse, song and ballad.

Reflecting again on that support, Sklyarov says "There are people who spend their time and money trying to help others and restore justice. And there are many of them."

"I find some real friends here," he says, "and for me it seems a great acquisition. I will miss them while in Russia."

While population trends in the U.S. reveal a long, continuing movement toward the West coast -- especially California -- primarily for its lifestyle and weather, Sklyarov is not much impressed. He still prefers his weather Russian style.

"There are many nice places to see and very mild climate in California. But people who living here are missing something -- there is no winter, only summer and bad summer," he jokes.

As to his culinary experiences, Sklyarov has no complaints -- well, maybe one.

"I can't say something special about food, because I'm not very discriminating in eating. But it seems almost impossible to find Martini Bianko vermouth (which is popular in Russia and liked by my wife Oxana) in wine store. Only Martini Dry and Martini Rosso."

We asked Sklyarov what he's most looking forward to doing when he gets home to Russia that he's not been able to do in California.

"Visiting parents. Meeting with friends. Listening how snow squeaks under my steps. Finishing my dissertation. Just living!"

One thing Sklyarov wants to clear up is his relationship with ElcomSoft, the software company where he's been employed -- including the past five months -- and for which he helped develop the controversial Advanced eBook Processor (AEBPR) software product that's at the heart of the DMCA violation charges.

ElcomSoft was described as his "former employer" in a news release issued last week by the U.S. Attorney's office for the Northern District of California explaining the terms of the diversion agreement into which Sklyarov has entered in order to be removed as a defendant.

"I've continued to be an [paid] ElcomSoft employee during these five months and never stopped working (except the three weeks in jail)," Sklyarov says. "After returning to Russia I will continue my work for ElcomSoft. As far as I know, nothing exists in the Agreement that could prevent me from doing that."

Alexander Katalov, ElcomSoft President, concurs. In fact, Sklyarov's recent agreement in part resulted from ElcomSoft's offer to have the company take his place in the trial. The company paid to bring Sklyarov's wife and two children from Russia to live here since September, picking up the expenses.

"As a business owner, I have stood by my employee in every way throughout this ordeal and I am glad to see it end," Katalov says. "I am pleased to be free to focus on my business needs, expanding my company, developing new products. I am also committed to fighting the charges against the company in court more aggressively now."

He also speaks fondly of his employee -- past, present and future, he expects.

"As a friend, I am glad that Dmitry may finally go home, continue his work for the company, complete his dissertation and not risk jail time in the United States; Dmitry has my full support," says Katalov."

Katalov scoffs at some media reports that have fostered a perception Sklyarov sold out his employer in exchange for a plea agreement that frees only him, in return for his testimony against the company.

"I am not at all disturbed by Dmitry's agreement to testify," he says. "In fact, this is what we want. If the government decides to call him as well, they may - the truth is the truth."

According to NewsBytes, Sklyarov's highly regarded attorney, John Keker, was even more blunt about his client's actions, intentions and beliefs -- and about the government's insinuations.

"For them [government prosecutors] to try to turn this into a cooperation agreement is just bulls-t," Keker says, adding that "Sklyarov's story in the case has never changed" -- he continues to believe neither he nor his employer committed a crime by creating and marketing AEBPR.

UPDATE: ElcomSoft held a press conference Wednesday, Dec. 19, to offer a public reaction to the terms and meaning of the recently signed diversion agreement.

The legal matters will get sorted out in due time. For now, it's time for Sklyarov to celebrate his release and his 27th birthday -- sure to be a memorable one -- and then finish packing for the trip home. He'll want to pack warm clothes, based on the Moscow weather forecast, which recently featured resepective days for snow and blizzard.

No problem. Sklyarov is more than ready to experience the squeak of frozen precipitation, to resume a lower profile and to get back to living.


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