Moscow Times covers Adobe PDF eBook decryption -- in PDF
ElcomSoft stops selling disputed software, makes limited demo freely available on Internet

8 July 2001

A Napster for eBooks world?

By Kurt Foss, Planet PDF Editor

Adding a bit of an ironic twist to the brewing legal matter on alleged copyright infringement between Adobe Systems and Moscow-based ElcomSoft Ltd., The Moscow Times reported the latest events in its July 4 edition -- available in PDF. Meanwhile, Adobe Systems was closed the week of the national U.S. holiday.

In a page 9 article titled "E-Book Duplicators Hit Barnes & Noble," the online, English-language newspaper quotes a Barnes & Noble VP as saying the company's Internet store "incurred considerable losses due to the pause in sales of new bestsellers." The company stopped sales for a day late last month to allow Adobe to release version (2.2) of its free Acrobat eBook Reader, an upgrade with enhanced security that could not be decrypted by ElcomSoft's commercially available Advanced Ebook Processor (AEBPR) product.

The Times reports that -- as had previously been forewarned in coverage on our Planet eBook sister site -- in response to Adobe's threatened legal action for copyright infringement, ElcomSoft is now giving away an updated, reduced functionality version of AEBPR. According to the company's Web site, this free demo version of AEBPR 2.2 has been modified to support limited decryption -- 25 percent of the content -- "only to demonstrate that Adobe technology (used in Adobe Content Server, Adobe WebBuy and Acrobat eBook Reader) is still weak."

"The electronic book world has produced its own Napster," Alexander Katalov, Elcomsoft's General Manager, told the Moscow Times. He also reportedly denied blame for any wrongdoing, pointing to PDF security as the real issue. In defending the company's initial development and sale of AEBPR, he told the Times that the product "was often purchased by people with poor eyesight, since Adobe's e-book software did not permit the use of programs for reading text out loud."

Read Aloud permission

In fact, Adobe's eBook Reader does allow ebooks to be read aloud (when using a computer with voice activation capabilities) -- *if* the publisher, not Adobe -- chooses to grant that permission.

Adobe had threatened ElcomSoft with copyright infringement in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), specifically Section 1201 -- for circumventing its rights-protection designed to guard the rights of publishers and authors. In legal circles, there currently are debates taking place over the use of encryption systems for digital content that are more restrictive for users than laws dealing with printed books. For example, its commonplace -- and legal -- for someone to re-sell a printed book; as an ebook, with most current technologies, that would be considered a violation of copyright.

Moscow Times

The Moscow Times' article cites the operator of a Russian Web site on copyright as saying that by simply posting a URL where it now freely gives away AEBPR, ElcomSoft is safe from prosecution "according to current Russian judicial practice."

Adobe Systems -- known in the industry for its strong anti-piracy litigation -- seems likely to put that notion to a test, while needing to take steps to further strengthen PDF security and to educate users on proper security implementation techniques -- keeping in mind there is no perfect, never-fail solution.

Like The Moscow Times, part of Independent Media, The St. Petersburg Times newspaper also publishes English-language news from Russia -- also in PDF.

The complete 31-page, July 4 issue is available online -- as a large PDF file [PDF: 6.2 MB] (and also in HTML).

Planet eBook classic books & Planet PDF has a regularly updated index of all articles related to this issue, as well as links to the coverage by other news outlets.


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