Who actually owns the Copyright for Advanced eBook Processor?
V. 1.0 lists Dmitry Sklyarov, while current release says ElcomSoft Ltd. owns controversial program

19 July 2001

By Kurt Foss, Planet PDF Editor

Dmitry Skylarov According to the complaint cited in the recent press release announcing the July 16 arrest of Dmitry Sklyarov, (photo at right, published with permission of ElcomSoft Ltd.) the young ElcomSoft employee and software programmer was singled out for arrest and possible prosecution when Adobe Systems investigators noticed his name listed as the copyright owner on the product's opening window.

Look again!

After purchasing a $99 copy of the software program online in late June, several Adobe staff verified that the Advanced eBook Processor (AEBPR) software could -- as advertised -- remove all security permissions from PDF-based eBooks. Considering it a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), they shared and demonstrated their findings to agents from the High Tech Squad of the U. S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) office in San Jose, CA.

Daniel J. O'Connell, Special Agent for the FBI, summarizes that meeting in the official U. S. District Court affidavit as follows:

"A review of the opening screen on the Elcomsoft software purchased showed that a person named Dmitry Sklyarov is identified as being the copyright holder of the Elcomsoft program. Spano [from Adobe] exhibited this opening screen to me and provided me with a copy of the screen. Spano also provided me a copy of the E-mail from Elcomsoft managing director Vladimir Katalov furnishing the unlocking key after the fee had been paid to Elcomsoft through the RegNow website."

"Adobe learned that Dmitry Sklyarov is slated to speak on July 15, 1001 [??] at a conference entitled Defcon-9 at Las Vegas Nevada. Spano told me that he learned that Sklyarov is scheduled to make a presentation related to the AEBPR software program."

NOTE: This is only a small excerpt from the affidavit; please read the entire document to understand it in context of other details.

At the end of the lengthy criminal complaint (case number 5 01 257), O'Connell reaches the following conclusion:

"Based on the foregoing, I believe Dmitry Sklyarov, employee of Elcomsoft and the individual listed on the Elcomsoft software products as the copyright holder of the program sold and produced by Elcomsoft, known as the Advanced eBook Processor, has willfully and for financial gain imported, offered to the public, provided, and otherwise trafficked in a technology, product, service, and device that is primarily designed or produced for the purpose of circumvention a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under Title 17, namely books distributed in a form readable by the Adobe eBook Reader, in violation of Title 17, United States Code, Section 1201(b)(1)(A) and Title 18, United States Code, Section 2."

A July 17, 2001 U. S. Department of Justice press release headlined "Russian Man Charged in California under Digital Millenium Copyright Act with Circumventing Adobe eBook Reader" also emphasizes Sklyarov's supposed copyright ownership of the software product briefly sold online (at the time, from a U. S.-based server) by ElcomSoft Ltd.:

"According to an affidavit filed by an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in connection with the criminal complaint, Mr. Sklyarov is alleged to have been the author of a program, "Advanced eBook Processor, ..."

Given the repeated references to ownership of the software, would it make a difference if Dmitry Sklyarov is not the true copyright owner of the AEBPR product?

Splashscreen for AEBPR v.1.0

Adobe reports purchasing its copy of the allegedly illegal software on June 26, at which time ElcomSoft was offering for sale a version that was capable of cracking the Adobe Acrobat eBook Reader v.2.1. The splashscreen for AEBPR 1.0 did attribute copyright to Sklyarov, as Adobe noticed.

But they apparently neglected to review the licensing terms document for AEBPR that would have been installed with even the 1.0 version, which clearly states:

"Advanced eBook Processor: the License

- All copyrights to AEBPR are exclusively owned by ElcomSoft Co.Ltd."

Shortly after Adobe updated its eBook Reader to version 2.2 to defeat that first release of AEBPR, ElcomSoft soon released its own updated version (and stopped selling it in favor of offering downloads of a limited-capability version) that again could -- and still can -- defeat and remove the current Adobe PDF-based eBook security.

Copyright for the current version (2.2) of AEBPR -- released well before several ElcomSoft employees travelled to the U.S. for the DefCon-9 convention in Las Vegas -- lists ElcomSoft, Ltd. as the copyright holder. That would seem to make more sense if Sklyarov is indeed an employee of the Moscow-based company.

Vladimir Katalov, CEO of Elcom Ltd., has been quoted in recent media coverage as saying that three different programmers were involved in writing the AEBPR software. The ElcomSoft Web site says only that Skylarov "developed algorithms" on which the software is based.

The two screenshots below suggest that the company, not one of its employees, owns the Advanced eBook Processor product and copyright.

Splashscreen for AEBPR v.2.2

About AEBPR version 2.2

Case of mistaken identity -- or mistaken copyright?

And does it make any difference in the arrest of Dmitry Sklyarov?


Our Planet eBook sister site is maintaining a comprehensive index of related news coverage and information.

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