Sklyarov, ElcomSoft indicted for DMCA violations
U.S. Government brings five charges for eBook security circumvention

By Kurt Foss
August 28, 2001

Reports last week of a possible plea bargain in the case involving ElcomSoft Ltd. software programmer Dmitry Sklyarov seem to have been premature. Five days after his initial arraignment date was postponed to allow for a potential compromise of sorts, Sklyarov -- and his company -- were indicted today by a U.S. District Court in Northern California on five counts of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). (See U.S. Department of Justice press release.)

The federal government's indictment -- PDF version [247kb] OR HTML version -- alleges that Sklyarov and ElcomSoft conspired for "commercial advantage and private financial gain."

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Northern California, "the maximum statutory penalties for each count in violation of Title 17, United States Code, Sections 1201(b)(1)(A) and 1201(b)(1)(C) are five years imprisonment for an individual and a fine of $500,000 for an individual or corporation. The maximum penalties for a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, are five years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000 for an individual, and a fine of $500,000 for a corporation. However, any sentence following conviction would be dictated by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of factors, and would be imposed in the discretion of the Court. An indictment simply contains allegations against an individual or corporation and, as with all defendants, Elcom and Mr. Sklyarov must be presumed innocent unless and until convicted."

To put this in perspective, the average *monthly* salary of a typical Russian worker -- according to both U.S. and Russian government statistics -- is less than the $99 cost of the Advanced eBook Processor software.

Sklyarov had been arrested in Las Vegas July 16 following a presentation on the company's controversial Advanced eBook Processor software, which was capable of decrypting Adobe Systems' copyright protection technology in PDF-based eBooks. The inclusion of his Moscow-based employer in today's charges suggests the government has no intention of dropping the case, as many have lobbied. Even Adobe Systems, which brought the initial criminal complaint to the FBI, has publicly withdrawn its support for prosecution.

The next court appearance for both defendants is for arraignment at 9:30 a.m. on August 30.

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