Adobe agrees to meet with EFF on DMCA criminal case
Other groups may continue protest plans in support of Dmitry Sklyarov

21 July 2001

On the eve of a public protest outside its San Jose headquarters and several other cities and countries, Adobe Systems has agreed to meet with representatives from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). In return, the EFF is asking for a rally planned for Monday to be put on hold, aiming to discuss in good faith with Adobe key issues related to legal action the company instigated recently against an employee of ElcomSoft Ltd., a Russian software company. However, many involved with the protest plan to proceed regardless expressing concerns about the effectiveness of talks at this stage.

Earlier in the week, the EFF had issued an "Action Alert" calling for a series of nation-wide and international "Free Dmitry!" rallies on July 23 to protest Adobe's role in the FBI's recent arrest of an ElcomSoft software programmer. Dmitry Sklyarov was charged with violating Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, designed to prohibit circumvention of copyright protection technologies such as that used by publishers selling encrypted eBooks in Adobe PDF.

While the EFF has temporarily suspended its proactive role in promoting protests in favor of the arranged meeting, other activist groups still appear likely to gather Monday, based on discussions on a newly launched "Free Sklyarov" email discussion list. Many doubt Adobe's sincerity in its agreement to meet with the EFF, believing it to be a stall tactic rather than a genuine effort to try to find what some rally organizers consider the only appropriate resolution -- Adobe withdrawing its criminal complaint against Sklyarov. Others appear to prefer having the case to go to trial in order to test the constitutionality of the DMCA, a still controversial and untested law.

Robin Gross, attorney with the EFF, says "The U.S. government for the first time is prosecuting a programmer for building a tool that may be used for many purposes, including those that legitimate purchasers need in order to exercise their fair use rights."

The hasty recall of its call to action left the EFF in a somewhat awkward position, hoping to quell as much of the planned public protests it had helped to engineer while not looking like it was bowing to corporate pressures.

"We can always rekindle the protest if Adobe does not agree to withdraw their complaint to the U.S. Department of Justice regarding Dmitry Sklyarov," wrote Will Doherty, EFF's Online Activist for Media Relations to discussion list subscribers, "and to refuse to pursue further prosecutions under the DMCA for cases that should be prevented under fair use provisions of US copyright law."


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