A federal court jury in San Jose, Calif., dealt a blow to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by acquitting Elcomsoft, a Russian software company, of charges that it violated the DMCA by creating a software program that disables the security features on an Adobe e-book.
The case began in July 2001, when Dmitry Sklyarov, a 26-year-old programmer and Elcomsoft employee, was arrested while attending Defcon, a hacker convention in Las Vegas. The arrest was prompted by complaints from Adobe that Elcomsoft was selling a software program for $99 that it claimed would allow users to bypass Adobe's copyright protection. The DMCA prohibits the trafficking in products designed to circumvent digital copyright protection. Sklyarov was eventually released, but was forced to testify against his employer Fred von Lohmann, an intellectual property lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is critical of the DMCA, said, "The verdict sends a strong message to prosecutors who believe that toolmakers should be thrown in jail because copyright owners don't like the tools they build. We have said from the beginning that Sklyarov, Elcomsoft and technologists like them are not pirates, and the jury agreed."
Digital activists complain that the DMCA and U.S. copyright law are overly broad, and that the law will stifle developing technologies. Elcomsoft claimed that the software was never intended to be used for piracy. The company also noted that both Russian and European laws allow individuals to make backup copies for personal use and that Adobe's DRM prevents such copying.