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Protesters gather to call for Russian programmer’s release

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – More than 100 computer-savvy protesters left their terminals and took to the streets Monday in defense of Dmitry Sklyarov, a Russian programmer jailed on charges of hacking a electronic-book reading program.

Waving signs with their colleague’s image and chanting for his release, the crowd called for the U.S. Attorney’s office in San Francisco to drop criminal prosecution of Sklyarov, who was arrested July 16 under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Sklyarov developed software that allows the user to circumvent the copyright protections in Adobe Systems eBook reader program.



Some protesters decried the chilling effect they said such prosecution would have on the programming community.

”Source code is an expressive thing. It’s obviously not straight speech and it’s obviously not straight machine. It’s in some kind of a gray area in between,” said Habib Loew, a programmer from Berkeley. ”I think we walk a very dangerous line and approach a very slippery slope when we start to say that it’s not protected speech at all.”



Defendants of Sklyarov’s research say his software merely provides users with a ”fair use” application, allowing them to make reusable copies of their legally purchased eBooks. But endless computer copies of those eBooks could be freely traded after the Russian’s program decrypts them.

Adobe dropped support for Sklyarov’s prosecution and called for his release last week after a meeting with representatives from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Prosecutors overseeing the case has made no indication it would drop the case.

Calls to the U.S. Attorney’s office in San Francisco seeking comment and an update of Sklyarov’s case were not immediately returned.

According to those monitoring the case, Sklyarov is behind bars at a federal detention center in Oklahoma City awaiting transfer to the San Francisco Bay area where the case is being prosecuted. Sklyarov has been held without bail. If convicted, he could face five years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

Similar protests were scheduled this week in Boston, Seattle and other cities.

On the Net:

Electronic Frontier Foundation, http://www.eff.org

Adobe Systems, http://www.adobe.com


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