Adobe Systems, the company whose complaint prompted the arrest last week of Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov for alleged violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), joined the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on Monday in calling for his release.
Sklyarov was arrested by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Las Vegas on July 16 at the Def Con hacker conference after he had presented material on encryption used in Adobe's eBook system. The DMCA makes it a crime to traffic in information, tools or software designed to circumvent copy-control technology.
Sklyarov works as a programmer for Moscow-based ElcomSoft and has written an application called "Advanced eBook Processor." The software can convert files encoded in Adobe's eBook Reader format to the company's widely used PDF (portable document format). Doing this gives users more ability to manipulate the electronic contents because PDF allows operations such as creating backups, printing, or copying and pasting, while the eBook format does not.
In a joint statement issued on Monday by Adobe and EFF, the organisations said they recommended the release of Sklyarov from federal custody and that Adobe is withdrawing its support for the criminal complaint against the programmer.
"We strongly support the DMCA and the enforcement of copyright protection of digital content," said Colleen Pouliot, Adobe Senior Vice President and General Counsel in the statement. "However, the prosecution of this individual in this particular case is not conducive to the best interests of any of the parties involved or the industry. ElcomSoft's Advanced eBook Processor software is no longer available in the United States, and from that perspective the DMCA worked. Adobe will continue to protect its copyright interests and those of its customers."
EFF had protested the arrest because Sklyarov was only presenting a paper on the encryption system and not distributing software, and because it believes the DMCA threatens the right of limited "fair use" of copyrighted material.
Adobe's withdraw of support doesn't mean Sklyarov will be automatically released, however.
"This is a criminal and not civil proceeding, which means it is at the discretion of the US Attorney whether or not to proceed," said Will Doherty, a spokesman for the EFF. "We do believe that this prosecution is ill-advised and now the original complainant has said they do not want to continue, we think the US Attorney will drop the case."
The case is the responsibility of Robert Mueller, the US Attorney for Northern California and US President George Bush's pick to succeed Louis Freeh as director of the FBI. Doherty said the EFF is hoping for "good faith negotiation" with Mueller shortly, although it has yet to schedule a meeting.
The EFF helped organise a number of protests around the US on Monday against the arrest.