US v. ElcomSoft & Sklyarov

US v. ElcomSoft Sklyarov

The United States v. ElcomSoft and Dmitry Sklyarov was a 2001-2 criminal case in which Dmitry Sklyarov and his employer ElcomSoft were charged with trafficking in, and offering to the public, a software program that could circumvent technological protections on copyrighted material, in violation of Section 1201(b)(1)(A)&(C) of Title 17 of the United States Code (the Copyright Acts, including most of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act), as well as Sections 2 (Aiding and Abetting) and 371 (Conspiracy) of Title 18, Part I, of the United States Code (the Federal Criminal Code).


On July 16, 2001, Dmitry Sklyarov, a Russian citizen employed by the Russian company ElcomSoft who was at the time visiting the United States for a computer conference, was arrested and jailed for allegedly violating the United States' Digital Millennium Copyright Act (of 1998) by writing ElcomSoft's Advanced eBook Processor software.

The original issue came to the attention of prosecutors when Adobe Systems, a US company, complained that copy protection arrangements in its e-book file format were being illegally circumvented by ElcomSoft's product. Adobe withdrew its complaint, but United States Department of Justice prosecutors (under the authority of local U.S. Attorney Robert S. Mueller, now Director of the FBI) declined to likewise drop the charges. ElcomSoft's product, and thus presumably the efforts of its employees including Sklyarov, were entirely legal in Russia. Sklyarov was eventually released on bail, but forced to remain in California, separated from his family, until his case concluded.

Protests ensued, coordinated from the website The US government agreed to drop all charges filed against Sklyarov, provided that he testify at the trial of his company. He was permitted to return to Russia.

On 17 December 2002, after a two-week trial, a federal jury found ElcomSoft not guilty of all four charges under the DMCA.

The case raised some concerns particularly since it involved an individual being prosecuted for activities that were fully legal in the country where they occurred.


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