US copyright law under scrutiny

US copyright law is put under the spotlight when the Adobe vs Elcomsoft case returns to court.

US copyright law is put under the spotlight when the Adobe vs Elcomsoft case returns to court.

A high-profile copyright case between Adobe and Russian software vendor Elcomsoft could decide whether foreign companies doing business on the Internet can be prosecuted for violating US laws.

ElcomSoft, was charged last year, along with its employee Dmitry Sklyarov, for violating the anti-circumvention provisions of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). ElcomSoft created and distributed a program called the Advanced eBook Processor, which allows users to circumvent the copyright protection measures in Adobe's eBook format so that the ebooks can be read in more portable formats.

After Adobe alerted the government about the software, ElcomSoft and Sklyarov, the program's creator, were charged with violating the DMCA shortly after Sklyarov presented information on the product at the Def Con show last July.

They were charged with trafficking and conspiracy to traffic in technology designed to circumvent copyright protection measures, though ElcomSoft has said that this is not a crime in Russia. After a wave of protests, both in the US and abroad, the charges against Sklyarov were dropped, but ElcomSoft remains on the hook.

Lawyers for the defendant have filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that the DMCA was never meant to apply to foreign firms doing business over the Internet.

The US government, meanwhile, is sticking by its guns, saying that the DMCA was written to protect copyright holders, offering them incentive to continue to create artistic works.

ElcomSoft president Alex Katalov wrote: "All foreign software companies will be under potential threat unless provisions of the DMCA are amended or any clarifications (that) establish single interpretation of the language used in the statute are made ... otherwise, it is advisable to foreign programmers to avoid going to the US".

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