A high-profile case that has turned up the heat under U.S. copyright law was due to be argued in a U.S. federal court Monday, putting the spotlight on whether foreign companies doing business on the Internet can be prosecuted for violating U.S. laws.
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The case involves Moscow-based ElcomSoft Co. Ltd., which 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 Systems Inc.’s eBook format so that the ebooks can be read in more portable formats.
After Adobe alerted the government about the program, ElcomSoft and Sklyarov, a programmer, were slapped with charges of violating the DMCA shortly after Sklyarov presented information on the product at the Def Con hacker show in Las Vegas last July.
They were charged with trafficking and conspiracy to traffic in technology designed to circumvent copyright protection measures, even though ElcomSoft has said that this is not a crime in Russia. After a wave of protests, both in the U.S. 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. They were expected to push this point Monday, along with arguments that the DMCA is overly broad and impinges on fair use rights.
The 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.
The outcome of the case could dramatically impact the way in which foreign companies behave on the Net, and in respect to the United States.
In an e-mail interview conducted last month, 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 United States.”
The case is being heard in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, in San Jose.