Protestors, angry about the arrest of a Russian programmer who made a speech the shortcomings of encryption methods used by Adobe, have set up a site calling for a boycott of the software firm.
The Boycott Adobe site highlights the case of Dmitry Sklyarov, who was arrested by the FBI and charged with distributing software that violates the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Sklyarov, of Russian software firm ElcomSoft, is the author of a $99 program called Advanced eBook Processor, which removes restrictions on reading and printing from encrypted PDF files. He was arrested on Monday after making a presentation entitled "eBook Security: Theory and Practice" at Defcon, the annual hacker's convention in Las Vegas.
The people behind the Boycott Adobe site, which is backed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, say that Sklyarov's only crime was to "point out major security flaws in Adobe PDF and eBook software".
Adobe has resorted "to criminal prosecution rather than fixing broken security that hurts Adobe's customers, who have paid good money only to find out their intellectual property is protected by fourth rate security".
They are calling on people to sell shares in Adobe, to rate protest notes to its and their congressman about the handling of the affair and to defer planned upgrades to Adobe software.
Sklyarov's case has aroused particular interest because it is one of the first United States criminal prosecutions under the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
The affidavit in the case states that Advanced eBook Processor would allow anyone to read an eBook on any computer without paying the fee to the bookseller. ElcomSoft denies it is involved in facilitating copyright piracy and said its program only increases a purchaser's control of legitimately purchased eBooks.
The Advanced eBook Processor software may make it easier to infringe copyrights, since eBooks, once translated into open formats like PDF, may be distributed in illegitimate ways. On the other hand the program allows people to print, back up, and store electronic books which when used non-commercially may constitute fair use under US copyright law, and Sklyarov's defence rests on this point.
Robin Gross, attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), explained, "The U.S. government for the first time is prosecuting a programmer for building a tool that may be used for many purposes, including those that legitimate purchasers need in order to exercise their fair use rights."
Behind this academic argument lies Sklyarov himself who is languishing in a foreign jail awaiting trial on a charges which carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison or a fine of up to $500,000. ®