Russian Programmer Freed on Bail as DMCA Case Goes On

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Russian computer programmer Dmitry Sklyarov was released on $50,000 bond Monday and ordered to stay in Northern California while he awaits what could be a landmark trial on alleged copyright violations.

With dozens of protesters gathered outside the federal courthouse, Sklyarov made his first court appearance in San Jose since being arrested July 16 and charged with violating the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Sklyarov, who speaks halting English, had the procedures explained to him by an interpreter.

Prosecutors and his defense attorney Joseph Burton agreed on the bond conditions.

The bond is being paid for by Sklyarov's company, and he has been turned over to the custody of a Russian-American software engineer who lives in Cupertino.

Sklyarov, 26, is thought to be the first person to face criminal prosecution under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and his case has generated international protests. He could face five years in prison and a $500,000 fine if convicted.

The case concerns Adobe Systems' eBook Reader, software that lets publishers impose strong restrictions on the use of books they sell online. While working for Elcomsoft Co. Ltd. of Moscow, Sklyarov came up with ways around those restrictions — so electronic books could be transferred from one computer to another or used in text-to-speech programs, for example.

Such programs are legal in Russia but banned in the United States under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Adobe complained to the FBI, and agents arrested Sklyarov in Las Vegas, where he had traveled to speak at a computer security convention.

Sklyarov's supporters say there is no evidence anyone has used his program to violate copyrights on electronic books. Adobe dropped its support of the case on July 23.