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Earth to Media: This kid is still in jail

JonKatz posted more than 12 years ago | from the -using-copyright-to-undermine-free-speech- dept.


The popular media's coverage of the Dmitri Sklyarov case is a scandal. 26-year-old programmer and encryption gadfly Sklyarov has been languishing in jail for almost two weeks now, and the popular media has paid almost no attention to his truly outrageous arrest. It's a case that has the ugliest implications not only for the press (online and off) but for open discussion of technology, and especially for the First Amendment, now clearly being undermined in the name of copyright protection by the DMCA. This is the opposite of what copyright law was meant to do.

When reporters were threatened with law enforcement pressure and jail during the Watergate and Pentagon Papers cases, whole forests were felled in the pre-digital age with stories, books, even movies about courageous reporters fighting for the First Amendment against government oppression. Not a single reporter was jailed in those cases, not even for an hour, even though many broke federal and other laws in gathering the information they reported.

You won't see any discussion of Dmitri Sklyarov on Washington talk shows, the evening news, or the cover of the weekly newsmagazines. But he is stuck in jail.

He was arrested by the FBI two weeks ago for writing and selling a program that allegedly violates the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, just after giving a lecture detailing alleged weaknesses in Adobe's electronic book software.

There is hardly a single serious lawyer or constitutional scholar who doesn't see the dangers of this twisted use of the DMCA. "The DMCA outlaws technologies designed to circumvent other technologies that protect copyrighted material," wrote Lawrence Lessig in the New York Times this week. "It is law protecting software code protecting copyright. The trouble, however, is that technologies that protect copyrighted material are never as subtle as the law of copyright. Copyright law permits fair use of copyrighted material; technologies that protect copyrighted material need not. Copyright law protects for a limited time; technologies have no such limit."

Thus, cautions Lessig, a law professor at Stanford, when the DMCA protects technology that in turns protects copyrighted material, it can -- as in the Sklyarov case -- offer protection that is much broader than copyright law was meant to be. It criminalizes what would be legal under existing copyright law, including certain kinds of criticism and speech and research. This law is a top-to-bottom creation of entertainment companies working with their hired lawyers and lobbyists to curb the flow of information online for profit. It was not enacted in the public interest, or even in the best interests of copyright. Lessig and others have pointed out that Sklyarov's software violated no one's copyright, even if it runs afoul of the DMCA.

In the Sklyarov case, there are several noxious consequences. His arrest chills criticism of software, and of new technologies and the powerful companies that create them. It also undermines security -- one of the very things the DMCA is supposed to protect. How can weaknesses and flaws in security and encryption programs be discovered if they can't be shared, discussed or explored?

Example: a staple feature of newspaper reporters in big cities is to go to local airports annually and test security procedures by carrying toy guns, knives or unloaded weapons into terminals. Although they could technically be charged under federal laws prohibiting such behavior, they are not. These reporters are never prosecuted. That's because courts have repeatedly ruled that the reporters are carrying out activities that are protected by the First Amendment -- they are stretching or even breaking regulations on behalf of the public welfare. Within limits (most public safety grounds) courts have protected this kind of activity. Just because Sklyarov is a hacker doesn't mean he's not acting as a journalist, or entitled to journalistic protections.

This is a corporate perversion of the original intent of copyright law, meant to protect authors for a limited time so that they would have some financial incentive to generate ideas, which then entered the public domain so that they could receive the widest possible distribution. It was never the intention of the authors of American copyright law to sell ideas and intellectual property to greedy corporations in perpetuity, especially at the expense of free speech and the ability to criticize powerful institutions.

In April, Princeton Professor Edward Felten, an encryption researcher, received a letter from record industry lawyers warning him that a paper he was about to present at a hacker conference -- the paper described the weaknesses of an encryption system -- could subject him to criminal actions under the DMCA. Felten withdrew the paper, and is now the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the DMCA on First Amendment grounds.

None of this helps Sklyarov, who remains in jail. Were he a reporter for the Washington Post or New York Times challenging claims of Microsoft or Adobe or Disney, you can only imagine the media furor, and the pressure being brought to bear on politicians and federal officials to get him out. It would certainly be loud enough to help ensure his release while lawyers get to slug out what ought clearly to be a civil, not a criminal, issue.

The failure to connect his case with their own rights and traditions is a colossal media blunder, short-sighted and self-destructive. If the DMCA stands, and people like Dmitri Sklyarov are tossed into jail because they criticized the code, claims or procedures of powerful corporations or institutions based on research these institutions believe should remain private and proprietary, then the entertainment lobby will have done the unthinkable. They will have permanently altered the First Amendment and the protection it has always accorded free, controversial and offensive speech. And the Net will become a very different kind of place, not only for coders and hackers but for any person who loves the unique freedom it has offered for nearly a generation.

cancel ×


Re:Quitcherbitchin (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2179742)

I do care.

I don't want to get arrested the next time I visit the U.S.A for something I said on the net.

STOP Bashing Jon Katz (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2179743)

First of all I'm posting this anonymously since I don't want to get trolled/bashed/etc in the future for what I have to say now.

Leave Jon Katz alone! He's on OUR side and constant bashing that he recieves from you people is just emberassing for our community and it just proves how childlish and antisocial we are.

He is not a bad jornalist. No journalist can write an op-ed that EVERYONE agrees with. Showing your opinion is the purpose of op-ed! If you disagree with Jon, try not to revert to 5th grade insults.

Huh? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2179744)

Letters to the editor if written without profanity, have to be published in the paper (at least around here they do)

And where exactly are you? Alpha Centauri? I think that it's up to the editors which letters are published in most any newspaper (can't speak about all) but in the greater NYC area this is how it is. Maybe in lower populated regions this is so but whereas Brooklyn, NY (not Manhatten) has 2.3 million people (Idaho has about 1.4 million) and we only have three major newspapers I'd be surprised if there really is such a practice.

Say "hi" to the Sheriff & Aunt Mae for me...

Re:Earth to medicthree (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2179752)

It's an unconstitutional law after the Supreme Court rules so.

Until then it's the law! Break it and to jail you go.

Re:Why haven't any reporters... (2)

Tim Doran (910) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179764)

But regardless, if anybody out there has any *real* info on WHY the media isn't covering the case of Dmitry Skylarov or the DMCA, please inform us; I'm sure the /. community would like to know.

I see two reasons. First, the intricacies of copyright law, especially when combined with technology, are too subtle for sound-bites. I realize a statement like this is almost a cliche, but it's true. Too much valuable airtime/column inches would have to be wasted educating the reader on the DMCA, encryption, the rights of foreign nations etc. Easier to stick with warehouse fires and monster truck rallies.

Second (mentioned in another post already) is that most media outlets are affiliated with some organization that has an interest in the DMCA. Tough to get a critical article past your editor when s/he knows they'll get a call from the executive office about it later.

The stories of heroic journalists, well, that's different. It improves the image of journalism and the organizations that support them. And there's no need to report subtleties - just yell 'Cover-up!' at the top of your voice and everyone will be on your side.

Re:The major news outlets are owned by big media (2)

Dicky (1327) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179766)

Which, of course, is one of the great things about the BBC [] . Sure, it isn't perfect, but as a public broadcaster, as opposed to a profit-motivated commercial broadcaster, advertisers and other commercial interests have a relatively low level of influence over news reporting and broadcasting in general.

Plus, they have the best web site in the UK. Bar none.

Re:Sometimes it makes me sad (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179767)

"And this one's crime is a bit doubtful in nature"

What happened to innocent until proven guilty?

The public doesn't understand (3)

Plutor (2994) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179769)

The reason this isn't being reported as the travesty it truly is is that the public doesn't really understand copyright issues or the DMCA, and they don't really care either. The public would hear this story and think "So, a hacker(sic) got arrested for hacking a product. He was arrested under federal law, and he's now in jail. I hated it when my files were deleted by the virus, so these laws are a good thing."

OT: What about his legal status? (1)

NullPointer (6898) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179776)

Why doesn't there seem to be any information available on Dmitry's legal status. Does anyone know whether he has representation. There was a note sent to one of the lists indicating that an announcement would be made yesterday, but I've not seen anything. At the very least, he shouldn't be in jail, he should be free on bond. He's not a freaking ax-murderer! Since when do the Feds keep white collar suspects in detention for more than a day or two without an arraignment or bond hearing?

Re:Earth to JK: (1)

NullPointer (6898) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179777)

Uhh, what happened to innocent until proven guilty? He may be charged with breaking the law, but until a jury says otherwise, he's not to be punished until it is proven (beyond doubt) that he broke the law.

And, in Federal cases, I "thought" there had to be a grand jury indictment before there was an arrest?

typical Press.. (2)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179787)

When was the last time you saw any press coverage of anything like this? CNN didnt give squat about Kevin Mitnick, and they could care less about Dimitri.

It's sad, but the best way is for everyone to write a letter to the editors column and ask why there is no coverage about Dimitri.

Letters to the editor if written without profanity, have to be published in the paper (at least around here they do)

Re:Yah, but ... (3)

ScottyB (13347) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179792)

Perhaps, but I think that is unlikely. Apply Occam's Razor to the situation; is it more likely that the big media companies are conspiring all the way down to the editorial and reporter level to prevent Joe Public from reading about the case in the morning paper, or is it more likely that Joe Reporter and Joe Editor in general do not know much about technology and law issues (not to mention does Joe Law-Column-Writer knows about the technology issues involved?) to be able to understand the nuances of the story?

Also, consider an editor's take on the issue; even if the editor does understand the technology and law nuances, does he think that his audience will understand well enough to make a story worthwhile or newsworthy?

The bottom line is that YOU, the audience, need to start writing more letters-to-the-editor and op-ed submissions to make the editors and reporters realize the importance of the issue instead of laying back and producing conspiracy theories as to why the issue has not appeared in mainstream media.

I can cite all sorts of foreign (to Americans) news, including civil wars in Central and South America, kidnappings of American citizens abroad, etc. that never even make it to the "World Summary" columns of your major newspapers because the editors do not seem to think that it is newsworthy. There are stories about it; you can go to the Voice of America [] and read a lot of the wire copy that the major media outlets certainly get as well, but the bottom line is it is deemed "un-newsworthy" for Joe Public.

Return of the Blue Ribbon Campaign? (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179802)

It looks like we need the return of the blue ribbon campaign, or at least an equivalent that addresses the DMCA and such laws. I am sure that if everyone started pasting a ribbon their web-pages that the press would notice that something is going on. Now what colour for the ribbon?

Wake Up idiots! (1)

proclus (33875) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179820)

Here is a small sampling to the dumbfounding results of this arrest.

1. Radicalization of America's brightest kids.
2. Wide spread protests against Dmitry's arrest and the DMCA
3. Criminalization of constitutional protect fair use rights.
4. Attack against public libraries.
5. Computer professionals and scientist boycott the US in a vast brain drain of intellectual capital.
6. More tax money wasted on copyright enforcement
7. Black hat backlash.
8. This is only the beginning!

proclus []

Re:Journalism is not independent enough (1)

Absynthe (34189) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179822)

There is open source news actually
check out There has been a decent amount of coverage on Skylarov's case. Not so much recently because the place is still kind of going nuts over the G8 summit in genoa. Actually most of the story's lately have been about the mainstream media's lack of coverage of both those issues.... Hmmmm, I'm trying to decide if that's worthwhile or not.

Re:This is nothing new (2)

Absynthe (34189) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179824)

You have no idea what the hell you are talking about. I feel dirty responding to this. I don't know whether I just got trolled or not, but I'll bite.
1 oz. citrate caffeine
1 oz. vanilla
2½ oz. flavoring *
4 oz. fluid extract of coca
3 oz. citric acid
1 qt. lime juice
30 lbs. sugar
2½ gal. water
* orange, lemon, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, neroli oils, alcohol
Oh God, They're breaking down the door!!!!

You absofuckinglutely would not get thrown in jail for publishing a recipe. As long as it was you screwing around in your kitchen and you came up with how it was done there is no way in hell anyone could sue you, much less bring criminal charges against you.
If on the other hand you worked for coca-cola, were made privy to the recipe then published it you could face CIVIL charges. No one has ever gone to jail for anything like this ever, it's something out of a Kafka novel and I keep hearing these wet fart noises from bleating sheep saying "but he broke the law". Who gives a damn if he broke a law? It's a stupid law, and people have an obligation to break stupid laws. It's movement towards making the stupid law go away.

Re:This is nothing new (1)

mgoff (40215) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179827)

If you discover then publish Coca Cola's secret formula, then I bet you'd be in jail or at least sued for an insane amount of money.

IANAL, but:

1) The formula for Coke is not copyrighted. It is secret. Copyright means disclosure and Coke is unwilling to disclose.

2) Secret != government classified. Just because Coke has a secret document doesn't mean it is criminal to possess or publish the document. The methods by which one obtains a document could be criminal, however.

3) The part of the DCMA being discussed here is the prohibition of the development and sale of tools to circumvent copyright protection. This is unique to the DCMA and therefore is new.

Times have changed with the press. (2)

laetus (45131) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179839)

Sorry Katz. A germane defense of the hacker, but your analogies are falling short in modern times.

When you mention the Post and the NY Times in the Vietnam and Watergate eras, it's a false analogy. Today, so many of the large news agencies are owned by corporations with huge interests in government contracts (e.g., NBC and General Electric). The military-industrial complex has become the military-industrial-media complex.

Also, you mention imagining the Washington Post not reporting on Microsoft. Well, recently they have due to the anti-trust case. But they are in legal agreements with MSNBC (peruse the MSNBC site to see how many articles are from Newsweek and the Washington Post (Newsweek is owned by the Post)).

My point? The press ain't what it used to be. The best example: go register an account for Netscape mail then visit the site. Know what you'll see at the top of the screen?

Welcome, username

The times, they are a changing.

protests in the UK (1)

Joe_NoOne (48818) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179840)

...are being reported in The Register []

FP (1)

r2q2 (50527) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179842)

Isnt this good enough for the big media?

Remember hanlon's razor ... (2)

karb (66692) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179853)

It could be that the story ran on (which it did) and got very few hits (which it probably did ... think "russian hacker arrested by fbi"), and the news editors said "well, we don't really need to run this on the news because the public isn't interested."

While they do occasionally run stories that do not interest the public, we can't always expect them to do that. I'm sure they do not care about chandra levy either (although they have a sick fascination with the kennedys).

Unfortunately, even though I hate protests, I think they are the way to go. Get Dmitri to go on a hunger strike or something. I hate to say this, but it's true ... this guy getting arrested is *exactly* the kind of ammunition we need to fight the DMCA.

Yah, but ... (4)

SirSlud (67381) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179859)

Wondering why the big media outlets havn't advertised the scandal is like wondering why the Army doesn't hand out "War Kills People" brochures. The big media outlets are controled by the content providers, and the content providers want this kid nailed to the wall. It's as simple as that. Sad, wrong, but simple.

Re:Why haven't any reporters... (4)

SirSlud (67381) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179860)

Your news comes from big media content providers (think Time Warner AOL). Big media content providers want Dmitry nailed to a wall. You know that story a few days ago on /. about silicon valley using immigrant workers to keep salaries low? The story was actually circulated for publication 2 years ago, but no big paper would pick it up for fear of damaging themselves (they probably did it), and damaging the best story they had in years (the .com boom). News gets censored by media outlets ALL THE TIME. What's frightening is that people still think that news providers only have a slight 'political bias'. Untrue. They practice outright public awareness management. It's sad how controlled everyone's level of awareness is. Visit to see what I'm talking about.

At any rate, to answer your original question, anyone in the software biz right now (save for Adobe), and publishing industry want him in jail. The types they want to know about his arrest (he's an example to be made of) will know it from reading the trade sites (like /., cnet), while the rest of the world won't know, so won't care.

The major news outlets are owned by big media (4)

pcx (72024) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179865)

The major news outlets are all owned by the big media companies. CNN is time/warner, ABC is disney, yada yada yada. The big media companies all have their fingers in the news outlets in one way or another and they'll gladly sacrifice their news divisions freedom a little if they can force you to shell over an extra $20.00 to listen to what they're calling music these days.

That's why most of the useful news I get these days comes from Slashdot and not CNN.

Re:GOOD! (1)

geomon (78680) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179871)

As has been pointed out several times in regard to this topic, many people commit crimes and are released on bond. Some of the crimes are more heinous than the one that Sklyarov is accused of.

But that is hardly the point. There is due process. He is presumed innocent UNTIL THE STATE PROVES HE IS GUILTY.

Apparently the education system you attended failed to make that point clear to you in civics class.

It happens every day, people commit crimes, they go to jail.

That statement proves my point.

No Problem (3)

geomon (78680) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179880)

Face it, this guy will rot in jail before the public has any idea that he even exists. Let's just say, for the sake of argument, that the public does find out that a 26-year-old Russian citizen is being held without bond in a US jail. American public opinion will not be swayed to express outrage because he isn't a US citizen held in a foreign jail.

The State of Texas executed a foreign national without giving him right to meet with his embassy. This is a right guaranteed to foreign nationals by treaty. The fact that someone could be held without access to their national ambassadorial staff is pitiful enough. The fact that they can be held without due process guaranteed under the Constitution is scandalous.

But the public just doesn't care....

It is fucking depressing.

Be clear about terms (1)

MemeRot (80975) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179882)

Coke's formula is a trade secret. Not patented or copyrighted or anything. And violating copyright is not a jailable offense.

And the situation was NOT illegal - this man was NOT subject to the american laws he's accused of breaking, our laws end at our borders.

Earth to windbag (1)

Ater (87170) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179887)

General media only reports things they think the general public would care about. General public (not you, not the tech dorks who think everything that applies to them is more important than anything else) could care less about this kid. Therefore general media reports things that people actually give a damn about.

You moron. (1)

Havokmon (89874) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179888)

I get it. If a law was passed that said you must sit down to take a piss, and you were caught standing up, you would just say, "Ok. you got me."


Yeah, I'll buy a permit from the city to put up a fence on MY property. Get a fucking life.

umm generic? (1)

Havokmon (89874) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179889)

Oh my GOD! That's not Coca Cola, it's Koka Kola!

Generic Soda, Generic Drugs, Generic Perfume.
Perfume for sure, but I'm quite sure they've all lost that case already.

Okay, so here's an idea... (2)

JoeShmoe (90109) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179890)

...let's protest the lack of media coverage!

Everyone get down to your local news affiliate and start protesting the lack of attention.

If enough people do that...the story of the media being protesting the lack of news will itself become news...and thus draw attention to the core issue about which we are protesting a lack of news!

I'm serious! If we tell reporters they are being negligent in hiding the truth that's a challenge I doubt they could resist. As soon as one news organization posts a story, they will all have to me-too or look like toadies to corporate interestes (which they are but they hate it being shown true).

- JoeShmoe

Re:Sometimes it makes me sad (1)

Zaphod B (94313) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179901)

Um. Last I checked, Dmitri Sklyarov wasn't a citizen of the United States, unless he managed to marry Mama Louise in the Big House...

Zaphod B

I'M BLIND! (3)

Zaphod B (94313) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179902)

Are you sure he's been in jail for two weeks? I'm a little confused on that point.

To paraphrase Scott Adams, you've had a BLINDING FLASH OF THE OBVIOUS!

I don't know how to tell you this... but maybe if I shout way up into your ivory tower...the popular media aren't going to go running to Vegas and San Jose because this isn't the kind of news story that Joe AOL cares about.

Now quit ranting, strap your soapbox to your back, and go do something about it instead of ranting impotently. You're preaching to the choir here.

Zaphod B

I Agree, Here's What I'm Doing About It - Help Me! (3)

cybrpnk (94636) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179905)

I agree media coverage of the Sklyarov arrest has been a (non-existant) travesty. I have an idea, bear with me for a paragraph here. I noticed over the past few days that a USA Today reporter named Dennis Cauchon has written two stories on First Amendment arrests (although they were buried on the inside pages) here [] and here [] . To quote his story, "At the Justice Department's request, a federal judge jailed freelance writer Vanessa Leggett on July 20 on contempt of court charges after she refused to turn over notes, tape recordings and other material she collected while researching a book on the slaying of Doris Angleton in 1997. Angleton was the wife of Robert Angleton, a millionaire ex-bookie who was acquitted in 1998 of hiring his brother to commit the murder."

Seems to me 'ole Dennis might be interested in the current party going on in Dimitri's Las Vegas cell, if only he knew about it. And USA Today might print what 'ole Dennis dug up on the story. So I'm gonna email 'ole Dennis at and give him an earful of URLs. Why don't ya'll email 'ole Dennis, too, and show him what the Slashdot Effect is all about?

What should people do? (5)

Pedrito (94783) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179911)

Why don't people here do what people have been doing for years. Something that, in the information age, is easier than ever. Write your representatives. Your congressman, your senators. They all have web sites and e-mail. E-mail them and tell them what you think about the arrest. Tell them what you think of the DMCA. That's how you influence the laws they make.

Despite what many people think, your representatives aren't just there to serve the interests of lobbyists, though they make a lot of progress because they're persistant. They WANT to get re-elected, and you're the ones that elect them. They know that, and if enough people complain, they're going to do what you want because if enough of us complain, they're going to know their job is in jeapordy.

Remember, we live in a Republic (not a Democracy as everyone is fond of saying, read about the difference). You representatives are elected by YOU. That means that YOU can tell them they suck and if they don't straighten up and fly right, you won't vote for them the next time they're up for re-election.

Just my personal opinion, but I've written my representatives. I've e-mailed the president. They know my view. If enough people do the same, I guarantee you that this stuff, while not responded to personally, goes into a statistics sheet that tells them, at the end of the day, where their supporters stand.

I don't say this unknowing. I have an uncle who was a U.S. senator up untila couple of years ago, and e-mail was used heavily to gauge the opinions of the people in his office, and I'm pretty sure that he was the rule, not the exception. They all have software that makes this stuff (e-mailed opinions) pretty easy to quantify without having to read each and every e-mail in detail.

Lawsuits? (3)

11thangel (103409) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179925)

Everyone knows this is only gonna end in court. My bet is the EFF sues it all the way up to the supreme court, where they do one of two things.

1. Declare the DMCA unconstitutional
2. Declare the 1st ammendment unconstitutional

Any bets onto which one?

Mod UP. (2)

crleaf (103984) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179926)

And remember to vote at the bottom. The more votes the better. The more people that see this and read it, the more chance that this won't just get 'lost' in the media. The sooner he gets home to his family the better.

Jon has learned (4)

Mr. Sketch (111112) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179931)

how to copy and paste. I knew I had read all of this before [] . Most of the paragraphs look like they were directly copy and pasted out of that new york times article.

Or maybe they just ran the KatzBot on that NYT article. In which case I'm very disappointed in the KatzBot, I didn't see 'Corporate Republic' mentioned or even post-Columbine, maybe the KatzBot is broken.

I'd rather be trolling for [] .

26 == kid? (1)

13013dobbs (113910) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179936)

WTF. He is an adult Jon. You are talking like some 14 year old is in jail.

Re:So? (2)

13013dobbs (113910) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179937)

How big is this society you are talking about? All of America? All linux users? Slashdot readers? Russian programmers who break encryption? Unless you are talking about a majority of society, you are not going to see much mainstream press. Does that suck? Yes, it does.

Re:So? (1)

gam3 (114294) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179939)

Like sitting in the front of the bus!

msnbc (5)

anonimato (122087) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179948)

msnbc has a story on it here []

Yes, and? (1)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179950)

Ok, Jon, so given your wonderful insights into the media and how they think, what would you suggest we actually DO about this? To paraphrase, "shut up and educate."

Re:Yes, and? (1)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179951)

First post flaming JonKatz! Right on sweet sister mary! you're the 1337est!
Not a flame, but a challenge, troll.

Re:The major news outlets are owned by big media (2)

Lord Omlette (124579) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179952)

I find it highly amusing as an American that I can sometimes get better local news on BBC's site than I can at CNN's. Ridiculous.

ICQ 77863057

Re:Lawsuits? (1)

joel_archer (124897) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179953)

I bet neither one. But then again, I have an infinite of faith in the Supremes to split hairs, or determine the number of Angel's that can dance on the head of a pin.

Why not in the news (1)

Puck3D (126287) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179954)

The reason as to why Dimitri is not in the news is because is has no interest to the typical American. If this was in the news then it would probably not be shown in a good light. It would probably be something like "Evil Russian Communist Hacker Threatens American Business". This is the same thing that happened with Kevin Mitnick. In some ways it might be better that hes not being brought out into public view. I still think it sucks though that he's still in jail for something that is perfectly legal. Wouldn't the Russian embassy have helped him get out by now though? Puck

Future Consequences (2)

BadBlood (134525) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179957)

This action could seriously impact the US's ability to attract top programmers from around the world to participate in the development of new technology.

Who would want to face jail time for simply writing a program that's completely legal in your native country?

Re:This is nothing new (1)

gowen (141411) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179967)

But what if the formula were written in French (a well known encryption technology, since no-one wants to admit to being able to speak French). Am I still a felon if I publish a French phrasebook.

Reporters on reporters (4)

gowen (141411) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179968)

When reporters were threatened with law enforcement pressure and jail during the Watergate and Pentagon Papers cases, whole forests were felled in the pre-digital age with stories, books, even movies about courageous reporters fighting for the First Amendment
You've stumbled on a truth here. There is literally nothing that reporters like better than a story about reporters. Especially if the story makes them, or their profession, out to be noble, honest and all those other things they're largely not. Bet your life that if Dmitry had been a Russian journalist, the press outcry would've been so great he'd be home with his family by now.

Think about it. (5)

Sonicboom (141577) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179970)

The MEDIA lobbied to get DMCA passed through congress... they know it's a shady law.

After the whole DeCSS thing, the public opinion swayed against the DMCA...

So it makes sense that the media isn't giving a nanosecond towards Dmitri.... they don't want any more bad press about their DMCA.

Once people realize that the DMCA is a violation of our US constitution - people will fight to get rid of it! The media doesn't want to lose their golden sword!

The public doesn't care = the media doesn't either (2)

starseeker (141897) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179971)

The reason the media hasn't picked up on this is because the public just isn't interested.

Remember, hacker = bad in the public mind. Who defines who the hackers are? People with money.

Watergate was a popular cause, where the public interest was immediately and obviously involved. Corruption in the white house? Not only is it important, it's good for a zillion headlines.

It is not at all clear that the public at large would object to this arrest. Many will feel that this software has no business being written. Many will support the idea that electronic works should be protected in this fashion.

We see the dangers. But this is the public that eats, sleeps, and breaths mass media culture. They like marching to the beat of the loudest drum. Money allows corporations to beat loud drums.

The media could make an issue out of this, but mass media has the same problem the people at large do. Since their work is often in electronic form, they may see their bottom line threatened as well. That's not going to inspire them. They'll take risks, but it has to be something bigger than a hacker breaking encryption on ebooks. ebooks themselves aren't very big. For them this is just a non-story.

We care because we want to know when the encryption on something is weak. That's a technical concern the general public doesn't have. Corporations don't want to take the effort to be secure, and neither do most other people. It is much easier to attack anything that looks like a threat. That is what this looks like.

So don't expect help from mass media. They might play up the family man angle, but his general appeal is zero. As is ours, where matters like this are concerned. We insist on the real solution, which is too expensive and too much work, so we will be ignored.

I'm not saying we should go gentle into that good night, but we need to be realistic here. Convince the people who make the laws. Find compromises which meet everyones needs. Because nothing else will work. We aren't going to win a total victory. We don't have the public with us, and never will.

Re:This is nothing new (1)

cygnus93 (147851) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179973)

Coca Cola's secret formula is a trade secret. If you discovered Coke's formula because you broke into their production plant and stole it, or if you violated an NDA that gave you access to it, then yes, you would likely be sued and possibly sent to jail. However, if you legitimately reverse engineered their formula, knowing nothing about it other than that which comes printed on their cans and bottles, then they have no legal defense against your disclosing your discovered formula to the world. This is one of the biggest differences between patent and copywrite protection and trade secret protection.

Two weeks in jail is nothing.... (1)

Jasonv (156958) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179980)

Oh, come on. The USA has been known to *EXECUTE* foreigners without letting them consult with their consulate, in violation of the Vienna Convention, [] and you're shocked the media isn't covering someone who's been in jail for two weeks?

Hmm (1)

ReidMaynard (161608) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179982)

I thought ElcomSoft Co.Ltd. [] broke the law for selling the software.

As an employee, is Dmitri Sklyarov libel for ElcomSoft's actions?

Gosh, now I'm nervous ... I hope my company isn't up to any hanky-panky.

Oversimplifying DMCA? (1)

annenk38 (163418) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179984)

Lessig in the NYT op-ed piece states "The DMCA outlaws technologies designed to circumvent other technologies that protect copyrighted material". The actual law requires that these other technologies _effectively_ protect copyrighted material. Just what this "effectively" means is yet to be decided in courts. It could mean just about anything. It could even be taken to mean "unhackable", which then make the whole law pointless.

Re:This is nothing new (1)

TobyWong (168498) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179989)

amen brother!

Re:So? (1)

jaga~ (175770) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179995)

Yes but when you create a crime that is based upon expressing information and society believes it to be a repression of their rights, the media usually picks up on it a bit harder than they are now.

Re:This is nothing new (1)

jaga~ (175770) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179996)

If you stumbled upon Coca-Cola's formula and published copyrighted material like that sure you would go to jail. The same in this case, with the exception being that the law is viewed by many as being unjust. Nobody is really saying it isn't illegal (I would hope in any case) just that the situation should garner more attention for its injustices.

Re:So? (1)

jaga~ (175770) | more than 12 years ago | (#2179997)

Yes yes, your 3 step program to enlighten us has worked wonders. Amazing. Now, maybe you could explain your 3 steps in more detail like you criticized the last guy for? Or perhaps you aren't that well versed in the case either, you just read a CNN article on it last week eh?

What about (4)

sulli (195030) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180014)

yesterday's Times op-ed by Lessig? [] Pretty good, I thought. It was in Slashback too.

KQED radio (San Francisco) had a bit on the Dmitry protests today also. Are stations in other markets covering this?

Well duh. (1)

Vain (195850) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180015)

Of course he's still in jail, Jon. He broke a "law", and he's in the hands of the US Government now. Do you think they just let people out after one day? They have so many loops to jump through that it's ridiculous.

I give it another month.

Journalism is not independent enough (4)

maddogsparky (202296) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180022)

Editors worry about market share, to satisfy their bosses who worry about shareholder value, who don't really matter because the company execs have all the stock options and decision power.

Since the big news agencies answer to the same corporate masters that produce (other) copyrighted material, why would it be in their best interest to overturn a law that guarantees them more profit at the expence of the common good?

Let me say that again. Big news media is owned by big business - they don't want the DMCA overturned, so why should they report on how it is abusing the Constitution?

Maybe it's just as well (4)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180027)

Think about it : with years of brain-washing from well thinking press people and government, most computer illiterate people form the following associations in their heads nowadays :

computer savvy person == suspicious

encryption expert == suspicious

person who wrote a decryption program without governmental or corporate blessing == hacker

hacker == evil

hacker arrested by FBI == no smoke without fire, therefore the hacker must be guilty

and for many in the US :

russian == communist

communist == evil

russian hacker == evil evil

russian hacker arrested by FBI == hooray FBI for saving the free world !!!

Most likely, if Dmitri's case receives press coverage, it'll probably be something like "Evil russian hacker arrested for attacking good US corporation Adobe's interests", not "Poor bastard in jail for 2 weeks without bail hearing". So maybe it's just as well if the press doesn't talk about it (the word you're looking for by the way is "biased").

Welcome to the politically corrected corporate America ...

Too complex for Joe Average... (1)

sdo1 (213835) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180028)

Trying to explain the situation to anyone besides the most technically literate people is like talking to a wall. The press has a wider audience than techies and I suspect that even the press doesn't understand the case very well.


Not always (1)

DreamingReal (216288) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180033)

Unfortunately, they didn't seem too interested when Emmanuel Goldstein (aka Eric Corley) was hauled into court by the MPAA...


Re:So? (1)

Manitcor (218753) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180041)

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

- Martin Luther King, Jr.
'Letter from Birmingham Jail'
in Why We Can't Wait 1963

And in other news (4)

gergi (220700) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180042)

We interrupt this broadcast to bring you the latest in the Chandra Levy case... yep, she's still missing!!!

Ok, now back to this thing about a russian in jail for breaking uh, the law i guess, i'm not really sure... i think the YMCA, er, DMV is involved.

what do you want? (1)

michaelo (224201) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180044)

hey, an article in the NY Times isnt that bad, isnt it?
Here in Europe there around still around 25 or more people arrested for making culture, for protesting against capitalism. And most of the arent the big big mad bad "Black Block". They are persons expressing their opinions about globalization in a creative way.
I dont say that it is right what happens in the US with this Russiun guy. But it is a fact that this isnt such a very very big event.

Why haven't any reporters... (3)

unformed (225214) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180046)

written anything about this in the major newspapers/news shows? (I don't mean news shows on the web, I mean CNN, NBC, ABC, FOXNews, on TV; I mean the New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post, and other local and national newspapers in print)

Usually reporters are more than willing to be the first to post a story, why none here? I'm sure there are reporters who are reading Slashdot; if so, can you please reply on why your newspaper hasn't run any stories and/or if there has been any actiion by the Feds "convincing" you to not post any stories, or is it fear of gaining federal attention.

I know in my case, I've considered writing a letter to the editor regarding the DMCA and the resulting issues. However, I am definitely -not- a model citizen, and am afraid to gain attention by the FBI, and so I've kept my mouth shut, though as sson as I have the money, I'm going to try giving out flyers and such.

But regardless, if anybody out there has any *real* info on WHY the media isn't covering the case of Dmitry Skylarov or the DMCA, please inform us; I'm sure the /. community would like to know.


Re:The major news outlets are owned by big media (1)

rppp01 (236599) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180049)

I was gonna say that this makes me wish the US had a state sponsored news web site, but then I got that really creepy feeling and decided that it might not be that good of an idea. What with the DMCA and all.....

No Media Coverage? (1)

uvasmith (243291) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180053)

The NY Times ran an editorial on Sklyarov yesterday. This paper gets huge readership. What's more, the section of this post about Felton seem to be taken directly from this editorial. Shame on you JonKatz....plagiarism in an article about copyright.

Which part is this? (1)

Kengineer (246142) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180057)

Is this the first of a five part series? Please, it's important for your readers to pace themselves! I can stomach one article, but only if I know four more aren't enroute. (Part 3/5 is like hump day!)

Re:You moron. (1)

Kengineer (246142) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180058)

I get it. If a law was passed that said you must sit down to take a piss, and you were caught standing up, you would just say, "Ok. you got me."


Yeah, I'll buy a permit from the city to put up a fence on MY property. Get a fucking life.

just stand up too fast and accidently piss on them. Oops, sorry!

Woah, COOL! (5)

Kengineer (246142) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180059)

woah, did you see the end of that article?

That's a neat little scenario of abusing the DMCA the guy mentions:

Virus writers can use the DMCA in a perverse way. Because computer viruses are programs, they can be copyrighted just like a book, song, or movie. If a virus writer were to use encryption to hide the code of a virus, an anti-virus company could be forbidden by the DMCA to see how the virus works without first getting the permission of the virus writer. If they didn't, a virus writer could sue the anti-virus company under the DMCA!

Now THAT is a nifty idea. Someone's GOT to try this. Not me though, I have vacation time coming up and I'm not going to spend it in prison!

-- Kengineer

Re:So? (1)

Foss (248146) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180062)

Yes, but if it's public enough then you generally get away with it. Feminem got away with nearly shooting someone, Micro$oft got away with practically forcing people to use their software. This story isn't exactly in the public eye yet, but every geek out there should know the name Dimitry Skylarov by now. Give it time, and he'll be out again, crime or no crime.

Re:Journalism is not independent enough (1)

methodic (253493) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180065)

Wonderfully written. That pretty much sums up why you haven't seen this case in the media _at all_, except for maybe public access shows.

This reminds me of the Mitnick case.. why would any news execs care about some hacker who is locked up, especially since most execs have a very negative opinion of hackers (directly related to being misinformed).

Pardon my french.. but fuck corporate america. The only thing free about america is the oxygen.. but it wouldn't surprise me if they started taxing that too.

I think it's about time we start an OpenNEWS station. :)


Re:Well duh. (1)

methodic (253493) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180066)

Well, I for one am glad he is still in jail. Its good to see my hard-earned tax money going to a case about some kid who broke some weak encryption on PDF's, instead of going after drug smugglers, child molesters, and things of such nature.

have we lost our fucking minds?


Protection for reporters not even certain... (2)

mikethegeek (257172) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180072) 0730/aponline173608_000.htm

A reporter, Vanessa Leggett is being held without hearing, in contempt of court, at the FBI's behest, in Texas. The specifics of the charge and even the name of the JUDGE who issued the order is being kept secret, and her attorney was threatened with jail even for speaking out about it.

If we aren't over the line of federal tyrrany already, we are getting damn close.

Perhaps the lack of media coverage... (1)

MrBud (261721) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180074)

Is due to the media being unaware of the situation? It may seem farfetched, but has anyone attempted to contact the media about this matter?

Bail (2)

nanojath (265940) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180076)

I must first say, there isn't a word in this dumb-ass article that hasn't been done to death elsewhere in Slashdot. DMCA is bad, arresting Russian programmers is bad, jeezus look what happened to Felten, chilling effects on freedom. I understand that the editors of Slashdot have some kind of perverse longing to publish every word this man writes but shouldn't he be accountable to add something original to the dialog?!

Now that that's off my chest... Laws is laws and it's far from unusual for the FBI or other Feds to try out a tactic, whether its bugging a mafia son's keyboard or arresting a foreign programmer (just to make up a couple purely hypothetical examples) just to float the idea and see how it plays in court. But my question for anyone with a little real legal knowledge is, why has no bail been set? When is he going to be indicted before a grand jury? How the hell long can they keep him in that Las Vegas jail without, you know, doing something definite? Since we routinely let murderers and rapists out on the street on unjustifiably puny bails, what exactly is the danger of letting this guy out on bail while they figure out how embarassing/politically damaging it's potentially going if they wind up getting the DMCA overturned and have to apologize to Russia for detaining their citizens unjustly in the same fiscal year as it becomes clear that the FBI is basically a lending library for sensitive information and expensive gadgets? Are they afraid he's going to write some really bad code? Can't they just hold his passport if they're afraid he'll leave the country? What the hell are they up to?

Re:This is nothing new (2)

nanojath (265940) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180077)

1) What he did was more akin to publishing instructions on how one might, if they were so inclined, crack the safe that Coca-Cola's secret formula was kept in. The DMCA IS something new because it makes it illegal to create the POTENTIAL to infringe copyright. And that is very dangerous ground indeed.

2) Even allowing your imperfect analogy, consider the reverse-engineering issue. Say I take a coke and run it through the gas chromatograph and come up with a formula that's equivalent: I strongly suspect that to win a hefty lawsuit Coke would have to convincingly demonstrate that my publication of their trade secrets had caused a loss in revenue - thus would the damages be determined.

There is a term for arresting someone because you think they are going to cause a crime: it's called prior restraint and it's unconstitutional. That is just one of the reasons why the DMCA IS something new and SHOULD be thrown out.

The major media *have* been covering the story (2)

regexp (302904) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180081)

A quick search on the New York Times Web site turns up five stories since July 18, six if you count the Lawrence Lessig essay mentioned by Katz. This story maybe hasn't been covered as much as you would like, but to say that it's being grossly underreported or ignored by the news media. If you're looking for coverage of the story on the local news, don't hold your breath. They're too busy with stories about lost kittens and "news you can use." TV news ignores a lot of important stories, not just this one.

Nerd Strike (2)

MulluskO (305219) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180085)

Remember the sequel to Revenge of the Nerds? All the nerds went on strike, and there was no electric power, no gasoline, and nobody to run their computers.

If anyone out there is working on the servers that support NBCi or any of the other big media websites, next time the server crashes, just say no!

Without nerds the telephone system won't function, the U.S. will be at our mercy!

Bizarro Earth (5)

pjellis (312404) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180092)

Bizarro Earth: Where a talented engineer who has been imprisoned by a repressive USA government longs to return to Russia so he can be free. Could any of us imagined this scenario 15 years ago?

NYT had an editorial by law prof. yesterday ... (1)

Distr (324891) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180110)

Stanford law professor gave cogent reasons DMCA was broken from a purely legal perspective. Don't know if Slashdot picked up on it. But it is certainly still in the news.

Re:typical Press.. (5)

jeffy124 (453342) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180128)

Having Lessig's article in the New York Times was a step in the right direction. But question - major metropolitan newspapers receive numerous editorials, yet only a handful get published because they only dedicate a page or two toward EdOp. What newspaper publishes every editorial that comes their way?

The best thing to do would be for people to send editorials en masse to very elite papers like the Washington Post, LA Times, NY Times, etc. By having the review boards receive hundreds if not thousands of similar-sounding editorials and commentaries, they would become inclined to select the better submissions and publish them, or possibly send out reporters to find out what the news is regarding Dimitry and DMCA.

Sometimes it makes me sad (1)

absurd_spork (454513) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180129)

Sometimes it makes me sad to see what has become of America: a country that once had every right to boast of being one of the prime democracies where every citizen had his unalienable human rights now kicks its citizens squarely in the jaw.

(BTW Criminals are citizens too. And this one's crime is a bit doubtful in nature.)

Re:Sometimes it makes me sad (1)

absurd_spork (454513) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180130)

Yep, but there's some international conventions about treating them as well. The US government's track record on this is a bit doubtful; for example, there was a case quite recently of a German who was sentenced to death even though (a) his IQ was somewhere near 70 and (b) they refused him the right to contact his embassy, something clearly set down in international law.

This is another of those cases that makes me doubt whether the US government actually cares about international law / treaties / conventions at all.

Innocent until proven guilty (1)

absurd_spork (454513) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180131)

Probably conflicted with some copyright laws.

From in dubio pro reo, now we're to in dubio pro leo. (The grammar's a bit broken, I know.)

Re:Sometimes it makes me sad (1)

absurd_spork (454513) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180132)

I'd like to point out that human rights, even unalienable one, are not restricted to US citizens and that international law is quite in favor of treating him otherwise.

NY Times Op-Ed (1)

gizmo2199 (458329) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180139)

There was an Op-Ed piece yesterday in the NY Times by Lawrence Lessig.

The times isn't exactly outside the "mainstream" you know.

You can find the piece HERE [] (FrRgReq.) .

No Coverage Because No One Cares (1)

RaboKrabekian (461040) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180141)

Popular media will cover the things that will get the most attention. Few are reporting on this because, quite frankly, the majority of American people don't really care. News is newsworthy if someone's willing to buy advertising on the medium that reports it.

Re:So? (1)

davey23sol (462701) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180142)

Put your money where your mouth is, Tandonroon.

Talk about this case and EXACTLY where the law was broken. If you are going to continue to say "but he broke the law" argument, let's see if you have REALLY studied what is happening in this case.

Let's go through it point by point. Maybe THEN you can see the reasonable doubt element behind this arrest. When you have a bit of understanding about 1) The wording of the DMCA 2)The timing of the Adobe complaint 3) how jursidiction works then any resonable person can see there are major problems with how this case is being handled by the government.

If you are going to continue putting up this idiotic one line reply, let's see that you actually know what you are talking about.

Earth to medicthree (1)

MatthewLovelace (465003) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180152)

This kid broke an UNCONSTITUTIONAL law. Next time it could be you.
Matthew Lovelace Graybosch

Re:Why haven't any reporters... (2)

ednopantz (467288) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180158)

There was an opinion piece in the New York Times on (Sunday?) and an article on 18 July.

Re:No Problem (1)

EvilKen (469267) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180170)

Get a life, the guy the executed in Texas was a murdering sack of shit. The scope here is totally different. As a Canuck I would encourage the good folks of Texas to execute all of the murders they can - particularly if they are Canadian. We don't need or want them back. BTW - It's funny that you should use this example. This incident was the one time that I actually heard "W" use a snappy comeback (that made sense that is). Some dumbass Canadian reporter asked him if he thought executing this sack of shit would discourage other Canadians from visiting Texas. W replied "We would like to encourage Canadians to visit the great state of Texas, we simply ask they refrain from killing the locals while they are here".

Earth to media (1)

dan_leeds (472300) | more than 12 years ago | (#2180195)

There was a full-page report on this case in The Observer (national broadsheet UK paper) this weekend...
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