Elcomsoft acquitted

Jury: Company did not know it was violating the DMCA

The trial of Russian software company Elcomsoft ended yesterday with an acquittal. The jury found that Elcomsoft’s actions did not constitute a preexisting violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The impact of the decision on other DMCA cases is disputed.

After three days of deliberations, the jury in San Jose, California, yesterday returned a verdict of not guilty.

The decision was based on the fact that the members of the jury found no evidence of a premeditated violation of the DMCA. Elcomsoft offered a program called Advanced Ebook Processor for sale over the Internet in the summer of 2001. At the instigation of Adobe, a case was then brought against the company (Dmitry Sklyarov accused). After the decision was announced, members of the jury told the press that the program itself had been found illegal by the jury. But they did not believe that a company would knowingly distribute an illegal product that could mean ruin for them.

The case against Elcomsoft was the first criminal trial fought on the basis of the controversial DMCA (burglar tool or DMCA coffin nail?) Whether the case will have far-reaching implications for other DMCA lawsuits is questionable, however, since the jury did not fundamentally challenge the law.

However, one member of the jury told Cnet News that they found the law confusing and could well imagine that the managers of a Russian company would not fully understand it. In a first reaction, EFF lawyer Fred von Lohmann was optimistic:

"Today’s jury decision sends a strong message to law enforcement officials who want to jail program creators simply because copyright holders don’t like their programs."

As this was a criminal case, there is no possibility for the prosecution to appeal the decision.

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