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     July 24, 2001

Adobe e-book encryption broken

Dmitri Sklyarov broke Adobe's e-book encryption and wrote a new reader for Adobe e-books bypassing its copy protection.  His Russian employer, ElcomSoft, started selling the program over the internet in June.  On July 15, Sklyarov presented his doctoral research on e-book security at a Las Vegas conference, and was arrested the next morning for violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).  He could be punished by up to five years in prison and a $500,000 fine.   ElcomSoft and its many friends defend the software, saying it only applies to purchased e-books and allows e-book purchasers to make back-ups, exercise their fair-use rights, and keep their e-books readable when they upgrade computers.

Sklyarov's program was legal in Russia, where it was written, and would be legal in many other countries.  To many observers, then, his only mistake was to travel to the United States to present his work.  After Sklyarov's arrest, English programmer Alan Cox started warning European computer scientists working on encryption, security, or copy protection to stop holding their conferences in the U.S.

This is a fast-changing story.  Ever since ElcomSoft released Sklyarov's program in June, Adobe has pursued Sklyarov.  It got several ISPs to drop ElcomSoft, and it took its complaint to the FBI which eventually made the arrest.  But on July 23, after meeting with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Adobe withdrew its complaint and called for Sklyarov's release.  As far as I can tell, nobody has yet revealed what EFF could have said that Adobe found so persuasive.  Some of the sites listed below, including EFF's, have not yet incorporated Adobe's change of heart.

Jennifer Lee, U.S. Arrests Russian Cryptographer as Copyright Violator

Elise Ackerman, Arrest of Russian Programmer Will Test Copyright Law

Will Knight, Computer Scientists Boycott US Over Digital Copyright Law

Ditigal Millennium Copyright Act

ElcomSoft's page on its legal troubles (truncated since July 23)

Free Dmitry Sklyarov site

EZHE's Sklyarov site (EZHE is "The Community of Russian On-Line Periodicals")

Planet eBook's page the case

EFF's July 20 statement on the case

EFF's page of legal documents on the case

Praise for Sklyarov's arrest from the Association of American Publishers

Condemnation of Sklyarov's arrest from the Electronic Publishers Coalition

Adobe July 23 press release calling off the hounds

* Postscript.  Since PDF files use the same encryption as Adobe e-books, and ebrary uses PDF, my guess is that this security hole will disrupt ebrary's plan to make online scholarly books free to read but priced to copy or print.

ebrary (so far silent on this case)



* Four major academic presses (Harvard, Blackwell, Chicago, and Wiley) are working under a grant from the Mellon Foundation to design an online journal archive to solve persistent problems of accessibility and long-term preservation.  The new archive will eventually contain all 900 journals published by the four presses.  The group will work out appropriate "rules of access", which seems to entail that access will not be free.  (I should introduce the code AGTPHPSOWMIF:  Another Group Tackling the Problem How to Put Scholarship Online Without Making It Free.)

* Content ID is a content identification metadata standard promulgated by the Content ID Forum, whose members are mostly Japanese, with some from the U.S. and Korea.  The Content ID Forum is now working with the International DOI Foundation to harmonize the Content ID standard with the DOI standard.

* NISO has approved the Z39.50 standard and forwarded it to ANSI.


In other publications

* This week the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) released a report by Shanthi Kalathil and Taylor C. Boas on the ways that oppressive regimes have protected themselves from the liberalizing tendencies of the internet and actually turned its presence to oppressive ends.  Kalathil and Boas focus on China and Cuba as case studies.

CEIP summary of the report (short)

Reuters' summary of the report (short)

David Legard's summary of the report (longer)

Full-text of the report

* The July 17 _Content-Wire_ contains a brief report on East Stroudsburg University's use of Active Data Publisher, software allowing individuals and departments using ordinary word processors to post web content with a uniform institutional look and feel.

* In the July 16 _Technology Review_ Glenn McDonald gives a preview of the W3C's Annotea project, which will allow web surfers to attach comments to any web page.  The comments can only be read by other Annotea users.  Unlike Third Voice, which died in April, Annotea is open source and designed to produce user-defined metadata which can help organize, catalogue, and search the web. Annotea is part of W3C's larger Semantic Web initiative.

* In a July 12 posting to C|Net's News.com, Lisa Bowman summarizes the issues between copyright holders, who want to restrict access, and librarians, who want to widen access.  Two sidebars give succinct thumbnails of the cases and statutes that have most changed copyright law in the digital age, with annotations on where librarians have stood in each controversy.

* The Digital Heritage and Cultural Content (Digicult) program of the European Union's CORDIS has just published the results of its April meeting in Lund, Sweden,"European Content in Global Networks:  Coordination Mechanisms for Digitisation Programmes."

* Digicult has also posted an online survey on the digitization and accessibility of cultural heritage collections.  If you have a moment, share your thoughts.  It will accept responses to Round 1 of the survey until July 30.  Round 2 of the survey begins on August 20.

* In a new number of the Göttinger Bibliotheksschriften, Thomas Dreier has published his monograph-length study of the electronic use of publications in libraries.  His analysis and recommendations are based on the experience of the TECUP project.  (TECUP stands for the Testbed implementation of the European Copyright User Platform.)

* NISO has posted a helpful summary of its April 25-26 Workshop on Networked Digital Reference Services.

* Five observant web addicts (Adnan Arif, Tara Calishain, Jason Shellen, Olivier Travers, Evan Williams, and Todd Zimmerman) have launched a new weblog to monitor the rise of priced content and the fall of free content on the internet.  Very helpful even if not limited to academic literature.

* The July/August numbers of _CLIR Issues_ and _D-Lib Magazine_ are now online, but I haven't had time to mine them.


Following up

* In the last issue, I reported the federal district court decision in Random House v. Rosetta Books.  This week Random House announced that it will appeal.  During the appeal, Rosetta will not be enjoined from publishing electronic editions of books whose print rights belong to Random House.

* In the last issue, I described the University of California Press's experiment in offering the free online access to the full-text of some of its print books.  Laura Driussi, Digital Rights and Electronic Marketing Manager for the press, tells me that it hopes the free online editions will stimulate an increase in print sales, but the experiment hasn't yet lasted long enough to yield evidence one way or the other.  Meantime the experiment is supported by a grant from the Mellon Foundation.  Finally, the press will replace the eBT software now producing its e-books with something else, now that eBT has announced that it is going out of business.

* If you're interested in what I called the hijacked freeloader problem in the last issue --the problem of free content appropriated by a commercial service and used to justify its prices-- then you should know about a discussion of similar issues now taking place in a thread of the OAI-General mailing list.  Terry Kuny started the thread on July 17 with the question whether a provider of free content in an open archive could claim intellectual property rights in the content.  One reason to do so is to prevent a commercial service from taking free content from the archive and copyrighting it or selling it for a profit.  You can follow the thread here:

* In recent issues, I've been arguing that the Hague Convention on Jurisdiction and Foreign Judgments is a threat to the internet and academic freedom.  For example, online articles readable in China and offensive to the Chinese could be censored by a Chinese court, and the United States (or any other signatory nation) would be obliged to enforce the judgment.  An ongoing NY case shows that this threat can materialize even in the absence of the Hague Convention.  Essentially, journalists writing for an international web site and a Mexican newspaper identified a Mexican banker as a drug lord.  The banker sued the journalists for libel in a NY court.  Quoting the Electronic Frontier Foundation's amicus brief for the defense:  the court should not allow "foreign plaintiffs to forum shop abusively, subjecting online, independent journalists to foreign laws and distant forums that will chill the Internet's free press."  If it can happen to journalists, it can happen to scholars.

Mark Anderson, NetReporting at Stake

NarcoNews page on the case

(Note that the Sklyarov case above also has some of these elements.  Sklyarov wrote the program in Russia and his Russian employer sold it over the internet.  If U.S. law prohibits what the program does --in this case, bypassing encryption--, then does that give the U.S. jurisdiction to prosecute the programmer?  What if Sklyarov had not entered the U.S. to present his work?)



If you plan to attend one of the following conferences, please share your observations with us through our discussion forum.

* Biological Research with Information Extraction & Open-Access Publications
Copenhagen, July 26

* International Summer School on the Digital Library
Tilburg, Holland, August 5-10

* The International Cultural Heritage Informatics Meeting http://www.archimuse.com/ichim2001/index.html
Milan, September 3-7

* 5th European Conference on Research and Advanced Technology for Digital Libraries
Darmstadt, September 4-8

* DELOS Workshop on Interoperability in Digital Libraries
Darmstadt, September 8-9

* Experimental OAI Based Digital Library Systems
Darmstadt, September 8

* Preserving Online Content for Future Generations
Darmstadt, September 8

* International Autumn School on the Digital Library and E-publishing for Physics, Astronomy and Mathematics
Geneva, September 9-14

* Digital Libraries:  Advanced Methods and Technologies, Digital Collections
Petrozavodsk, September 11-13

* EBLIDA Workshop on the Acquisition and Usage of Electronic Resources
The Hague, September 28


This is the Free Online Scholarship Newsletter (ISSN 1535-7848).

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Peter Suber

Copyright (c) 2001, Peter Suber

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