Grand jury indicts Russian programmer

A U.S. grand jury indicted previously jailed Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov and his employer Tuesday on charges of trafficking and conspiring to traffic a copyright circumvention device, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

Sklyarov, who is out of custody on bail of US$50,000, faces up to 25 years in prison and a $2.25 million dollar fine if he is found guilty of the charges handed up in the five-count indictment. His employer, Russian company ElcomSoft Co. Ltd., could be liable for a fine of $2.5 million if found guilty, according to the EFF, the civil liberties organization that has been involved in the case.

The indictment is sure to step up the debate surrounding the high-profile case, which hinges on the 1998 U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Sklyarov was arrested last month in Las Vegas for violating the DMCA after presenting material on eBook encryption at the Def Con hacker conference. The DMCA makes it a crime to traffic information, tools or software designed to circumvent copyright controls.

“Even if one were to ignore the serious legal questions involving the DMCA, this case hardy cries out for criminal prosecution,” Sklyarov’s attorney Joseph M. Burton said in a statement. “Sklyarov and ElcomSoft’s actions are not conduct that Congress intended to criminalize.”

Sklyarov and his team plan to “vigorously contest” the charges, Burton added.

Sklyarov and ElcomSoft are to be formally charged at an arraignment on Thursday, the EFF said.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, in San Francisco, can be reached at