CKL's HotSheet (unpublished)

August 7, 2001

I don't care about Dmitry Sklyarov.

That's right, you heard me.

I don't give a shit about Mr. Sklyarov,
who was picked up by the FBI two weeks ago after giving a talk at the
hacker convention known as Defcon.

I don't give a flying fuck about Mr. Sklyarov,
who was arrested on charges (instigated by the Adobe Systems, who has
since retracted their complaint) that he had violated the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA.

I really couldn't care less about Mr. Sklyarov,
who is free on $50,000 bail but
whose Russian passport is being held by the United States government
pending his trial.

I don't know Dmitry Sklyarov.  Why should I care about him?

The DMCA, on the hand, is a different matter.

I do not believe, as some reporters seem to think, that Dmitry Sklyarov is
the computer geek's equivalent of Mumia Abu-Jamal.  The latter may have
been railroaded by the system, but I believe that Mr. Sklyarov walked into
this with his eyes wide open.

He was a programmer *presenting* at a *hacker* convention, for crying out
loud.  He had reverse-engineered a commercial encryption scheme and he was
telling people exactly how he'd done it.  He was plugged in to the geek
community.  He must have known about the DMCA and the whole DeCSS fiasco.
And if he didn't, well, he's a complete moron and I have no sympathy.

However, I don't think he's a moron.  I think Mr. Sklyarov knows exactly
what he's doing.  I think he knows he's going to be a test case for the
DMCA, and I think he's okay with being "trapped" in sunny San Jose.

I do have some sympathy for Mr. Sklyarov's plight.  But the thing that
really annoys, irritates, and disappoints me is how a great majority of
the "Free Dmitry" crowd keep mentioning that he's got a young wife and two
small children back in Russia who love him and miss him and just want him
to come home.  Boo fucking hoo.

It bothers me that the same people arguing against the DMCA with reason
and logic would stoop so low as to stab others in their bleeding hearts.

Dmitry Sklyarov is in jail because he broke the law.  Whether the law is
constitutional and prosecutable, doesn't matter.  Whether the accused has
a family, doesn't matter.  If we're going to start judging people based on
how cute their children are-- if we're going to disregard the judicial
system in favor of irrational, emotional appeals to the lowest common
denominator-- we should just *bomb* ourselves back to the Stone Age
instead.  It would be a lot less painful.

You want a martyr?  Try Kevin Mitnick.  Dmitry Sklyarov is nothing.
Forget Dmitry Sklyarov.  He's not a political prisoner.  He's a hacker who
ran afoul of new law.  What happens to him is contigent upon how the
courts and the general public deal with the DMCA.  If you really care
about this case, you'll stop passing around baby pictures and start
reading up on the new wave of copyright and intellectual property laws.

I believe the DMCA will be struck down.  Maybe not today, maybe not
tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of the Information Age.  The problem
with the DMCA is that it's unilateral.  It assumes that copyright holders
will not build excessively restrictive controls into their devices.  It
also insinuates that most people are dirty crooks who take every
opportunity to steal whatever they can, and who are barely held in check
by the threat of imprisonment or fine.


Anyway, we can't prevent new technologies from being invented.  We can
only legislate their use.  The DMCA ignores this by making it illegal to
even *create* "circumvention" technology.  It doesn't distinguish between
hacking a poorly encrypted, digital copy of a public-domain work like
"Alice in Wonderland" and hacking into a hospital database to steal
patient records.  It doesn't separate motive from means, and that's just
plain stupid.

It's clear that the lawmakers don't understand modern technology.  Their
views have been tainted by bad analogies (hello, "information
superhighway") and a computer industry that changes faster than Clark Kent
in a phone booth.
We've got to help them understand.
Singing songs and carrying signs ain't
gonna do it.  If you're still reading this, chance are you're a geek who
cares about this shit.  You're smart.  So put that brain to use.  Do
something more useful than playing video games and finding online

Finally, here's something that should *really* scare you.

The California Supreme Court just ruled that a gun manufacturer-- in this
case, Navegar Inc., makers of the TEC-DC9-- cannot be sued by victims or
families when the manufacturer's guns are use illegally.  The court ruled
five to one that the criminal conduct of a gunman who killed nine people,
including himself, was not a result of the gun manufacturer's legal

So there you have it, folks: we live in a country where it's okay to own
the tools of murder, but not to write a computer program that 

God help America.