The jury in the ElcomSoft trial began considering its verdict yesterday after lawyers for the company made their closing arguments for defence.
The trial invokes the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act
ElcomSoft has been charged with one count of conspiracy and four counts of violating the DMCA by selling a product it developed called Adobe eBook Processor. This allowed users to disable security settings on Adobe eBook files so they could be printed, shared and viewed on various computing devices.
The case is historic, in that it marks the first time the DMCA has been tested in a criminal trial, said Cindy Cohn, legal director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital human rights group that has backed both ElcomSoft and Dmitry Sklyarov - a programmer for the company - since the start of its legal woes. Cohn attended a number of the trial hearings, though the EFF is not representing ElcomSoft in the trial.
If the jury convicts ElcomSoft on the five counts, it could face as much as $2.5 million in fines.
The DMCA is designed to prevent the distribution of technology that will allow for unsanctioned use of copyrighted materials. It has been tested in a handful of civil cases and has become a point of contention between content producers and technologists.
ElcomSoft has argued all along that its software was not designed to aid copyright infringement. For one, company executives say, the tool can provide legitimate eBook owners "fair use" of their digital files.
"This technology has good uses and it has bad uses, but they never had any intention to aid infringers," Cohn said.
Sklyarov, who developed the majority of the software for ElcomSoft, has also argued that Adobe's eBook copy protection technology is flawed. Lawyers for the government aired a deposition of Sklyarov during the trial. He testified for the defence Monday.
"He very much believes, as you will find most security professionals believe, that the way security gets better is if you test and sometimes break other people's security products," Cohn said. "He believes he was participating fully and completely in making security better."
Although ElcomSoft built the software in Russia, where it is not illegal, the company sold the software in the US beginning in June 2001, which put the case in the jurisdiction of the US courts.