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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

ElcomSoft: Copyright Act is Vague

SAN JOSE, California –– A Russian software firm charged with violating electronic-book copyrights in the first prosecution under the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act argued Monday that the law is overly broad and vague.

ElcomSoft Co. Ltd.'s lawyers argued before U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte that DMCA is unconstitutional and targets tools that also could be used for legitimate reasons such as making copies for personal use or making an audible copy of an e-book for a blind person. They are seeking to have the charges dismissed.

"The DMCA does not define the tools that it purports to prohibit," attorney Joseph Burton said.

The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act outlaws the creation and distribution of technology used to circumvent copyright-protection schemes.

Moscow-based ElcomSoft is charged with releasing a program that could disable copyright protections in Adobe Systems Inc.'s e-book software. It was sold over the Internet and was legal in Russia but has since been taken off the market.

The violation of the law is clear, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Sullivan. Whether the user of a software program uses it for a legitimate or illegal purpose, the seller of the product has no way of knowing, he said. "But if the seller markets it to circumvent the copyright, then they've violated the statute," he said.

Attorneys are set to return to Whyte's court April 15 for an update. Whyte could issue a ruling any time before then or delay it, attorneys said.