Remember Adobe Systems? They are the folks who used the DMCA to bring
about the arrest of Dmitry Sklyarov and the whole Elcomsoft case. Adobe
has now found out that the DMCA, like software patents, can cut both ways.
TrueType fonts include a couple of bits stating whether the font may be
embedded in documents or not. Tweaking these bits has been taken, by font
companies, as "circumvention" in the past, and the DMCA invoked in attempts
to shut down distribution of useful tools. See, for example, the history of
the dispute regarding the simple "embed" program. In the case of embed,
the program's author has resisted, and the program is still available on the net.
It turns out now, however, that Adobe's Acrobat software is capable of
ignoring the "do not embed" bits at times. Adobe claims that things work
this way because the company has secured a contractual right to distribute
the fonts in question within PDF documents. Font producers ITC and Agfa
Monotype disagree, and have invoked the DMCA. Acrobat, it seems, is a
Adobe has taken the
offensive and gone to court to secure its rights to the fonts and to be
freed of the DMCA charges. The company could have an interesting battle on
its hands, however. Adobe may well be within its rights when it claims
that embedding of the fonts is legal. But the DMCA makes no exceptions for
"circumvention" which enables the exercise of existing rights. Adobe has
no sympathy for those wanting to use Elcomsoft's eBook processor to
exercise their fair use rights against electronic books. There is no
reason to believe that Acrobat should be treated differently.
There is a certain sense of poetic justice in watching Adobe take this
fall. But the use of laws like the DMCA to prevent legitimate activities
is wrong, no matter who the victim is. Every one of these actions makes us
all a little less free. It appears that Adobe's rights (and those of its
customers) are being violated here; we should be just as willing to
challenge the excesses of the DMCA in this case as in others.
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