Yesterday I participated in an anti-DMCA, free Dmitry protest in San Francisco. (I’m in the white t-shirt.) Some seven years ago, I told a friend that programmers and Internet users would one day take to the streets in protest; nothing that grows sizable can escape our government’s desire to regulate. Yesterday’s protest was the first eat-my-own-words moment I’ve had since then. It was necessary.

I took my time making this decision. I read (and re-read) the text of the DMCA, as well as the texts surrounding the Sklyarov court case. I wanted to play devil’s advocate, but I couldn’t see how. So I went.

One complaint I had about the protest: the message from the banners simply wasn’t clear. Take a look at that photo again. Every sign was different. What were we trying to say? The issue with Dmitry isn’t strictly first amendment (though it is clearly related); 1984 and big brother most certainly are not here. Richard Stallman’s speech at the federal building indicated that our right to read is being stripped away, and that reading encrypted eBooks “poisons our freedoms.” While any or all of these statements may be true — and I take issue with some of them as being quite a bit too reactionary — discussion of these issues really muddles the one and only point that needs to be expressed:

The legal precedent set by a Sklyarov conviction could prove disastrous to future innovation on the Internet. Dmitry is not a criminal, cyber- or otherwise. He must be set free.