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Encryption pioneer wants code back

Philip Zimmerman wants to regain control over the encryption software he pioneered.

    While Congress debates proposed legislation that would strike down most federal restrictions on encryption exports, the most famous developer of encryption software made a deal today to get back control over the technology he pioneered.

    Philip Zimmerman is chairman and chief technology officer of Pretty Good Privacy, a company incorporated only last March. PGP announced that it has acquired Lemcom Systems, a subsidiary of which called ViaCrypt originally licensed the PGP software from Zimmerman in 1993.

    PGP's acquisition of Lemcom lets Zimmerman regain control over all existing licensing agreements just at the point when many are predicting an explosion of interest in encryption software if the ProCode encryption bill makes it through Congress and is signed by the President. The ProCode bill would eliminate current restrictions on the export and use of encryption software.

    The move is intended to bolster PGP's operations and sales presence as well as its revenue base as the recently formed company begins to bring new products to the market such as encryption software for telephony and voice communications, as well as fax, image and video communications. The company is also planning improvements to current products including a new algorithm for more secure digital signatures.

    Under the new arrangement, PGP says it will continue to sell "modified" versions of ViaCrypt's products, and those who buy now will receive free upgrades. A freeware version of PGP's email encryption software is still available from the MIT server site.

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