Ironically enough, there’s a social network revolt being staged right now at digg.com, for the exact reasons I highlighted in my previous post. A certain set of numbers are spreading like rapid-fire across the internet. The numbers are an encryption key for HD-DVD that will let individuals watch HD-DVD’s on unsupported hardware and software, for instance on a computer running Linux.
We saw the power of social networks, like facebook, to unite individuals across the world to help the Virginia Tech community grieve. Now, we’re seeing the revolutionary power of social networks, the power to unite individuals in the common goal of fighting censorship. Yesterday, the sixteen hexadecimal numbers of the HD-DVD encryption key were posted to digg.com, and eventually rose to the top of the charts. The news of the encryption key being broken spread to other sites, such as slashdot.org and wikipedia.org. Then, digg.com and (and supposedly) google.com received cease and desist letters from the Movie Picture Association of America (MPAA). While the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) does prohibit the distribution of copyrighted content, there is no way the MPAA can copyright a random string of numbers (an encryption key would be randomly generated).
Logically, if the DMCA allowed for random strings of numbers to be copyrighted, a smart programmer would’ve already created a program that generates nearly every random number and copyrighted the whole lot of them. Alas, as there is legally no creativity in creating randomness (although, it can be argued there is), random numbers cannot be copyrighted.
Thus, when digg.com gave into the demands of the MPAA and began removing stories revolving around the encryption key (including the second most popular digg story ever) from their “for the people, by the people” site, the digg community became outraged and united to fight back against the censorship-happy digg administrators.
If you go to digg right now, you’ll see their main page has been overflown with posts about the digg censorship and the now infamous numbers. What I find most intriguing about this story is that many of the digg users were excited about this code being discovered as it now allows them to view their legally purchased HD-DVDs on their legally purchased HD-DVD drive, on an un-supported operating system. As I said yesterday, censorship and restriction do not work because people will find ways out of any cage you put them in.
I hope the MPAA and RIAA get the message that users want to be able to use their media any way they see fit on any format. The MPAA and RIAA should be able to hold copyrights on their media, but they should not prevent people from watching that media on any format they desire. If people want to watch HD-DVDs on their Linux driven computers, they will find ways to do so.
Having said all of that, hopefully this story calms down a little bit so some semblance of normalcy returns to digg. Otherwise, the internet community may have lost a great resource in the fight for fair rights usage.