I thought I was post this little story thread since the other day I posted about Jack Valenti and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Daily tech calls it "the first internet riot", which I kind of like, actual substance aside. (that link is the original article, which I largely used as the source material for this post. Intellectual property that!)

Basically what happened is that Digg.com was pressured to remove articles from their service that posted information about the encryption key for HD-DVD and Blue-ray discs that was recently discovered by some clever hackers. Other people had cracked discs separately, but this guy ended up figuring out the primary key, merely through watching what his computer was doing while it was doing it. (A bit more complicated than watching your car running with the hood up, but basically the same idea.)

The primary key, in all of its hacking glory, looks like this:

09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E8 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 89 C0

That's all! Some hexadecimal values, is all. This is the primary key that makes it "impossible" to rip both formats of high-definition DVD. With this, you can upload as many copies of Walking Tall in HD to the internet as you like. Somebody was paying attention to the product, and figured out how to take it apart. (note: I've changed a couple digits so it actually NOT the code... no need to get myself in any legal troubles. Besides, you can find the actual key just about anywhere now. The point is that it is 32 characters in order.)

However, in 746869732079656172206f66206f757220696e7465726e65742032303037, (hexadecimal for "this year of our internet 2007"), posting these 32 characters through the site garnered a cease-and-desist order for Digg.com from shadowy corporate lawyer figures. The website did what any injunction-fearing website would do, and took the material off-line.

But the users responded, and 50,000 people "digged" it, (whatever that really means) and thought up perhaps childish but I still think amusing ways of replicating those malignant 32 characters in a variety of posts.

So the website--bless them, O gods of Interdome--realized that their users were angry, and caved to the only thing more powerfully than a threat of legal action: a threat of reduced hits and bad press. Now it's back up, and Digg.com is proudly saying "boo" to power.

Not a very big deal, I guess. But, it is yet another poignant example of the ridiculousness of these internet times. The DMCA makes those 32 characters illegal. Almost as stupid as prohibition, or the war on drugs (or other wars against concepts). Sure, those companies now have all their DVDs pirated. But as long as they keep inventing new technology, someone is going to figure out how it works. It's evolution, baby. This happened before with DeCSS, and that was a 1811-digit prime number. And it will happen again. Once it is discovered, there is really no point in making it illegal. Besides, you end up looking life a fool for trying to outlaw a number. You can't make a number illegal, no matter how many laws you write.

This is the new information age version of the bomb-throwing anarchist (our history lesson from yesterday). Is hacking "morally defensible?" I don't know, and frankly I don't care. But the fact is that if you have a world made of information, and some people try to manipulate that information to make money, others are going to throw a wrench in the system. Capitalism can either adapt, like it did to unions, or it can try to stop the mutating force in society with laws, only to look foolish and eventually lose. The adaptation is already happening, because being a successful hacker can often get you a six-figure salary at an internet security company.

But I just like to sit back and watch the ants dance.

No comments: