Digg and AACS

If the New York Times is reporting the story, then it must be safe to link.  To the Times, that is.

As every geek on the Internet knows by now, over the last couple of days Digg.com has been at the center of a major happening:  a 128-bit processing key — that is, a number — that is used to unlock encrypted video content in HD-DVD and BluRay made its way onto the Internet, and from its initial publication was pushed by Digg users onto the Digg site (which aggregates referrals made by users) — as to which the masters of AACS, the encryption scheme threatened by distribution of the key — made legally threatening noises.  Digg removed the content, but DiggNation, that is, Digg users who pushed links to the key onto the site in the first place, revolted.  Now the key is all but omnipresent online, and Digg has retreated in the face of the user outcry.  The AACS lawyers are considering what to do next.

Wired has a collection of photos that represent the key. 

Randy Picker at the University of Chicago has some thoughts on the situation and the role of civil disobedience.

Wired interviews Digg’s CEO.

Ed Felten provides useful technical background:  Here, and here, and most recently here.

What is the real story here?

(i) Anti-DRM anxiety finally finds a mass audience?

(ii) Web 2.0 comes of age; answering the question “who is the exploited and who is the exploiter” gets both easier and more challenging; power to the people?

(iii) electronic civil disobedience, i.e., a revolt by the mob?

(iv) the inextricable intertwining of art, speech, communication, and technology?

Presumably, some pieces of each.

6 thoughts on “Digg and AACS

  1. Mike, re: (i), what’s the evidence of “mass audience”? As far as I can tell, the “revolt” here is limited to the usual suspects.

  2. Bruce,

    There are at least two levels of “suspects” involved, I think: one, there are folks who are themselves posting the key and/or posting representations of the key; and two, there are folks who are digg’ing the sites with the key and/or with the representation. We only have a couple of days’ worth of information, and it’s completely unanalyzed, but it strikes me as plausible that group (ii) consists in part of an anti-DRM crowd that was previously mostly silent. Also, my speculation is aimed partly at the readership for stories in the popular press: What is the New York Times covering, and for whom?

    Mike

  3. I may be reacting to the word “finally,” which I interpreted to mean something like, “finally it’s more than just the computer geeks and law professors that are becoming anxious about DRM!” But so far I don’t see this story becoming bigger or substantially different than, e.g., the DeCSS story or the Sony BMG rootkit affair. I.e., it’s deja vu all over again.

    Back in the Dark Ages — the year 2000 — there was a mob effort to put up free web pages to host DeCSS. (Ah, the glory days of the Internet bubble, when websites were free for the asking.) Anyway, 2600.com then constructed a linked index of those pages, which was the source of the linking injunction in Universal City Studios v. Corley. The New York Times had stories about that, too. The twist here is that the users themselves can now construct a mirror page collaboratively; but otherwise it’s the same phenomenon, it seems to me.

  4. “Finally” may have been a poor word choice and even some projection on my part. Such are the perils of posting while on the way out the door to a faculty meeting.

    The DeCSS analogy is the right one, and it raises a Wealth of Networks question. Do the two situations represent differences in kind, in scale, in organization of the means of production — or no difference at all?

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