All your hex are belong to Digg

Mikey 13 comments
All your hex are belong to Digg

If you weren't on Digg today, you missed a small piece of history in the making. At around midday today (WAST), Digg users revolted against the very site they subscribe to by posting cryptic (and not so cryptic!) links to the recently discovered HD-DVD decryption key.

The reason behind the revolt starts with first understanding the predicament (regarded as one of the best technology news sites in the world) were in.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) recently sent ‘cease and desist orders' to Digg and other web site owners including Google among many. They insisted that any blogs, posts or articles that reveal or link to information regarding the HD-DVD decryption key be taken down. This was a misguided attempt to control the spread of the information surrounding the keys release, which they view as a significant threat to their anti-piracy policy.

When stories started surfacing on Digg yesterday, Digg co-founder Jay Adelson made on the , admitting that they were deliberately removing stories to comply with the MPAA request.

"We've been notified by the owners of this intellectual property that they believe the posting of the encryption key infringes their intellectual property rights. In order to respect these rights and to comply with the law, we have removed postings of the key that have been brought to our attention."

Before anyone could say "09-f9-11-02-9d-74-e3-5b-d8-41-56-c5-63-56-88-c0", the users revolted at the censorship, and suddenly the entire Digg homepage was filled with nothing but stories about the decryption key. By the time you read this article the front page may still be the same, but if not, I took earlier.

In among all the chaos, as if it were a united global stance against censorship, the key started appearing all over the internet in many forms. One guy recorded called "" and placed it on Youtube. Another registered the domain name, and some people starting placing the dubious sequence in unexpected physical locations, like and .

Mixed feelings between users were apparent, and at different times during the day the Digg web site became either unavailable or offline. And then the unexpected happened. Digg founder Kevin Rose , over-ruling .

"Today was an insane day. And as the founder of Digg, I just wanted to post my thoughts...We had to decide whether to remove stories containing a single code based on a cease and desist declaration. We had to make a call, and in our desire to avoid a scenario where Digg would be interrupted or shut down, we decided to comply and remove the stories with the code...But now, after seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you've made it clear. You'd rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we won't delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be. If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying."

Rose was stuck between a rock and a hard place, on one hand a guy with a loathing for Internet censorship, and the other hand the responsibility of keeping a legitimate business out of the sights of cranky lawyers. But with that, Digg was online again, hex key glory behold.

The MPAA clearly stuffed up by trying to censor the Internet, which had the completely opposite effect they had hoped for. It will be interesting to see how Digg's defiance rubs them.

Update: Kevin Rose sticks to his guns in this brief interview. Check this video.

Update 02: Digg might be in more than they think, as it's now clear they are going against the advice of their lawyers. Jay Adelson (CE) said:

"We just decided that it is more important to stand by our users."

Update 03: The key will be taken out of circulation, and a new one released with this announcement:

"it has taken action, in cooperation with relevant manufacturers, to expire the encryption keys associated with the specific implementations of AACS-enabled software"

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Wednesday 2nd May 2007 | 09:45 PM

It's ironic, isn't it? People that are intent on copyright infringement, intellectual property theft, and circumventing other individuals' right to earn an honest living are always the first ones to scream "CENSORSHIP!!!" when someone else steps in and denies them the voice, or means, to break the law.

How many criminals would we hold in our jails...if they were all afforded the same privilege of crying foul and alleging censorship of their "God-given right" (ala internet crusaders) to commit the criminal acts they did? This kind of thing gets my back up -- the magnitude of difference in the crime may be vast, but committing a criminal offense is still committing a criminal offense no matter what angle you look at it from. The individual is still impinging on another's right to an honest and/or successful existence...

A sad reflection on modern society indeed that this was considered "news-worthy" or "history in the making"; it's really just an electronic revision of the old "laws were made to be broken" adage adopted by people who fail to see that there is a level of accountability and responsibility for their own actions...

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Wednesday 2nd May 2007 | 10:03 PM

The reason it was newsworthy is because Digg is all about the freedom to post links to news and information all of which are posted by the public, not the web site admins. And it is the people who decide if the story is newsworthy or not buy 'digging' or 'burying' the story. More 'diggs' puts the story higher on the site, 'buries' force it down. Again this is all decided by the public, not the web admins.

What is amazing is that the admins stepped in and started censoring even though they had no legal obligation to do so. It falls under the same umbrella as all those torrent web sites that are immune to the law because they only provide links to copyright infringing content as opposed to serving the files.

Digg is the same, the only provide links to news stories and can never be held accountable for what the public deems newsworthy.

It doesn't matter what the content of that story is, be it something lame about cats or something interesting like the hd-dvd decryption key. It's not the public's job to keep that information safe once it is leaked. Trying to stop people from blogging about it is censorship and it violates their freedom of speech rights.

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Wednesday 2nd May 2007 | 10:16 PM

It may suck that the MPAA's secret is out. Millions of dollars worth of IP compromised within a nanosecond. But last time I checked we were not in China. And the public didn't sign any confidentiality agreement. MPAA f*cked up pure and simple, and they made it worse by sending the lawyers in to take away the peoples first amendment rights.

This was a natural revolt, and it would have happened anywhere else if the situation was the same. Except China or South Korea perhaps :-) Try to take away somebody's rights, you better be prepared for the retaliation.

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Wednesday 2nd May 2007 | 10:31 PM

From what I can tell no laws were broken here. The guy who broke the encryption algorithm is probably guilty of something but the people reporting and discussing it didn't break any laws.

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Wednesday 2nd May 2007 | 11:01 PM

Well, I could understand all this hoo-hah about the MPAA and first amendment rights etc etc blah blah blah...if I were American, but I am not - nor do I live in a country under the jurisdiction of the US & A (thank you, Mr. Baron-Cohen).

I am an Australian living in Australia and thereby governed by the Australian Bill of Rights and held accountable to Australian regulatory and judiciary bodies (last time I checked, the American Constitution governed US citizens and they alone). But hey...whatever floats your boat!

People are intrinsically permitted the luxury of harbouring an opinion (even those in the Republic of Korea, btw, which is a democratic society - maybe North Korea was the country meant as an example above?) and that stated prior by me was just that, my opinion. Whether people agree or not is their right - at least I respect that, even if I don't always agree... ;)

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Thursday 3rd May 2007 | 08:10 AM

Oops! Yes I said South - meant North Korea.
Ah, but the take-down notices were issued by an American company and sent to other American companies (Digg, Google etc...) hence the reference to the first amendment rights hoo-haa. As mentioned If this were happening in a communist society, or of this were happening to some piss-ant insignificant web companies, it probably wouldn't even make the evening news. But we are talking Google and Digg, and in an society where freedom of speech is a given right, it is amazing when an attempt is made to take that right away on such a large scale.

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Thursday 3rd May 2007 | 09:16 AM

Well, while I back-peddle somewhat over my assertion that Australia has a Bill of Rights (it does not), I will strongly disagree with the statement that "freedom of speech is a given right" -- it is not so much a "given right" as a "luxury we are afforded", albeit with its own set of limitations. "Free" society is not nearly so free as we would like to think that it is...

Some good reading on the subject can be found below...

...whereupon it is made plain as day that "freedom of speech" isn't quite as free as we would like to think that it is.

It is interesting to see that, even under the conventions of the US's First Amendment of its Constitution, that there are exceptions to freedom of speech -- and those exceptions include copyright protection as well as regulation of "commercial speech"...which undoubtedly this event would fall under.

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Thursday 3rd May 2007 | 10:03 AM

As a long time Digg member and contributor I was gutted when I found the hd-dvd 'stories' were being buried on purpose. We don't take kindly to our freedom of speech rights being violated in any manner. As michael wrongly pointed out freedom of speech is one of our rights and its never referred to as one of our luxuries just because its written in the constitution. But it doesn't apply to everything as he said like if you were to divulge national security secrets or something like that then there would be cause for alarm. In this case though the hd-dvd key was ALREADY OUT THERE and the mpaa's are just annoyed because digg and google put a spotlight on it. The most curious part is they didn't even bother going after the guy who cracked the code! The same guy who will probably crack the next generation of media protection!! Instead they said hey we are above the fucking law so lets just try to put a gag on everyone instead.

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Thursday 3rd May 2007 | 10:05 AM

I offer this for your consideration..

This is the same company that sues and destroys innocent people/families without any evidence.

I say this is beautiful Karma in action at its best.

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Thursday 3rd May 2007 | 10:17 AM

Hey everyone - see some updates to the situation at the end of the article.

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Thursday 3rd May 2007 | 10:25 AM founder Drew Cutris is faced with a similar situation, but unlike Digg has backed down with">good reason.

We're not a silicon valley venture-capital funded behemoth startup. Fark is self-funded and run out of my living room. They have parties with limos and live bands out there, while here in Kentucky I get pretty excited when I find a new bourbon at the store around the corner.

Fark isn't in a financial position to stand up and take on the DMCA/MPAA/WTFOMG in a head to head legal battle, they'll crush us into fine paste. I can however say with confidence that the DMCA is a load of crap, the MPAA and their attorneys are douchebags, and someone needs to take them down. More power to Digg, if we can help we will. We just can't take point on this one. Digg has millions of VC dollars in their bank account, they're in a much better position than us to take this one on. Go gettum guys.

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Thursday 3rd May 2007 | 10:42 AM

What annoys me is in the US we have a fair use provision in copyright law that says its legal to make backup copies of any legally bought content you own as long as you do not share it with others. But the MPAA make it near impossible for us to do that!

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Wednesday 9th May 2007 | 10:58 PM

Shouldn't the tile be "All your base^16 are belong to us"


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