Last week Digg experienced what was probably its first user revolt. The cause, a hex code that breaks HD-DVD encryption that Digg took down due to a cease and desist order.
When a story containing the hex code that breaks the HD-DVD encryption was posted on Digg, the Digg post itself containing the code, Digg received a cease and desist order to remove the offending stories. Digg complied because a cease and desist order is just that and order. As a result, the user community on Digg revolted posting several stories to the hex code and then promoting them to the front page. At one point, the entire front page of Digg consisted of nothing but stories pertaining to this hex code. Eventually Kevin Rose, the creator of Digg posted a blog stating “we hear you” and announced that Digg would no longer remove any stories pertaining to the HD-DVD code. He also said that even though it might mean Digg gets closed down due to lack of complying with “cease and desist” orders.
It seems there is some debate on whether or not a website should comply with a “cease and desist” order. In my opinion, they should. There comes a point where something is censorship and when it is compliance. The issue here is that it is a little of both, but not on Digg’s part. Digg was just trying to comply with a court order. The AACS folks were practicing censorship. Digg complied with the censorship on the grounds that it could cost a lot of good people their jobs if they did not and while I admire Kevin Rose’s stance on the issue, I believe that as a major owner in company it is in his best interest to ensure the longevity of Digg. That means, unfortunately, complying with court orders.
I do not believe in censorship on the internet, at least not forced censorship. I am totally okay with self censorship in any form, and even practice it myself on this website. I have two issues with content protection. The first is that a lot it violates what little fair-use still exists in copyright law. I should be able to watch my HD movie on any device I own without any issue. The second is that the DMCA here in the United States has made the reverse engineering of content protection encryption technologies illegal. I do not agree with this mentality, nobody wins with this method. For one, somebody is going to crack the encryption, it is not a question of “if” but rather “when” and two someone cracking the technology requires more work to only make it better. If we are consistently improving our technology, explain to me the bad side of that. By forcing the take down of the hex code, the groups involved are contributing to censorship and chipping away at free speech and a free internet. Censoring the hack only causes more people to learn about it in the long run because you bring it to everyone’s attention. It can be kept under wraps better by just letting it be. Since the new HD content protection works with moving keys, someone posting a single key is really not going to hurt anything anyway because you can just add a new key to the discs and instruct the player to add that key to its list of working keys.
Overall, it is a bad move to force a site to remove content, because in this day of electronic media it will not take long for others to find out and cause an uproar. The quicker companies and organizations learn this, the better off they are going be long term. Also, if they would also realize that only about 5% of the population is going to care about the cracks and encryption breaks, and of that 5% only about 1% are going to do something about it, they could realize that all this content protection is pretty idiotic.