May 2, 2007 2:46 PM PDT

Digg in tough spot with DMCA debacle

It was a whirlwind Tuesday for the social news site Digg, complete with a cease-and-desist letter, a mutinous user base and speculation that it might get sucked into a legal battle.

In a blog post Tuesday afternoon, Digg CEO Jay Adelson wrote that the company was pulling down a number of news stories pertaining to a cracked HD DVD encryption key that could circumvent the digital rights management (DRM) restrictions on the media discs.

The reason, he said, was a cease-and-desist letter on behalf of the Advanced Access Content System (AACS), the consortium with ownership rights to the key that had been cracked. The organization cited Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which concerns the spread of information pertaining to DRM breaking. By including stories that linked to the key, the letter argued, Digg was breaking the law.

AACS representatives did not return requests for comment.

At first, there was no indication that pulling the stories would turn into the brouhaha it became. Digg, after all, is no stranger to cease-and-desist letters. "We've received a lot of notices in the past from all different companies," Digg founder Kevin Rose said in a telephone interview Wednesday with CNET News.com. The site has pulled stories related to everything from piracy to pornography to hate speech. "We receive anywhere from seven (thousand) to 10,000 new stories a day, so there's always something that pops up every couple of weeks," Rose said.

Additionally, Digg was not the sole target of the letter, Rose said. "A bunch of different sites have been getting these takedown notices," he said. The Web site Chilling Effects, for example, posted a copy of the same letter, which was also sent to Google concerning appearances of the key on blogs hosted on Google's Blogger platform.

Photos: Legal fights over digital rights

The Conde Nast-owned Reddit, a direct competitor to Digg, also received the cease-and-desist letter last week. "At the time, we complied with the takedown," said Kourosh Kharimkhany, general manager of Wired Digital, the Conde Nast division that operates Reddit. "An argument could be made that the number was still obscure (at that point) and that the secret could still be protected. In other words, they made a reasonable request, so we complied."

Kharimkhany confirmed that Reddit is no longer blocking story submissions or comments because he believes it's unreasonable for the AACS to try to keep the lid on it. "There's something like 56,000 search results on Google (for the key), so their secret is definitely out." The controversy appears to have left Reddit unscathed.

But the story was different at Digg. Its user base, notoriously opinionated and used to a community-run atmosphere with very little editorial control, revolted. "The Digg community is one that loves to have their voice heard, and this has been something that struck a chord with them," Rose said.

Members rebelled against what they saw as unnecessary censorship, flooding the site with submissions and comments containing the cracked key to the point where not a single one of Digg's top-ranked technology stories didn't pertain to the issue. And it reached beyond Digg, too. The HD DVD key made appearances in numerous blog and forum posts, Twitter messages and Photoshopped images all over the Internet.

In a blog post Tuesday night, Rose bowed to his site's readers. "After seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you've made it clear," he wrote. "You'd rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company...effective immediately we won't delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be." Rose even stressed his solidarity with the membership by posting the key in the title of his post.

CONTINUED: No plans to alter terms of use…
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17 comments

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This what you get when you claim freedom and democracy and yet censor us
09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 88 C0
Posted by Jazarus (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 88 C0
your welcome
Posted by Jazarus (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
...you forgot the 0x hex notation ;)
...what? Saves a couple of keystrokes already... :)

/P
Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Link Flag
The Story is over 2 Months Old!
Amazingly, Digg still has comments and links that contain the illicit line of code dating back to late February, but only now are they violating their own ToS and breaking the law!

Full story at: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://allsux.com" target="_newWindow">http://allsux.com</a>
Posted by derami (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not just a matter of publishign a number ...
So what is next, publishing other's social security number and bank account numbers because we don't like them? It's not a matter of copyright and numbers as some have argued, it's the information and the context. See
<a href="http://www.realtime-websecurity.com/articles_and_analysis/2007/05/the_digg_meltdown_censorship_a.html">http://www.realtime-websecurity.com/articles_and_analysis/2007/05/the_digg_meltdown_censorship_a.html</a>
for more on that line of thought.
Posted by dsblk (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Heh - damned near every geek website has it
...good luck &gt;:)

PS: Since when did that small a string of numbers become copyrighted, anyway?

/P
Posted by Penguinisto (5042 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Actually you cannot copyright numbers
that is why Intel changed the 586 chip into the Pentium chip, because Intel learned that they cannot copyright a number, but they can copyright a name. Pent means five in another language, and then they added ium to it.

The numbers cannot be copyrighted; however, the machine code they translate into can be copyrighted. That is the way the decryption key looks like in hex display in a computer memory bank. You just enter those codes into a debugger or assembly language program and it gets converted into machine code or into assembly language code.
Posted by Orion Blastar (590 comments )
Link Flag
Noam Chomsky smiles on you!
These people do not want to be sheep.
Posted by inachu (963 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is no surprise
Digg's issues are sure insignificant compared to the legal challenge Google's YouTube faces in a $1 billion lawsuit by media conglomerate Viacom, but I doubt if Google would lose.

Copyright violations on community driven sites has become the norm. Users love to get censored or free information and the site owners thrive on circulating such information. This is no surprise.

Popularity of a site as of today, is based on numbers, no longer on quality. No wonder even sites like BBC and presidential candidates are forced to go to YouTube.
Posted by mandarinmusing (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Kudos Kevin!
I have to give Kevin a big hand for standing up and saying, 'come on...' Transparency is taking over. Are you ready?
Posted by lonny paul (52 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is like the DeCSS code
that got posted all over the Internet that cracked the DVD copy protection CSS and allowed Linux F/OSS software to play DVDs.

Eventually 2600 magazine published the crack, and then got hit <a href="http://www.2600.com/news/view/article/19">with a lawsuit to remove it and remove all links to it</a> and 2600 had displayed a text file with URLs to places on the Internet that the code could be found, using a loophole around the law as users could copy and paste those URLs in their web browsers.

I think the 2600 case will be used as a reference for the HD-DVD case, because both had the decryption code posted on the Internet.

The DMCA is unfair because there is no "fair use" clause that allows a person or organization to use copyrighted material for paradoy, education, or non-profit use like the old copyright act had in it. Our founding fathers must be turning over in their graves if they knew just how the MPAA has taken away the rights and freedoms of the US citizens with the DMCA and the government working with the MPAA and RIAA to take away rights and freedoms from the citizens.

The Genie was let out of the bottle, but now it cannot be put back into the bottle.

Haven't the MPAA and RIAA learned yet that for every DRM system they invent that takes away rights and freedoms that someone somewhere will find a way to break it?

The alternative is to offer DRM-less media at lower prices, so there is less need to pirate it in the first place. Prices are high in the first place because they added on the R&#38;D costs of creating the DRM technology.
Posted by Orion Blastar (590 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's Our Fault
It's everyone's fault that we have to deal with media that doesn't all us to make a backup copy in the event the kid spills jelly on the disc. If we all simply refused to buy copy-protected media in the first place, the powers to be would have to mend their ways. But will "we the sheeple" ever break our media addiction enough to take a month and not buy protected media as well as equipment with copy-protecting features? Let 'em see a precipitous drop in sales on a given month.
Posted by spruceman (38 comments )
Link Flag
But, AACS published the number
AACS published the number in the C&#38;D letter. Those are public record, they are a legal document. They no longer have any room to stand on.
Posted by bemenaker (438 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So then maybe Blue-Ray is the standard now
The studios will probably not like having their content on a platform that has already been cracked.
For the 131 people that bought HD-DVD players, you may want to stop buying disks for it and buy a Blue-Ray player.

BTW - The DMCA and anybody that uses it is no different than the KGB.
Posted by fred dunn (793 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So then maybe Blu-Ray is perfect now
The 132 people who bought Blu-Ray (not Blue-Ray) players will just have to wait a few months anyway for it to be cracked (again).
Posted by Fil0403 (1303 comments )
Link Flag
So then maybe Blu-Ray is perfect now
The 132 people who bought Blu-Ray (not Blue-Ray) players will just have to wait a few months anyway for it to be cracked (again).
Posted by Fil0403 (1303 comments )
Link Flag
 

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