May 2, 2007

I’ve been watching the debate going on over at digg.com. The basic back story? Last year, a utility was written by somebody under the pseudonym “muslix64” which would decode HD-DVDs and back them up, if provided with the decryption keys for the disc. The utility did not provide the codes to the user, so it’s not illegal as such. “Muslix64”, however, also later revealed the encryption keys to certain HD-DVD titles. Circulation of these is illegal, because the US doesn’t believe it can make money from allowing people to back up or otherwise freely copy freely their media (roll out standard acronyms of hate here: DCMA, MPAA, RIAA, etc). Later, links to HD-DVD encryption keys were posted on digg.com; Digg subsequently received a cease & desist from the AACS, and obeyed. But the community railed against this, overwhelming the admins of Digg with the volume of resubmitted related posts. Thus, Digg has relented, and will not remove any more of posts. The Digg-related, part of this story flared up very quickly indeed.

What does this mean? I’m not sure. Perhaps nothing, provided nobody does anything.

  • Digg can’t do anything. If they start deleting links again, the userbase will become very angry indeed. Given their statement that they will keep these links, to do anything else now would be cowardice and would surely lose the respect of many users.
  • The lawyers can’t do anything. Digg attracts around 1% of US internet traffic, if the BBC News is to be believed, and that’s a lot of traffic. Consider that most traffic is porno or Bittorrent; to mark up 1% of data transfer on a low-graphics site is impressive. If Digg got shut down, things would be really, really, messy. And, by messy, I mean potentialy violent. People have been annoyed at the ever-increasing powers of the media industry for long enough that I’m actually not joking.

Perhaps the lawyers representing the companies who developed AACS (including the big evil itself, Disney) will be required to chase this like a dog on a rag. If they do, it’ll be a PR disaster for somebody given that this is now hitting the mainstream press.