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May 2007
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Routing Around Damage

Was was that old saw about the Internet considering censorship as damage and routing around it?

Someone at a forum somewhere posted the 16 digit hex key which can be used (along with appropriate other knowledge) to break the DRM protections on HD-DVDs. People of course started linking to this.

The industry association responsible for the DRM started sending out cease and desist notices not to where the “bad” information actually was (although they may also have done that) but to all sorts of sites that linked to it. This included Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing. And that started to get some attention, and so people started mirroring the information all over the place, and other people set of lists of links to the places that are mirroring it, etc.

One (or more) of those lists of mirrors got a lot of Diggs at Digg. Then, presumably afraid of take down notices, Digg moderators started removing the posts that linked to or contained that information.

Oops.

As of now (4:52 UTC on the 2nd) absolutely every story on the main page of Digg links to or contains in its descriptions or comments (or all of the above) the critical hex key. And more are being created by the minute.

And of course many many people are putting the key on their websites, in their email signatures, in their forum posting signatures… others are selling T-shirts and mugs and such with the key on it… etc, etc, etc.

The number of people who would have known or cared about this silly little piece of information was miniscule before the cease and desist notices started going out. Now, while the number of people who will actually DO ANYTHING with this little key is still small, the information itself has spread so widely and is now in so many places (and spreading by the minute) that it will be one of those memes that lives on the internet long past when it is actually useful for anything at all.

If there is some piece of information that people want, once it is out there is no longer any way to put things like this back in the bottle. And even with a piece of information that was only of interest to a very small set of people… once you start trying to quash it and hide it away… boom… you just made it interesting, and only succeeded in making sure more people see it and are aware of it than ever could have been possible otherwise.

Oh well. Too bad for the HD-DVD people.

Oh, and Digg must be hurting a bit right now too. Their site has been just completely trashed by this. Recommendation… just ignore it and it will die down in a day or two… if the mods start going on a delete fest again now, it will just get worse.

Slashdot has a story about this now too:

Digg.com Attempts To Suppress HD-DVD Revolt

“An astonishing number of stories related to HD-DVD encryption keys have gone missing in action from digg.com, in many cases along with the account of the diggers who submitted them. Diggers are in open revolt against the moderators and are retaliating in clever and inventive ways. At one point, the entire front page comprised only stories that in one way or another were related to the hex number. Digg users quickly pointed to the HD DVD sponsorship of Diggnation, the Digg podcast show. Search digg for HD-DVD song lyrics, coffee mugs, shirts, and more for a small taste of the rebellion.”

Search Google for a broader picture; at this writing, about 283,000 pages contain the number with hyphens, and just under 10,000 without hyphens. There’s a song. Several domain names including variations of the number have been reserved.

Ha.