Chad Perrin: SOB

2 May 2007

the HD-DVD fiasco — short version

Filed under: Geek,Liberty — apotheon @ 03:51
  1. A 128-bit key was discovered that “unlocks” HD-DVD’s DRM. It was published widely on the Internet.
  2. References to this key, and the key itself, appeared all over the place, including on a T-shirt. Digg users started digging stories related to the key.
  3. Digg, which was concerned about lawsuits (probably related to both copyright and DMCA encryption cracking) and also received advertising money from HD-DVD purveyors, started censoring diggs that included the verboten key.
  4. The Digg community revolted, inundating Digg with secondary references to the key, instructions on how to get it, stories about Digg’s censorship, and so on.
  5. Digg shut down submissions, essentially rebooting the community.
  6. A bunch of Digg users migrated to reddit, at least temporarily.
  7. Digg founders gave in to pressure from the community, and started allowing people to digg HD-DVD key items. Co-founder Kevin Rose says that the community wants Digg to go down fighting, so that’s what it’ll do. He seems pretty certain Digg won’t survive the legal attention.
  8. Meanwhile, Reg Braithwaite issued a challenge: write a program that produces the HD-DVD key without containing the key. That means, among other things, that the program must be legal to pass around to others regardless of any copyright restrictions on the key itself.
  9. Someone submitted a flex program that takes the Bill of Rights as input and produces the HD-DVD key as output.

I never thought the revolution, when it came, would start at Digg. I guess I should have guessed it was a possibility, though. After all, it’s a web community site that caters to a bunch of social malcontents and tech junkies (though, frankly, it caters poorly compared to certain competing sites), but is itself prone to censorship and other reprehensible behavior antithetical to the values of the “social malcontents and tech junkies” subculture at large. Sadly, I suspect it will all blow over, and people will forget. Also, bad laws might be passed — as usual.


  1. the program must be legal to pass around to others regardless of any copyright restrictions on the key itself.

    INAL, but my understanding is that this is not a copyright issue, it’s a DMCA issue (in the US).

    So any digital tool that circumvents copyright protection is illegal. The interesting thing about the numbers is that they obviously can’t be illegal, cince they occur naturally.

    The problem is, you can’t distribute the numbers along with the meaning of the numbers. I think the same thing goes for all of the programs.

    If you distribute the program along with instructions how to use it to circumvent copy protection, you are probably violating DMCA.

    Anyways, I issued the challenge because I thought it was interesting from a programming perspective. I am very pleased with the quality of the submissions.

    Comment by Reg Braithwaite — 5 May 2007 @ 05:11

  2. Yeah, I figured it was probably a DMCA encryption thing — but I just very sloppily made a half-assed attempt to cover all the bases. I don’t think it worked out so well.

    Anyway, thanks for posting the challenge. I always like seeing those things, when they’re clever and interesting as this one was or related to some deeper point as the fizzbuzz program was. Thanks for commenting here, too.

    Comment by apotheon — 5 May 2007 @ 03:44

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