In what surely will be the most talked about story of the week (just above Dell shipping Ubuntu on PCs), Digg melted down last night. I watched it in real time last night as more and more users added stories displaying the banned HD-DVD encryption key.
It’s amazing how one 16 digital hexadecimal string of numbers (and a little bit of censorship) can wake up a community.
The blog at Franticindustries has the best recap of the story I’ve seen yet.
But never until today has the entire Internet risen as one to protect their right of free speech, with one string of hexadecimal numbers being their defeaning shout.
As the article goes on to say, Digg was only the catalyst – almost every other major tech site of note has the key displayed in a story or a user submitted comment. The early adopters and tech enthusiasts are rising up against DRM – it’s now becoming more than a movement. In the year when major record labels are going DRM free in music, users patience with digital rights management for next gen technologies is wearing thin. Users want to use their content how they want to – they don’t want to be told when and how they can use their content. If I want to listen to music I legally purchased online on the device of my choice, I should have that ability. If I want to buy a movie on DVD, and encode it to watch on a portable player, I should be able to do that. If I want to watch a DVD movie on my computer, that doesn’t run Windows, I should be able to do that.
This is how we got DVD playback on Linux – one software company left a hole open displaying the encryption key, and it happened again with HD-DVD. When both parts of the key are available to the user – one half on the hardware or in software playback, and the other half in the media itself, users are going to figure it out. Just like the Digg users rising up as one, the community dedicated to breaking the encryption is united as well.
For some reason, this key has become more than just a way to circumvent copy protection: it is now a statement.
It says: information must be free.
In as little as 24 hours, countless iterations of the key have sprung out. Theres a registered domain containing the key; theres a string of colors equivalent to the key value; hell, if license plates were allowed to have 32 digits I bet there would be a great demand for a particular number.
Remember this number.