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Proof that the youth are revolting

Tech Life843 words4 minutes to read

Update: See images of Digg’s homepage at WordDissociation.com.

I’ve been sitting here for 10 minutes trying to think of a good opening line, and I can’t. I’m speechless. Something very intriguing is happening this very moment: The users of Digg are outright revolting. This is the digital equivalent of the Los Angeles riots. But what’s more interesting is the fact that as of 9:00pm PST, Digg is letting them. (As I was writing this, Digg went down. This is getting more interesting by the minute…)

In the US, there is a law known as the DMCA — a heavily flawed and much hated law among consumers of digital media (including DVDs, HD-DVD & Blu-ray discs, and most downloadable songs and videos) that is often used by the Recording and Movie industries to justify suing people and shutting down services. (A side note is that they’ve never quite figured out how to use digital media sales to their advantage, and so they’re just shutting people down instead of working with them to find a more consumer-friendly solution. Acting out of fear is never good.)

The other major thing that the DMCA does is stops people (legally anyway) from bypassing or cracking something called DRM (“Digital Restriction Management”). DRM is the locking mechanism that stops you from downloading songs or videos from iTunes and putting them on your non-iPod player. It’s the locking mechanism that stops you from copying DVDs. A new kind of DRM known as AACS is what locks the next-generation HD-DVD and Blu-ray movies/games so that you can’t copy them or back them up on your computer. (Sony’s Playstation 3 has a built-in Blu-ray player while Microsoft’s Xbox 360 has an optional HD-DVD player.)

Recently, (and I’m trying to remember here) someone posted a code (known as a “key”) that allows programmers to build software that bypasses this locking mechanism allowing people to copy these next-generation DVDs. Naturally, this is illegal and the movie industry sent a cease-and-desist letter trying to get them to remove the key from public view. So be it.

Earlier — I’m assuming today — someone re-posted this key to Digg and the movie industry sent a cease-and-desist to have it removed. Digg complied. Someone else caught wind of this, and re-posted it. Digg removed that posting as well. After a bit of back and forth, the following was posted on the Digg blog this afternoon:

Whether you agree or disagree with the policies of the intellectual property holders and consortiums, in order for Digg to survive, it must abide by the law. Digg’s Terms of Use, and the terms of use of most popular sites, are required by law to include policies against the infringement of intellectual property. This helps protect Digg from claims of infringement and being shut down due to the posting of infringing material by others. Our goal is always to maintain a purely democratic system for the submission and sharing of information - and we want Digg to continue to be a great resource for finding the best content. However, in order for that to happen, we all need to work together to protect Digg from exposure to lawsuits that could very quickly shut us down. Thanks for your understanding.

Instead of working together, the users of Digg began outright revolting. The AACS key was posted over and over and over again is a number of different ways. So much, in fact, that 98 of the last 100 stories to hit the front page of Digg are posts about that key. Digg has been banning posts and users all day long, and the users are fighting back with full force. Around 9:00pm PST, there was another post on the Digg blog that said the following:

Today was an insane day. And as the founder of Digg, I just wanted to post my thoughts… In building and shaping the site I’ve always tried to stay as hands on as possible. We’ve always given site moderation (digging/burying) power to the community. Occasionally we step in to remove stories that violate our terms of use (eg. linking to pornography, illegal downloads, racial hate sites, etc.). So today was a difficult day for us. We had to decide whether to remove stories containing a single code based on a cease and desist declaration. We had to make a call, and in our desire to avoid a scenario where Digg would be interrupted or shut down, we decided to comply and remove the stories with the code. But now, after seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you’ve made it clear. You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we won’t delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be. If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.

About an hour and a half later Digg went down. It’s been 45 minutes since then. I’m interested to see how this all shakes out.

Ryan Parman

is an engineering manager with over 20 years of experience across software development, site reliability engineering, and security. He is the creator of SimplePie and AWS SDK for PHP, patented multifactor-authentication-as-a-service at WePay, defined much of the CI/CD and SRE disciplines at McGraw-Hill Education, and came up with the idea of “serverless, event-driven, responsive functions in the cloud” while at Amazon Web Services in 2010. Ryan's aptly-named blog, , is where he writes about ideas longer than . Ambivert. Curious. Not a coffee drinker.