Digg vs. digital democracy
Ryan McNutt wrote a great post yesterday commenting on the craziness that took place involving Digg and the HD-DVD decryption key. (I’ve taken loads of content from his post as he sums it up excellently.)
The ramifications for this are extreme
– a summary of what happened is as follows:
- People began to Digg an article that revealed the decryption key for HD-DVD.
This code basically allows people who know what they’re doing to violate the discs’ digital rights management and make illegal copies.
- The Advanced Access Content System license consortium saw the article on the front page of the Digg website and contacted Digg with cease and desist letters urging them to remove the story from their website.
- Digg complied and took down the stories that featured the encryption key
And then all hell broke lose.
Outraged that Digg would attempt to censor the free spreading of information, readers began posting story after story, blog post after blog post that featured the sequence of 32 numbers and letters. People were posting the sequence everywhere they could on the internet, from message boards to comments on random blogs (even some of my favourite music ones).
There was a song written with the sequence that was submitted to YouTube. There were hundreds, HUNDREDS of submissions that Digg’s people had to delete, so many that they simply couldn’t keep up with it anymore.
Which is when Kevin Rose, founder of Digg, posted this to the website’s blog:
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.
Wow – this is great. This reminds me a briefing I was in where the vendor explained that the pace that technology is moving is faster than legislation can keep up with. So what happens now?
Will there be court cases, legislation? Can the lid be put back on Pandora’s box?
Ryan’s view hits the mark:
In this case, those 32 numbers and letters have become a symbol of the struggle of digital democracy against top-down management. In trying to take a heavy-handed approach to dealing with the leak of their code – which, let’s face it, was going to happen eventually – the AACS ended up doing infinitely more harm to their intellectual property than had they just sat back and done nothing.
But it wasn’t just the AACS that learned a lesson; the Digg folks did too. They learned that social media lives and dies with its users, and that when push comes to shove it’s the users that call the shots. Here was a case where, by the letter of the law, the users were entirely in the wrong. But this is the generation of anarchist media consumption, where record labels and electronics companies that try and prevent pirating by protecting their media are seen as the enemy of free information. By choosing to “give in” to the AACS, Digg created a riot amongst its users that forced their inevitable submission.
Watch this space – it’s going to be very interesting.
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