Crash! HD-DVD censorship diggs grave for news site

Digg crashes after users -- and HD-DVD aficionados -- revolt

Popular news aggregation site, Digg.com has crashed after it opened up a Pandora's box of internet fury when it decided to censor users rather than face legal action from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for publishing a hacked key code for HD-DVD movies.

Users are directed to an error screen that says: "We'll be back shortly. Digg will be down for a brief period, while we make some changes."

The action comes after Digg decided to obey a Cease and Desist order issued by the MPAA for publishing a sixteen hexadecimal key that unlocks the protection mechanisms used to prevent free copying of HD-DVD and Blu-Ray movies. But when the site started censoring posts and users for disobeying Digg's stance on the matter, the popular news aggregation site got to feel the true force of social networking at its most fervent when its users launched a mass online revolt.

The trouble began brewing six weeks ago when a hacker by the name of Arnezami, posted the HD-DVD Processing Key on the doom9 forums, encouraging others to spread the word. As the code made its way around the Internet, the Advanced Access Content System (AACS) consortium, the body responsible for protecting HD-DVD and Blu-Ray discs from illegal copying, caught wind of the postings and decided to take action in an unprecedented campaign of censorship.

Since mid April, the MPAA and AACS, through its lawyers, have been serving DMCA takedown notices to sites that have published the code. Cory Doctorow who teaches a University of Southern California undergrad class called Pwned: Everyone on Campus is a Copyright Criminal, was one of the first to be served and censored the content on advice from his lawyers. Shortly after the same code was posted to Wikipedia but was just as quickly removed and locked from reposting. Since then, blogs and even Google has been ordered to stop publishing or linking to the key.

But despite the MPAA's censorship crusade, most of these happenings flew quietly under the radar, and the MPAA's actions may have remained that way had the code not made its way to Digg.

Yesterday, a Digg user by the name of 'chesterjosiah' posted the key to the site where it amassed more than 15,500 Diggs, becoming one of the sites most popular stories ever. However, just 24 hours after appearing, it disappeared without a trace. In response, a number of users posted stories to notify the rest of the Digg community to the apparent censorship.

Then today, in a posting on Digg titled What's Happening with HD-DVD Stories?, Digg CEO Jay Adelson, explained why stories containing the offending digits have slowly been disappearing without warning.

"I just wanted to explain what some of you have been noticing around some stories that have been submitted to Digg on the HD-DVD encryption key being cracked.

"This has all come up in the past 24 hours, mostly connected to the HD-DVD hack that has been circulating online, having been posted to Digg as well as numerous other popular news and information websites. We've been notified by the owners of this intellectual property that they believe the posting of the encryption key infringes their intellectual property rights. In order to respect these rights and to comply with the law, we have removed postings of the key that have been brought to our attention.

"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."

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Mitchell Bingemann

Computerworld
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