Dugg Down

Today may be the day that tech-geeks, computer nerds, and the electronically gifted among us will remember with infamy. The user – moderated website Digg.com may be forced to shut down due to their noncompliance with a cease and desist order.

Backstory:
It’s been no secret that HD DVD (high-def DVD’s) and Blu Ray have been battling it out to gain the competitive edge in the next-gen, high definition DVD market. The competition was pretty even until AACS, the people tasked with managing the data stored on HD DVD’s were hacked by an unknown hacker. What was compromised is a 16 ‘letter’ hex code that, unless you really know your stuff, would seem like a bunch of jibberish.

But there are people around who really know their stuff. This key, as chance would have it, just happens to unlock the only known way to “rip” or copy HD DVD information from the disk. In laymen terms, the information that AACS was tasked to keep secret and locked away is now out in the wide open and readily accessible to anyone who seeks to use it.

This also means that whatever competitive advantage AACS and HD DVD’s had over Blu Ray are now null, shot to death, and utterly useless. Honestly, what movie company is going to contract out with AACS to produce DVD’s when they know for a fact that people will rip it, burn it, produce illegal copies of it, and generally cut into their oh-so-precious bottom line? The short answer is “None in their right mind”.

And Now, This News:
As is the case with most noteworthy tech news, the story of the AACS hack and the actual key (which I may or may not have a hard copy of) made its way to the Digg.com forums and ultimately became one of the more popular Digg stories. In an apparent rush run damage control, the people at AACS issued cease and desist letters to Digg.com and Google.com to try and stop the spread of this leaked information across the internet.

As you’re probably aware, however, trying to keep something this juicy off the internet is like trying to stop a California wildfire by spitting on it. You may put out some sparks here and there, but ultimately, you’re done for. And such is the case with AACS. Issuing a cease and desist letter to Digg.com might stop their users from accessing the key through Digg’s servers, but issuing a cease and desist letter to Google is really a shot in the dark. There are literally 1000’s of websites hosted on hundreds of servers that have posted the key for anyone who wishes to take a gander. There is no containing this thing. It’s out, and it’s out for good.

Back to the Digg.com story, initially, the creators and moderators of Digg.com chose to comply with the cease and desist order by erasing or censoring out all mentions of the key on their website. This, of course, set off a firestorm of criticism from Digg users who didn’t like the idea of their stories being moderated without their input. After considering the plethora of comments and feedback generated over the issue, the Digg-masters posted this letter on their blog:

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.

Digg on,

Kevin

Mixed Feelings:
Many people have mixed feelings on the subject. Some digg users are happy to comply with the cease and desist if it means continued operation of their beloved sight. Most, however, view the bowing to a larger (and obviously technically inferior) company with disdain, and are willing to stand up and fight for what they believe in. I actually agree with both sides of this large coin, and let me tell you why. Firstly, I’m a digg-lover. It’s the first place I go to for my daily tech-news fix. It’s also a great example of a community-driven website where the users, not some faceless entity, controls the content (much like youtube.com for techies). I’d love to see it continue through this. On the other hand, this is the classic case of a huge company trying to bully those who expose their flaws, or otherwise intrude on what said company thinks is their territory (remember Mike Roe and the Microsoft thing?). As of right now, Digg is still up, and no one is really sure how this will play out.

If you follow the link to their blog that I’ve posted above, you’ll notice a certain 16 digit key in the title. Now, I’m not saying that’s the actual AACS key. To me, it looks like someone’s cat walked across the keyboard. If you’re really just dying to get your hands on the key, a quick google search for the string “AACS Hack” may or may not point you in the right direction.

Happy Ending?
No one really knows how this will affect the proud members of the Diggnation. We may soon find ourselves without a country to call home, and all because some careless company can’t keep up with their keys. At press time, Digg is still up and chugging away, pumping out more and more tech-news each minute. A few people on digg seem to have actually thought this through and may have found a way out for Kevin and the other Digg-masters. Even if the AACS hack produced some rather proprietary hex digits, their leakage passed them from the “proprietary” realm into the “juicy gossip, newsworthy” realm. In short, now that it’s out, it’s out and it’s legal, especially to news-gathering sites. Now Digg isn’t really your stereotypical news-gathering sites, but 98% of the content on Digg is generated by news sites or news blogs. Digg merely collects the links and categorizes them by topic. This could be their way out, it could not be. But one thing is for certain. AACS is out of the HD DVD game, at least for now.

a:\>09-f9-11-02-9d-74-e3-5b-d8-41-56-c5-63-56-88-c0

What hell? Damn cat 😉

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~ by Deuce on May 2, 2007.

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