Thursday, May 03, 2007

The most famous number on the Internet

From the New York Times
Sophisticated Internet users have banded together over the last two days to publish and widely distribute a [formerly] secret code [a string of 32 hex digits] used by the technology and movie industries to prevent piracy of high-definition movies. …

The number is being enshrined in some creative ways. Keith Burgon, a 24-year-old musician in Goldens Bridge, N.Y., grabbed his acoustic guitar on Tuesday and improvised a melody while soulfully singing the code. He posted the song to YouTube, where it was played more than 45,000 times. …

The campaign to remove the number from circulation [by the Advanced Access Content System Licensing Administrator (AACS-LA), which controls the encryption system known as A.A.C.S., which is backed by technology companies like I.B.M., Intel, Microsoft and Sony and movie studios like Disney and Warner Brothers, which is owned by Time Warner] went largely unnoticed until news of [a series of cease-and-desist] letters hit Digg. The 25-employee company in San Francisco, acting on the advice of its lawyers, removed posting submissions about the secret number from its database earlier this week, then explained the move to its readers on Tuesday afternoon.

The removals were seen by many Digg users as a capitulation to corporate interests and an assault on free speech. Some also said that the trade group that promotes the HD-DVD format, which uses A.A.C.S. protection, had advertised on a weekly Digg-related video podcast.

On Tuesday afternoon and into the evening, stories about or including the code swamped Digg’s main page, which the company says gets 16 million readers each month. At 9 p.m. West Coast time, the company surrendered to mob sentiment.

“You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company,” wrote Kevin Rose, Digg’s founder, in a blog post. “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 Digg loses, he wrote, “at least we died trying.”
A Los Angeles Times story had this to say.
One Digg member, Grant Robertson, said the incident reminded him of a quote from "NewsRadio," the 1990s TV show: "You can't take something off the Internet. That's like trying to take pee out of a swimming pool."
To check that out, try Googling "09 F9", the first four digits of the number. I got nearly 1,000,000 hits.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which typically sides with (and defends) against this sort of corporate limitations seems to think that if the case were brought to court the DCMA supports the AACS-LA's position and that the defendants would lose.

The Advanced Access Content System Licensing Administrator strikes back.
Advanced Access Content System Licensing Administrator, LLC (“AACS LA”) announces that it has taken action, in cooperation with relevant manufacturers, to expire the encryption keys associated with the specific implementations of AACS-enabled software.

Consumers can continue to enjoy content that is protected by the AACS technology by refreshing the encryption keys associated with their HD DVD and Blu-ray software players. This refresh process is accomplished via a straightforward online update.

Through this online update process, manufacturers are also able to see that consumers update their player implementations prior to distribution of encryption key expiration information via new movie discs.

Consumers are advised to check with the manufacturer of their AACS-enabled Blu-ray or HD DVD PC-based player to make sure you have installed the latest version. The following manufacturers have provided links to provide relevant information and facilitate consumer updating of their players:

InterVideo – publishers of WinDVD products

CyberLink – publishers of PowerDVD products

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