News Travels Fast

Uh-ohAs far as I can tell, this is how it happened.

Somebody submits a story about the breaking of the HD-DVD AACS key code to Digg. The story includes the actual code, which — as Mike pointed out in an e-mail — looks like a string of creepy numbers from “Lost”. (My first thought was that it was someone’s home WEP key.)
The Digg story gets Digged (Dugg?) by something like 15,000 users.

Digg cites intellectual property and deletes the story.

Digg catches on fire.

Okay, not on fire. But there were a lot of raging geeks yelling about the end of Web 2.0 and the death of free speech and all sorts of other 21st-century concerns. Even Digg seems to understand that the yanking of a geek news story is a bad idea these days, as far as optics go.

But at the risk of being branded a cranky old contrarian who just doesn’t get it, man, I’d like to ask one question: How is the revelation of the HD-DVD AACS key world news? How many of us are going to run to our local Best Buy and grab that HD-DVD disc of “Alpha Dog” and bring it home to share it with the online downloading community? Who’s got the time? Who’s got the bandwidth?

… okay, I understand what’s really at stake here. Studios won’t support either of the high-def DVD formats if they don’t think they’re secure, and DRM is all there is between their precious 18 GB movie files and hundreds of thousands of hungry, freeloading college students. So the perception of security is at least as important as actual security.

But here’s the thing: DRM — that’s Digital Rights Management, for those of you without the nerd phrasebook — always gets cracked. There are literally dozens of ripping programs available for standard DVD now, and people still walk into stores and buy those discs by the millions every week. People who download pirated movies will always be a niche market; the trick is to keep legitimate consumers buying the best possible product.

I am not naive enough to believe I’ve just solved the piracy problem. But I do think things would be better if certain forces just acknowledged that some piracy is inevitable, and stopped treating the rest of the public like shifty loiterers just waiting for the chance to snap up some free stuff while the corporate back is turned. It spawns an uncomfortable culture of intimidation that allows stuff like this Digg thing to happen.

Also, I’d really like that HD-DVD edition of “Shaun of the Dead”, and ain’t no stinking pirate gonna stand in my way.