Digg’s DRM Revolution, Google’s Culpability

This is pretty amazing.  I found one article on this issue whilst surfing for other information, without ever having gone to the Digg main page and without realizing the relevance of the title, “Has everyone had enough?”  My main concern was the fact that Google censored someone’s supposedly private Google Notes account because it contained the HD-DVD processing key.

That’s bad.  I’ll get into that more after the fold.  But it turns out that paranoia about the HD-DVD key hitting the mainstream was surging in companies throughout the Internet, and with apparently good reason:

Digg’s DRM Revolt – Forbes.com

Digg.com has become one of the Web’s top news portals by putting the power to choose the news in the hands of its users. Just how much power they wield, however, only became clear Tuesday night, when Digg turned into what one user called a “digital Boston Tea Party.”

When the site’s administrators attempted to prevent users from posting links to pages revealing the copyright encryption key for HD-DVD discs, Digg’s users rebelled. Hundreds of references to the code flooded the site’s submissions, filling its main pages and overwhelming the administrators’ attempts to control the site’s content.

Ok, so let me explain to the non-technical among us.  The “copyright encryption key” is, bluntly, the thing that prevents users from copying the contents of a HD-DVD.  HD-DVD, by the way, is one of two rival next-generation technologies for the movie/mass storage media market, the second one being Blu-ray.  There is *a lot* of money in this competition between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray; much, much more than there was between VHS and Beta, though the debate is roughly equivalent.

Now it seems that someone has cracked that code that prevents HD-DVDs from being copied and that opens the door to piracy.  That means that the entertainment industry’s support for HD-DVD just went out the window, because they are obsessed with maintaining their copyrights despite every indication that they need to modernize their thinking.

So the makers of the HD-DVD are going ballistic, probably threatening everyone with a two-bit website with a huge lawsuit if they post the code.  (Believe me, you know what a jerk I am.  I’m more than tempted, but I have other fish to fry.)  So, big-shot websites are going nuts trying to prevent a lawsuit, and Digg got caught in the cross-fire between DRM (Digital Rights Management, anti-piracy, basically) heavies and the public, which by-and-large could give two shits about Big Entertainment’s “right” to bilk us out of $20.00 for a J-Lo album.

The whole thing is a Rorschach test of the DRM landscape. 

That the Digg community is adamantly opposed to DRM is beyond obvious, but the Digg-nation is really a collection of hard-core geeks with reasons to resist DRM that a lot of people don’t even really get. 

The manufacturers of both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray disks are getting quite riled up about this, but really, only because they want the initial Hollywood money for as long as possible.  The reality is that, not only will any DRM technology will be cracked by dedicated hackers, but there is way more money to be made in selling mass storage to the general public than there is to be gleaned from Hollywood, so there is ultimately very little incentive for manufacturers to hang on too tightly to DRM considerations.

In fact, the only real idiots in all of this are the Hollywood moguls
that cling to their 1800’s Robber Baron’s grip on their intellectual

What this reveals about Google is, to me, the most important part of this whole thing.  They told us that the sensitive stuff we put on Google – our email, our notes, all that stuff – would be private.  Oh, sure.  They’d sweep that stuff with the Google bots to provide targeted advertisements that helped justify the cost of Gmail.  But that’s it.

Well, all that has been proven to be worth so much bovine excrement.  That’s the lesson about “Digital Rights,” that you should be taking away from all this: your right to privacy extends only so far as Google will allow.  And don’t let some damned-fool story about Digg fans throw you off.

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By Tommy Belknap

Owner, developer, editor of DragonFlyEye.Net, Tom Belknap is also a freelance journalist for The 585 lifestyle magazine. He lives in the Rochester area with his wife and son.