Spectacular Failure

News that the HD-DVD encryption algorithm has been cracked and published all over tarnation is a two-pronged story.

First, that the AACS’ vigilance in preventing HD-DVDs from being copied and openly traded is on its way towards spectacular defeat even while the technology is still in its infancy, battling with Blu-Ray for supremacy.

Second, that this has occurred in the era of Web 2.0 and user-generated content. Digg.com’s battle to prevent users from posting stories containing the algorithm was also a spectacular failure.

Digg’s attempt to weed out posts containing the algorithm turned into an endless game of Whack-A-Mole, despite the fact that Digg faced legal action from the AACS if they didn’t get the stories removed – action that could get Digg shut down. But Digg users (or at least a subset of them) apparently cared more about getting the algorithm widely published than they did about Digg getting nailed. Eventually, Digg creators threw up their hands.

“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,” [Digg’s Kevin] Rose wrote … If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.

Looks like Google and WordPress.com may also be busting similar takedown moves.

When you bake user-generated content features into your site, you stand the risk of users posting content that could be threatening to your very existence. So which way do you go? Allow the public to speak through the megaphone you built just for them? Or protect yourself? I think this could set a very bad precedent for traditional publications just now warming to the power of UGC.

Music: Lou Reed and John Cale :: Nobody But You

9 Replies to “Spectacular Failure”

  1. I’ll end up blogging about this soon enough… but…

    For some reason, everyone keeps separating the idea of “public” and “internet.” If that little loophole was closed, the problem would go away.

  2. Yeah, I’ll blog it … There’s a huge loophole in Law, though. Plenty of things are “illegal.” Yelling “F#&@!” on a crowded sidewalk, for instance, is illegal. Trading porn in a bar is illegal. Baiting and threatening violence against someone, stalking, is illegal.

    But for some reason, people and Laws don’t say, “The Internet is also a public place.”

    There’s a gigantic seperation between “public” and “internet.” What is “cyber” is considered to be above most laws.

    That’s all..

  3. Well, there’s “public” as in a public park, and then there’s “public” as in a supermarket. The first belongs to the people, the second does not. These are very different animals. A web site owned by someone is under no obligation to allow any and all types of content to remain on its pages!

  4. I understand that. What I’m saying is, if someone’s in a Supermarket and starts mouthing off threatening to kill people, or selling porn at the end of the Milk aisle, the Supermarket would ask them to leave.

    And the other patrons wouldn’t sue the Supermarket.

    Unfortunately, when it comes to the realm of the Internet, there’s too much separation of thought. People don’t take the above into consideration. No, instead they sue the content providers instead of the pricks causing a problem.

    See where I’m going with that?

    Like I said — I’ll blog about it later. I don’t wanna write it all here. ;-)

  5. But Mark, yelling an expletive or threatening bodily harm is not the same as disseminating copyrighted information. And the Internet is not a public place — it’s a collection of millions of privately owned hosts, some of which allow public access (in one form or another). Content providers are sued because it’s easier to (try to) cut the head off completely.

  6. If you’re standing in JC Penney’s handing out flyers containing copyrighted information, you’d end up in a mess. There’s no difference if you’re doing it on Digg.

  7. I’m not unsympathetic towards Mark’s position, but what about the value of “Internet-enabled” forms of communication WRT protesting dumbass laws (*cough* DMCA *cough*) or various forms of anti-consumer, corporate stupidity (recall the Sony DRM = rootkit fiasco last year) ?

    The origin of the Internet (and yes, I’m old enough to remember that ;) was a gov’t funded project paid for by our tax dollars. So I think that we as citizens have a vested interest in not treating it as a 100% “private venture” – it’s not completely like “standing in JC Penney’s handing out flyers.”

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