‘Illegal Number’ Triggers Flood of MPAA Cease-and Desist Letters

Digg Vows to Fight for Free Speech After User Revolt
2 May 2007

By Robin Gross, IP Justice Executive Director

www.ipjustice.org

Kudos to Digg and its founder Kevin Rose for standing up to Hollywood censorship by eventually refusing to delete news stories that contain what the MPAA considers to be an “illegal number”.

A particular hex number unlocks the encryption code for High Density DVD, and reminescent of 1999, when Norwegian teen Jon Johansen posted the encryption code for DVDs, Hollywood is again on a rampage threatening journalists, computer scientists, and ordinary citizens who publish the illicit number online. The “illegal number” was “dug” and became wildly popular by Digg users. The outlaw number was published in a song, among other creative readings.

Upon first receiving the litigation threats from Hollywood’s technology licensing company Digg removed the numerous user-chosen news stories and canceled accounts of customers who had published the illicit number on the Internet. Digg soberly explained on its website that “in order for Digg to survive it must abide by the law”.

But Digg had a change of heart. Digg decided to stand up for free expression and now refuses to interfere with Internet users’ discussions about the forbidden number. Digg faces serious legal risk for defending the free expression rights of its users by not complying with Hollywood’s demands.

Under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), it is illegal to decrypt DRM technology or to provide others with information on how to bypass technological restrictions. Journalists and scientists have struggled to study certain consumer technologies and discuss their vulnerabilities since the DMCA was enacted.

Digg said it was influenced by the enormous consumer backlash against it, a virtual geek riot. According to Kevin Rose: “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.”

This case promises to be very interesting. Good luck to Digg and thank you!

www.ipjustice.org

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