The Digg Key Party

The Digg Key Party

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Whatever else can be said about Digg, the Web 2.0 behemoth drawing in millions of page hits worth of ad revenue each month (using, essentially, other people's content), you can't say it hasn't been true to its promise that the direction of Digg will be up to the readers of Digg. Unfortunately it's that very thing, the essence of so-called crowdsourcing, which will lead to its downfall.

Last week Digg was (again) headline news thanks not to estimates of its founder's worth, but to the proliferation of a code used to decrypt (and therefore hack) HD-DVD data. The code was discovered by a user in February of this year, but it only recently started to make the rounds of news aggregators like Digg, after the organization responsible for administrating the copyright protection on the HD-DVD standard, the Advanced Access Content System Licensing Administrator (AACS LA), began sending cease and desist orders to sites posting the key. This, of course, caused an internet uproar in the form of rampant linking (by users) to stories containing the code.

At first Digg responded by lawfully removing references to the legally protected code and banning users who insisted on posting it. Digg users did not appreciate this and continued to propagate the code, often using it as the headline for their Diggs. At one point, variations of the same story filled the entire front page of Digg, and in an effort to stem the tide, Digg temporarily shut down their service and began a mass banning campaign. And that's when things got squirrelly.

Digg had a change of heart, and shortly after resuming service, Digg founder Kevin Rose, in a surprise announcement, reversed this policy and stated that Digg would no longer be complying with the AACS LA's orders, against their attorneys' advice. The mob won, but don't think for a second it will end there.

The AACS LA has pulled the compromised key string and supplied a new, reconstituted encryption key to the hardware vendors it serves. They've also hinted they will take legal action.

"We respect free speech." The AACS LA said to the BBC. "But a line is crossed when we start seeing keys being distributed and tools for circumvention. You step outside of the realm of protected free speech then."

***

Before we go any further into this debate, it's important to remember where this concept of free speech came from, and how it came to be such an important buzzword. A little over 200 years ago, the idea of protected speech was a preposterous idea, whispered by revolutionaries in back rooms and written about by land-owning scholars living under the oppressive rule of a foreign power. In 1773 these revolutionaries decided to take action against what they thought was an unfair, unjust law, enacting a heavy tax on a widely consumed commodity: tea. Since this was before the internet, the best they could do to protest anonymously was to wear costumes. So they dressed up like Indians, and, instead of stealing it as might happen today, they threw tons of the tyrannically taxed tea into Boston Harbor. This was to signify their unhappiness with a law that was passed over which they had no vote. "No taxation without representation" was their rallying cry, and this sentiment, and their willingness to take up arms and fight over it, led to the creation of the rights and protections you enjoy to this day.

The laws passed in the United Stated Congress are voted on by people you have the power to hire and fire, thanks in no small part to these masked avengers and their pekoe pitching party. Whether you take advantage of this right is your business, but the founding fathers saw to it that we (the people) had the privilege to effect change in our government without going to the lengths they had to go to. If we don't like the laws that are passed, we get the chance to replace the bums that enacted them, no costumes required. Pretty sweet.

***

Around the turn of the century, the internet community decided to have a tea party of their own with a computer program called Napster. Napster was a so-called file sharing program, offered for free, which allowed users anywhere on the internet to find and download songs and other files on any other machine also using Napster. This made it possible to download practically every song ever recorded, provided someone had already ripped it to his hard drive. It was, so the media outlets at the time suggested, a digital media revolution and the only problem was that it was illegal.

Napster violated the newly-enacted Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), a law that makes it illegal to do quite a number of things, among them, hacking into the encryption of copyrighted material and distributing said material online. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and a few high-profile artists came down hard on this process of "file sharing," condemning Napster and promising legal action. But they had a problem: punishing every single one of the people who violated the DMCA by "stealing" music using Napster wasn't practical, or desirable. So what to do? Sue Napster, of course.

Napster was a small company with only 50 or so employees, but in 2002, following the forced Chapter 11 liquidation of all of its assets, all 50 or so of these people were laid off and forced to seek other employment. The lucky and the smart probably got out early, but those who were neither more than likely had a few sleepless nights at least, wondering where their next meal would come from.

The jury is still out over who got hurt during all that (aside from Napster), and how much. It's inarguable that record sales started declining during that time, and have continued to plummet. You can call this due to "crappy music" if you want, and it's questionable whether free downloads make people more or less likely to purchase music, but the basic economic statement that one tends not to buy a cow when one gets milk for free is an inescapable truth.

What's also inescapable is that the collapse of a company of any size is an economic event with ripples that spread out from the point of origin in ever-widening circles, but for you, the hundreds of thousands of users who actually broke the law by distributing copyrighted music, the impact is minimal. In fact, it would be fair to say that you'll feel very few of those ripples.

Unless, of course, you happen to be one of the few end-users selected for prosecution, or work for the affected company, or know someone who does, or purchase the products made more expensive as a result of increased R&D expenditures to revamp security measures, or pay taxes that will contribute to (in no particular order) unemployment benefits for dispossessed workers, prosecution efforts, legislative revamps and incarceration of those who break the law of the land ...

***

Here's what's going to go down with Digg: The AACS LA will not sit idly by as their credibility is run through the mud, and since they can't realistically file lawsuits against every single person copying and pasting the code on Digg or elsewhere (the AACS LA calls this a "resource intensive exercise"), they will instead turn to the one entity they can sue: Digg. What happens then is anyone's guess, but if my paychecks were embossed with the Digg logo, I'd very worried right now.

Kevin Rose, founder of Digg, has this to say about his company's future:

After seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you've made it clear. 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.

I think Kevin's comments are brave, and I respect him for having the balls to reverse his company's position and go against his lawyers' advice. I also think it's exciting and fun that so many people are uniting to "stick it" to The Man, but at the end of the day it will be neither The Man, nor the revolutionaries doing the sticking who will suffer for their actions; it will be Kevin Rose and the employees of Digg.

What's truly disappointing in all of this is that, as brave a stand as it was, Rose really had no choice. The code had propagated so far and wide on his service that to completely rid Digg of it, he'd have had to ban a significant enough majority of users as to make the site no longer viable. It was, in true Web 2.0 fashion, your decision to challenge the authority of the AACS LA and the validity of the DMCA, but not, as is your constitutional right, by voting and/or writing to Congress, but by throwing the equivalent of an internet temper tantrum; The Boston Tea Party as reenacted by school children pouting over a shortened recess.

"We will take whatever action is appropriate," says the AACS LA. "We hope the public respects our position and complies with applicable laws."

The stage is now set (again) for a monumental fight over the DMCA and the First Amendment rights of American citizens. Unfortunately the First Amendment does not cover violations of copyright, as is clearly stated in the DMCA, and as precedent has shown, particularly in the case of Napster. You may have won this battle, and secured your right to use the Digg service to voice your discontent with copyright law, unfortunately you will lose the war. Mainly because you're wrong, but also because Digg, in refusing to comply with the AACS LA, doesn't have a leg to stand on, thanks to you.

The Digg organization has done some amazing things, and will continue to do amazing things, but proving the theory of tragedy of the commons to their own detriment will probably be remembered as their crowning achievement. Unfortunately for Digg, I'm guessing you'll be too busy looking for the next site to frequent, or downloading hacked HD-DVDs using an anonymous user account to help them wage this war you've started, which is too bad. When people are willing to fight for what they believe in, it's actually a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, in the anonymous, user-driven world of Web 2.0, it's not about taxation, or representation, it's about greed - yours.

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Apart from saving face and possibly destroying an otherwise innocent website, I really don't see what the AACS LA are looking to achieve here. Well and truly before it hit digg, the key was in the hands of many many people who were more likely to use it to crack copy protection and make "backing up" programs than anyone who would have read it on a news site.

This is no different to the cycle of music drm being cracked and recoded every couple months except that the AACS are being knobs about it all.

This Digg situation is a complete "tragedy of the commons". If anything the users of Digg should have supported their efforts to comply with the cease and desist order. And help the site (they may claim to enjoy so much) avoid legal trouble. But the fact that the mindset for so many members of today's society is to do the exact opposite is very disturbing.

First: LxDarko, I'm not sure what this has to do with the Tragedy of the Commons, which deals with the scarcity of communal goods.

Second: a technical note. The AACS key can only be used to back up copies of an HD-DVD that you already own. It has nothing to do with piracy (aside making it easier to rip and distribute, but they could do that anyway).

Anyway, the whole vibe I got from the entire 09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0 thing is that people were reposting it not as a way to spread information about hacking HD-DVDs, but as a protest against DMCA takedown notices. This would be an excellent example of Internet activism: people, on a large scale, whether or not they intended to use the key to crack AACS, found it ridiculous that the key was copyrighted and that its owners were attempting to use the law to censor it after it had been reverse-engineered. Posting the key everywhere, and in a related phenomenon using Digg to promote sites containing the full story of why this all was happening, was the Internet's way of demonstrating that it really doesn't like the scope of the DMCA.

It was a demonstration. No one would suggest that (for example) pro-choice protesters are, by picketing government buildings, harming their credibility, or asserting that they themselves want to have abortions. They're simply using their right to assemble, as it were, to symbolically express their displeasure at the current law. Similarly, in the Digg Revolt (as it has become known), posting the AACS key became the symbol of displeasure with the current state of copyright law.

Moreover, in the case of the Digg Revolt specifically, linking to sites containing the key became a similar protest against what was seen as censorship on the part of the Digg administration, who, as the members saw it, were simply giving in to the (ubsubstantiated?) threat of a lawsuit. As I see it, if the sheer volume of Digg users hadn't submitted so many stories and comments with 09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0 in it, Digg probably would have simply gone on deleting stories and banning users for participating in this protest. Legal or not, something like that would certainly be a no-no in this age of free speech.

I certainly don't plan to hack any HD-DVDs using the key. Regular DVDs are fine for me anyway, and you don't need a key to back those up locally. But, since I think the DMCA is a perverse and harmful law that sets precisely the wrong precedent for an information-heavy world, especially the bit about making it illegal to circumvent copy protection on data you own, I posted the key as a part of the wider protest, to demonstrate that The People are against this kind of thing.

Ridiculous. Piracy again?

Ranting about greed isn't going to change society. These companies either need to figure out how to make money in other ways than a "pay-per" process or they will continue to lose revenue. Nothing, short of some very invasive laws within AND outside of the US, will change that.

Adapt or die, thats the way the world works. Laws or no, nothing will change things now that information is so easy to get. Capitalism, yes? Do what you can to get ahead, yes? Deal with the consequences of a society that values backstabbing. Deal with a society that has turned education into the process for finding and hiring the best employees. We are ingrained with Social Darwin DNA; this is how we have been raised, this is our religion, this is what we believe.

Greed? Ha, show me some legitimate altruism first so that greed can even exist as it's opposite.

@Bongo Bill: From what I've read about the entire situation, the key was not copyrighted, nor was it ever claimed that it was copyrighted. AACS LA requested that Digg remove the key because they claimed it was violating the DMCA ban on trafficking in circumvention devices. This article at the EFF site sums it up pretty nicely: http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/archives/005229.php
There was certainly some selective ignorance on the part of the mob doing the postings (I found it all fairly entertaining to watch from afar, but I agree with the author of the post in characterizing the "revolt" as a giant tantrum.), but they wanted to push a point about the DMCA, even if it was to the detriment of the medium through which they were pushing (ie, Digg).

On a side note, I think "tragedy of the commons" is being used fairly, although maybe not literally. A sub-group (the revolters) of a population exploited (used) a resource (Digg) in such a way that the whole of the group may be denied the resource (Digg gets sued into non-existance) because its exploitation was unregulated (Digg chose not to, because to force regulation would've killed the sites spirit, whereas self-regulation would've let everything go on just dandy). You can argue that this is not literal enough in dealing with resources, but I would argue that you're dumb. Either way, why do you say that Digg is not a communal good of the Internet community?

Geoffrey42:
@Bongo Bill: From what I've read about the entire situation, the key was not copyrighted, nor was it ever claimed that it was copyrighted. AACS LA requested that Digg remove the key because they claimed it was violating the DMCA ban on trafficking in circumvention devices. This article at the EFF site sums it up pretty nicely: http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/archives/005229.php

I stand corrected, then, but the fundamental issue is the same. The attempt to get the key removed under the DMCA became a symbol of all the ways the DMCA subverts copyright, since the whole proviso against copy protection circumvention is essentially a loohole to get around allowances for reverse-engineering that are a fairly explicit part of American IP law.

Geoffrey42:
There was certainly some selective ignorance on the part of the mob doing the postings (I found it all fairly entertaining to watch from afar, but I agree with the author of the post in characterizing the "revolt" as a giant tantrum.), but they wanted to push a point about the DMCA, even if it was to the detriment of the medium through which they were pushing (ie, Digg).

I would suggest that the main reason Digg was bloodied in all of this was because it was caught delisting articles about the key. Deleting only the comments would probably not have triggered this response, as it would be reasonable to protect the content on their own site, and banning users would have caused little more than run-of-the-mill drama. Delisting the articles, though, without even keeping the key on their own servers, without even checking to see if the takedown notices held any water.... That strikes me as cowardly, certainly, and more than a little censorious. It's hardly surprising that people thought Digg was taking sides against its users. I do sympathize, but they got what was coming to 'em.

Geoffrey42:
On a side note, I think "tragedy of the commons" is being used fairly, although maybe not literally. A sub-group (the revolters) of a population exploited (used) a resource (Digg) in such a way that the whole of the group may be denied the resource (Digg gets sued into non-existance) because its exploitation was unregulated (Digg chose not to, because to force regulation would've killed the sites spirit, whereas self-regulation would've let everything go on just dandy). You can argue that this is not literal enough in dealing with resources, but I would argue that you're dumb. Either way, why do you say that Digg is not a communal good of the Internet community?

In that sense, I guess, it's pretty close, although the Tragedy of the Commons tends to refer primarily to the resource being exhausted by normal use, rather than externalities like legal action.

Fletcher:
You can call this due to "crappy music" if you want, and it's questionable whether free downloads make people more or less likely to purchase music, but the basic economic statement that one tends not to buy a cow when one gets milk for free is an inescapable truth.

...

It was, in true Web 2.0 fashion, your decision to challenge the authority of the AACS LA and the validity of the DMCA, but not, as is your constitutional right, by voting and/or writing to Congress, but by throwing the equivalent of an internet temper tantrum; The Boston Tea Party as reenacted by school children pouting over a shortened recess.

As far as the 'free milk' truth, it's quite escapable: by the other truth that one tends not to buy a cow when you can buy orange juice. And pineapple juice, and strawberry mango, and...

What I mean by that is: when Napster came around, CDs were the most highly advanced technological entertainment medium in the homes of most people. Since then we've had the rise of DVD, HDTV, the Nintendo DS Lite, two consoles from Microsoft, smartphones, text messaging, podcasting, MySpace band pages, video on demand, TiVo, digital cable, internet radio, multiplexed premium channels, and now hi-def video disc technology. Considering the amount of electronic entertainment available today compared to the days of Napster--not to mention the cost of these new choices--I'm shocked people are buying as much music as they are. I agree with the validity of the logic of your statement; it's just that there are far, far simpler explanations that have nothing to do with Napster and its ilk.

As far as the second part I quoted, one never knows: maybe this is the case where the courts start treating the regulation of new technology with a touch a bit less ham-fisted than the DMCA. Calling it "the equivalent of an internet temper tantrum" just because it happened in a republic instead of under a monarchy strikes me as a little too close to the logic of Samuel Adams in drafting the Riot Act.

Not to mention that, well, from what I understand the people behind the Boston Tea Party didn't "take action against what they thought was an unfair, unjust law, enacting a heavy tax on a widely consumed commodity." They objected to tea being sold by the British East India Company at a price low enough to--in an ironic twist considering what's under discussion--compete with colonial smugglers, who had destroyed the legitimate market with their, well, 'piracy'.

I'm...not sure that was the best historical analogy for you to pick. Not only were they already "stealing" tea in a manner quite close to what Napster users were doing, but they actually went out and destroyed the property of a legitimate company to foil an anti-piracy measure.

As for the 'Tragedy of the Commons' subthread, I'm not sure how accurate it is in the context of the Digg incident: that concept refers to a situation where people take more than they put back. The heart of the concept is that the incentive to take is greater than the incentive to preserve because you own 100% of what you take, but you only ever wind up getting back a fraction of the effort you put into preservation.

The Digg incident is more like the person who won't stop doing illegal drugs in the bathroom of the nightclub and gets the whole place shut down under some public nuisance law, right? Or to be more charitable: someone who gets their whole organization declared a criminal conspiracy by using it to co-ordinate acts of civil disobedience.

@Bongo Bill: On second read, my "you're dumb" comment came off meaner than I intended it, I recall it being funny when I wrote it... So apologies if it was received other than intended.

With regards to Digg being cowardly, (and acknowledging that I am far less familiar with the inner workings of Digg, what was done in response to the original postings/comments/bannings, etc, than you seem to be) it appeared to me that Digg consulted its lawyers about the AACS LA request before taking action, and took their advice (entirely my assumption). After the outrage, Digg went back to the lawyers looking for another legal way out, and without that, chose to go against legal advice. Cowardly or not, walking into a protracted legal battle with the entertainment industry can be quite disastrous. Digg's first choice seemed to be to live to fight another day, maybe on something that had better odds. Picking your battles, to me, isn't cowardly, it's a smart plan of attack. I don't think this is what happened here, but I offer it as a potential and plausible alternative to cowardice.

@Cheeze_Pavilion: I wholeheartedly agree that the author gives maybe a little too much altruistic motive to the tea-party-ers of yore. But, I didn't agree with his classification of this episode as a tantrum because of monarchy-versus-republic. I agreed because the whole thing seemed more like 'screaming into the void' than 'protesting on the national mall'. If anything comes of this, it will be from Digg the Company winning a fight that Digg users started, and couldn't finish. How many of the people that participated in the Digg Revolt are going to turn around and write a letter to their elected representatives? How many are going to try and effect actual systemic change, rather than just railing against the system in a forum that the lawmakers don't even know exists? That is why I classify it as a tantrum.

@"Tragedy of the Commons": All in all, I think it fits better as a slant rhyme to the situation. I mostly took issue with complete writing off of it, compared to saying that it isn't a perfect fit.

The two examples Cheeze_Pavilion provides are definitely better analogies, but they're nowhere near as catchy.

I appreciate the thought that's apparently gone into the discussion here. Thank all for reading and caring enough to comment.

As to the suggestion that the Digg Revolt was a legitimate protest against the DMCA, I have to say that I agree that's what the revolters may have believed they were doing, but I don't buy it as an excuse. Because, quite simply, the people who passed the DMCA, and who would be responsible for any repeal or amendment, don't read Digg, nor do they care what non-voting hipsters have to say to each other on the subject. The suggestion that spamming a content portal could be an accepted method on enacting change at the legislative level of American government reminds me of the comic strip where the president realizes he's made a horrible mess of US foreign policy only after learning that the college students have skipped class in protest.

To the Digg Revolters (and those who support their cause): If you don't like the DMCA, write to your elected representatives and vote for leaders who support your views. Pissing in Digg's pool, breaking the law of the land at their expense, will not accomplish anything other than ruining about 25 people's days - people you claim to support. It's our right as Americans to disagree with our leaders. Try doing so in a more constructive way.

As to the Tea Party, I have to admit to ignorance as to the implications of the historic act re: the colonial black market, etc. I submit that we allow the example in it's most iconic, text book form, and not get too distracted by hidden histories. If, however, this is not acceptable, I'll dredge up a better example of revolutionary men and/or women starting a fight they fully intended to see through to the end, at risk, perhaps, to their lives. There are many. The Digg Revolt is not one of them.

As for the tragedy of the commons, the literal definition, yes, pertains to communal resources, but let's open that door a bit to allow for a metaphorical analogy to the internet (in general) and Digg (in particular). It's free for all and overuse, or misuse, by even a small group of miscreants will render it useless to everyone. The point regarding Digg is that Kevin has tied his company to the will of the masses, and they, not giving a shit if the company sinks or swims, are dragging it down. Discuss.

Geoffrey42:
I agreed because the whole thing seemed more like 'screaming into the void' than 'protesting on the national mall'. If anything comes of this, it will be from Digg the Company winning a fight that Digg users started, and couldn't finish.

That's only because now Digg itself and Kevin Rose have taken up the challenge. We'll never know if had Digg kept trying to delete this stuff, if the challenge wouldn't have been taken up by one of the individual posters, when s/he was named a co-defendant along with Digg.

In any case, I don't know if we can call it 'screaming into the void' now that Digg has decided to take on the fight. There are more ways to "effect actual systemic change" than going to legislators--many of the biggest systemic changes are the result of action in the courts.

I mean, 'Digg the Company' is unlike any other company in its relationship to 'the Digg users' from what I understand of how it works. Without the users doing unpaid labor, Digg really has no product. We can spin it as a tantrum, or, we can spin it as a 'structural crisis' where the Digg users--the 'legislature'--exercised their 'powers', and the 'executive' branch of Digg realized using its powers wasn't worth the crisis. Maybe because of the unique nature of Digg, it's the job of Digg the company to fight the battles the Digg users can't finish. Maybe how one feels about this depends on how one feels about other issues, and how it turns out: like Cardinal Richelieu once said: "Treason is a matter of dates."

Nothing was stopping Digg from continuing to try and avail itself the safe harbor procedures in the DMCA, right? I've heard no indication that Digg gave up because of technical impossibility or financial costs. It seems they did their about-face because they didn't want to turn off the Digg users. And no one ever said Kevin Rose has the right to make money off of the uncompensated labor of others, so. If there were that many Digg users who didn't want this fight, I'm sure Digg could have survived the bad PR.

Seems to me if anyone should be mad, it's the other users of Digg at Digg the Company for giving into a vocal minority. Which means saying Kevin Rose can't run his own company as he sees fit.

++++

Fletcher:
Because, quite simply, the people who passed the DMCA, and who would be responsible for any repeal or amendment, don't read Digg, nor do they care what non-voting hipsters have to say to each other on the subject. The suggestion that spamming a content portal could be an accepted method on enacting change at the legislative level of American government...

I don't think anyone ever thought this would lead to change at the legislative level; I think to what extent they thought it would lead to change, they assumed it could lead to change through the *judicial* level. Like I said earlier in this comment to Geoffrey42, legislative action is the most direct, but certainly not the only--maybe not even the most important--method of changing the laws of the U.S. In fact, you mentioned free speech: the pedigree of free speech in the American tradition has less to do with the Boston Tea Party, and more to do with the prosecution of Peter Zenger for libel--the idea of free speech as sacred in American political thinking has as much to do with someone who defied the law and won at trial as it does with any other event.

Maybe you aren't as big a fan of seeking change through the courts as through legislative action, but, to put it down is to put down an American tradition that runs right through from colonial times to MLK's "Letter From Birmingham Jail." I'm not saying these people are on that level, but, you're not just criticizing these people: the words you've chosen criticize a very important part of the American political tradition, and I'm not sure you're aware of that fact.

As to the Tea Party, I have to admit to ignorance as to the implications of the historic act re: the colonial black market, etc. I submit that we allow the example in it's most iconic, text book form, and not get too distracted by hidden histories.

I submit we don't: this isn't "hidden history" in any way, shape, or form. These are the facts, plain and simple. Our iconic, textbook form whitewashes the reality. I can understand giving little kids the 'iconic, textbook' version, but, we're all adults here: shouldn't our understanding of history and politics be as well?

Maybe the reason no one seems to measure up to the Madisons and Washingtons and Handcocks these days is because *they* didn't even measure up to the mythical caricatures we've created of them. Maybe if we didn't think that the people who defied the law and created the U.S. Constitution were almost demi-gods, we wouldn't come down so hard on people who defy the law today. Maybe if we realized they weren't perfectly disinterested paragons of political philosophy, but rather noble men who nevertheless strayed into gray legal territory sometimes, we wouldn't find people of our day who stand to profit from the positions they take on these political questions to be as lacking in the integrity department as we always seem to.

If, however, this is not acceptable, I'll dredge up a better example of revolutionary men and/or women starting a fight they fully intended to see through to the end, at risk, perhaps, to their lives. There are many. The Digg Revolt is not one of them.

It's a plenty acceptable example to me! Just for that reason--it shows that good, noble ideas like 'no taxation without representation' can come out of people who do things as unsavory as illegally defending their smuggling rings through destruction of property. Maybe with that example in mind, we might treat the Digg revolvers a little more kindly.

As for 'tragedy of the commons', I don't think the problem with using it here is one of being literal or metaphorical--I'm all for intangible things being thought of as 'commons' too. I'm sure I myself would use it for something metaphorical like 'the economic market'.

My objection was that the 'tragedy of the commons' was never meant to capture situation of misuse. It was meant to capture situations where no one is really doing anything wrong, but yet everyone suffers *as if* someone had done something wrong.

We've got other titles--pretty catchy ones too!--for when the harm one person inflicts on a 'common' flows equally to all members who share that something in common: 'one bad apple spoils the bunch' or when we say the action of one person 'poisons the well' for everybody else. I mean, sure: these are words and we can make them mean anything we want, but, if we wind up using the phrase 'tragedy of the commons' for use AND misuse that leads to problems, then, don't we just wind up needing another term to distinguish problems that result from misuse from the ones that result from normal use?

I mean, is it a 'tragedy' that bad deeds have a ripple effect? Everyone has always known that since the first time someone threw a diseased carcass in the town well and everyone got sick. To me, the brilliance of the phrase 'tragedy of the commons' was that it captured a situation where the town all grazed their animals on the town common like the town common was intended for; everyone wound up only grazing as much as their neighbor, so no one even took more than their neighbor. The 'tragedy' is that they also only did as much maintenance as their neighbor: nothing.

No individual actor did anything 'wrong'; instead, it captures the situation where no one goes above and beyond their own personal responsibility by taking unilateral action at their own cost. To me, the 'tragedy' part refers to the fact that it doesn't take an evil person to ruin something: even good people can ruin something for themselves even when no one takes more--and no one puts less in--than anyone else. That equal use of a common good still isn't enough to prevent the loss of the common good.

That to me is the important part of the phrase: that sometimes, something as noble as 'equality' isn't enough to avert a bad outcome.

Geoffrey42:
@Bongo Bill: On second read, my "you're dumb" comment came off meaner than I intended it, I recall it being funny when I wrote it... So apologies if it was received other than intended.

Nah, it was all in good fun.

Geoffrey42:
With regards to Digg being cowardly, (and acknowledging that I am far less familiar with the inner workings of Digg, what was done in response to the original postings/comments/bannings, etc, than you seem to be) it appeared to me that Digg consulted its lawyers about the AACS LA request before taking action, and took their advice (entirely my assumption). After the outrage, Digg went back to the lawyers looking for another legal way out, and without that, chose to go against legal advice. Cowardly or not, walking into a protracted legal battle with the entertainment industry can be quite disastrous. Digg's first choice seemed to be to live to fight another day, maybe on something that had better odds. Picking your battles, to me, isn't cowardly, it's a smart plan of attack. I don't think this is what happened here, but I offer it as a potential and plausible alternative to cowardice.

I certainly agree that it wasn't at all a cowardly thing to do. However, the important thing was that, to the Digg users, it looked that way.

As for the political process, the fact that such exists is no reason to discount the value of demonstration, even halfhearted and ineffective demonstration. For one thing, it shows somebody that a lot of people care - certainly, the makers of AACS now realize that we are quite unhappy with them in a way that surpasses merely wanting to copy HD-DVDs. For another, it builds a strong sense of solidarity among the demonstrators. My (short) voting history has been one pretty strongly influenced by copyright legislation, and I have written my congressman, so don't think I'm suggesting that the demonstration is enough, but it's a fine place to get started and get people motivated.

@Cheeze_Pavilion: Let me be the last one to diminish the impact that change through the judicial system has yielded, as I think legislators are often the ones who make laws, and judges are the ones left to define their scope through case law, often fixing or improving, and sometimes breaking them. They do that with the assistance of people pursuing their case in courts of law. Digg will be the one in the middle of that lawsuit, though, not the Digg users. Whether we assign Digg users the credit for a successfully initiated lawsuit that narrows the scope of the DMCA, or the blame for the lawsuit which brings Digg down, is, as you said (quoted), a matter of dates.

I agree that people with less-than-altruistic goals can effect positive change, as displayed by the tea-party-ers. Let me ALSO be the last to place our "founding fathers" on a pedestal. They were men much as the people that govern now, and maybe through the rosy-tint of history future generations will look more kindly upon those whose flaws we know all too well today. I could dedicate an entire forum post, somewhere at least, to how big a jerk Lincoln was (which is at least, in part, a knee-jerk reaction to others' blind idolatry). ++ to not letting history, which could be interpreted with as much of the facts intact, be viewed through a foggy lens because it makes it sound more heroic. Everyone is better off when we don't dilute things to the point of irrelevance.

As per DMCA Safe Harbor, from a quick perusal of the section of the DMCA which lays out those protections, I gleaned that it only applies to copyright infringing materials. Again, as I mentioned before, AACS LA was not accusing Digg of copyright infringement, they were accusing them of trafficking in circumvention devices. In order to invoke Safe Harbor, Digg would've had't've claimed that the HD-DVD key was copywritten, which it wasn't. (Forgive my crazy contractions, for I love them so.) I'm not a legal professional, so I'm open to other interpretations of the provision, but that's how I read it. In the end, I don't want to get into whether I think Digg did the "right" thing, because I really don't think one way or the other about it (though I love a good game of Devil's Advocate, see previous posts).

@Tragedy of the Commons: I find Cheeze_Pavilion's argument that Tragedy of the Commons is best applied in cases where use results in tragedy, as opposed to misuse, very compelling. One could argue that using something without tending to its longevity is a case of misuse, but I won't. I cede the point that Tragedy of the Commons is better isolated as a description where use results in "tragedy" or loss. I still don't find the other catch-phrases as catchy. I vaguely recall a phrase introduced in an ethics class when discussing the impact of pollution (air, noise, water, etc) on a surrounding community, but it was too far away, and too long ago to remember. Obviously not catchy enough either. I can offer no better candidates.

@Bongo Bill: I think that the origins of various movements often don't get enough credit for their eventual impact, but I hesitate to give the Digg Revolt credit as the starting place of anything until said start accomplishes something. It returns to the "matter of dates" issue detailed already. I won't deny that it has potential though.

Regarding AACS' new found realization that the tech-savvy community is "quite unhappy" with their copy-protection scheme, I doubt there was any realization. I think they know how much we dislike their strategies, and they've also calculated very carefully just how much impact that has on their bottom line. Maybe we can prove the finance people wrong, and put them out of business either through legislation, legal action, or boycott, but I'm fairly sure nothing about the Digg Revolt had any major impact on AACS LA or its ilk.

Geoffrey42:
Regarding AACS' new found realization that the tech-savvy community is "quite unhappy" with their copy-protection scheme, I doubt there was any realization. I think they know how much we dislike their strategies, and they've also calculated very carefully just how much impact that has on their bottom line. Maybe we can prove the finance people wrong, and put them out of business either through legislation, legal action, or boycott, but I'm fairly sure nothing about the Digg Revolt had any major impact on AACS LA or its ilk.

I think this is extremely on point. I think what's most damaging to the AACS LA about this whole debacle will not be the very small number of people using the code to break HD DVDs and reproduce them, but the amount of attention this has drawn to the fact that there actually is DRM on HD DVDs. And that damage is quickly undone.

At the end of the day the "army" of Digg users still only represents an infinitesimal fraction of the consumer base, and as loud and obnoxious as they may be, they do not represent a lot of buying power. Unfortunately Digg is a known entity, and I do not believe the AACS LA can allow for their refusal to comply with the law to stand without putting up a fight. Just as Kevin had no choice but to allow his users to do what they wanted to do, the AACS LA may well have to sue just to save face.

This is how wars are started, gentlemen.

Russ Pitts:
Just as Kevin had no choice but to allow his users to do what they wanted to do, the AACS LA may well have to sue just to save face.

This is how wars are started, gentlemen.

I think it's that logic which starts wars, though. Kevin could let his users do what they want to do. The AACS LA could lose face. One always has a choice. If wars are started, it's not because people don't have a choice--it's because people think war is worth it in order to avoid the alternative.

To take it back to the Revolutionary theme that this thread has, I think people forget that a great period for the colonies AND Mother England was that of 'benign neglect'. I think what starts a lot of wars is that people treat standing on principle when human rights are involved the same as when economic/property ones are.

In order for a war to start from neither side backing down, both sides have to first stand up.

Russ Pitts:

Unfortunately for Digg, I'm guessing you'll be too busy looking for the next site to frequent, or downloading hacked HD-DVDs using an anonymous user account to help them wage this war you've started, which is too bad. When people are willing to fight for what they believe in, it's actually a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, in the anonymous, user-driven world of Web 2.0, it's not about taxation, or representation, it's about greed - yours.

Strong stuff.

Considering this code was found in Febuary and the Digg has nothing to do with it's discovery, it's sick that the AACS will take it out on them. The people who put so much effort bullying the Digg, to the extent the don't consider it worth their while trying to save themselves, should maybe focus their efforts on the AACS instead. The Digg didn't want to censor peoples opinions but they were forced to.

Cheeze_Pavilion:

Russ Pitts:
Just as Kevin had no choice but to allow his users to do what they wanted to do, the AACS LA may well have to sue just to save face.

This is how wars are started, gentlemen.

I think it's that logic which starts wars, though. Kevin could let his users do what they want to do. The AACS LA could lose face. One always has a choice.

You have a point, conflict does require that both side be engaged, but I don't believe either side in this conflict had a choice.

Digg was backed into a corner by its users. I'm sure they'd prefer to not allow the users to do legally actionable things, but the alternative was shutting down the site - the greater of two evils.

And the AACS LA is a company _founded_ to administer a security protocol. If they're seen to allow rampant proliferation of their code, they lose all credibility with the vendors and companies they rely on to survive. A security company with no credibility doesn't last long.

Yes, both sides did stand against each other in this conflict, but they did so out of necessity, not choice.

Russ Pitts:

And the AACS LA is a company _founded_ to administer a security protocol. If they're seen to allow rampant proliferation of their code, they lose all credibility with the vendors and companies they rely on to survive. A security company with no credibility doesn't last long.

In that case, it'd say the real problem is the vendors and companies who won't give credit to a company like the AACS LA if they just let this blow over. I think the further the AACS LA pushes the issue, the bigger the issue gets, the bigger the problem gets for the vendors and companies that fund the AACS LA.

I think everyone's so in love with the idea of 'taking a stand' these days and cutting off the first head they see pop up over the barricade, that they forget to ask the question: are there other people down below waiting to see if that first person gets their head chopped off before deciding what to do, or is that a hydra down there, ready to grow two heads in place of every one we chop off? I also think everyone is in love with the idea of "rampant" being about how much goes on, and not about how much of what is going on makes financial sense to stop.

I really think this is a case of the AACS LA bringing a valid argument to the wrong set of facts. And that's basically how most tragic wars get started: the right decision at the wrong time. If it's a "necessity" at this point, I really think it's bad planning and close-mindedness that has transformed a choice into a necessity.

Cheeze_Pavilion:

Russ Pitts:

And the AACS LA is a company _founded_ to administer a security protocol. If they're seen to allow rampant proliferation of their code, they lose all credibility with the vendors and companies they rely on to survive. A security company with no credibility doesn't last long.

In that case, it'd say the real problem is the vendors and companies who won't give credit to a company like the AACS LA if they just let this blow over. I think the further the AACS LA pushes the issue, the bigger the issue gets, the bigger the problem gets for the vendors and companies that fund the AACS LA.

Pointing the finger at anyone but the company that put out the product (the security device/software/coding) is silly when discussing credibility. If the product was easily cracked then they deserve to lose credibility. Their security was anything but secure, that is the problem, and they don't deserve to last as a company if they don't put out a product worth paying into.

Suing Digg would be a strawman argument, though is highly probable that they will and people, like sheep, will look the other way.

From a strictly legal perspective it's not possible to take the blame from the trespassers, but the group that puts out a security product that doesn't last is also at fault. Companies that continue to work within profit models that are affected by the economic/moral situation are also at fault and liable for their own lost income. We live in a society of survival of the fittest and we are all responsible for our own success to some degree.

Using the historic bent to this argument, which is, and should be, what we, as Americans, do, with our vaunted (not sarcastic) Constitution and Bill of Rights, and capitalist Republic background, let's take an outward look on all you brilliant minds have said, and have forgotten...

The Revolutionary War, and all of it's references, this being the basis for what our laws and society have been built upon: None of those guys could have forseen the world as it is today. Johnny Tremain got a silver hand, and tossed tea into the harbor, and what did he know about it all? Consider the average Internet user, which no one who bothers to read this post for half an hour is, Johnny Tremain. People were mad. They rose up and did shit. How many "Indians" thought about the repercussions for the captains of the ships who were hauling that tea? Kevin Rose is one of those captains. When you wake in your bunk and a bunch of natives are trashing your house, what do you do? You yell for a bit, then realize if you keep it up, you'll get a dunking, too, in the least, and, most likely, you'll get fired and lose all you have.

Mr. Rose, being a capitalist, did what he thought he had to do to "keep his ship afloat." He counts on users for ad revenue. No court or politician is paying his salary. He had no choice but to appease his target demographic. If his side loses the legal battle, his company goes down, but he is fine, maybe even an eMartyr.

I'm not judging anyone, this is purely Devil's advocate.

But, if we want to stay on the Founding Father tip, which I love, because fighting for what you believe in is pretty damn noble, then we HAVE to respect the capitalist point of view in this, because that's what we are: a capitalist Republic.

I love open source. I am, also, and arguably, an artist. If I put out an album, or a video, I want to get paid for it. I might release some teaser footage, or a free song, but , as artistic as I might be, still need to eat. Alyssa Milano's mom tried to get naked pics of her daughter taken off the net. Because she wanted her share? I doubt it, I think it was about respect and what was due. Alyssa gave herself to us to enjoy, but she deserves to be rewarded for it. My band, as much as I like playing, needs money to continue. Digg needs viewers to continue.

The Founding Fathers knew that supply and demand drove not only their personal wealth, but a healthy economy. They established a government to protect the ability for that supply and demand to dictate daily life. No one should be screwed, we should all go out and get what we want, without stepping on toes. If an artist creates something, he should be rewarded for it. If a "sandwich artist" makes you a sub, THEY are rewarded for it with their hourly wage. It's only fair, we work for our money.

As the sleeping pills kick in, I will try and summarize my point. "Pursuit of liberty and happiness" doesn't mean stealing from others who are doing the same. If Digg wants to stand up, and be a venue for public revolt, fantastic! We should all be encouraging an ammendment to the Constitution that points out that presses aren't the only means of distributing information any more, that the Internet, broadcast news, etc., that our Founding Fathers couldn't foresee and include, should be added to this most fundamental of our country's rules. And, if we're going to be a capitalist, information-based Republic, then our information bases need to stand up and say that they can't be held accountable for what their users say and do. But, they have to do this on principle, not principal. In other words, not because that's where they get their paycheck, but because they will not be bullied by a corporation, which, in theory, has fewer rights than the individual.

So, stop stealing. And, if you won't, stop bitching when the people you steal from try to stop you. You come into my house, I will bear arms and blow yer freakin' head off.

You had to be invited to write the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and you have to be invited to the Congress now, or the courts, but anyone can post online. Preserve the right to post, and make the Foundation understand that points made online are valid ones. Just don't ruin this public forum with inane and selfish (to quote the original author, "greedy,") claims.

We want them to leave the Internet alone; give them a reason to.

Bellicose:

Mr. Rose, being a capitalist, did what he thought he had to do to "keep his ship afloat." He counts on users for ad revenue. No court or politician is paying his salary. He had no choice but to appease his target demographic. If his side loses the legal battle, his company goes down, but he is fine, maybe even an eMartyr.

...

So, stop stealing. And, if you won't, stop bitching when the people you steal from try to stop you. You come into my house, I will bear arms and blow yer freakin' head off.

I really wonder if Kevin Rose "had no choice but to appease his target demographic." I'd say the "core users" are not Digg's "demographic." I don't know Digg's exact business model, but I know that none of the people who 'digg' stories are the demographic: Digg's demographic is--best I can tell--the people buying ad space. The Digg users are not only the 'product' Digg sells to the real demographic, but they are also the workers who create the marketing campaign.

Honestly, I have to wonder if this isn't contrary to Kevin Rose's/Digg's financial interests: as much as he is appeasing his workers/product--the "core users"--I can't imagine the companies who buy ad space being very happy about all this disruption. And I really don't think the loss of these "core users" would hurt Digg all that much.

...

As for the whole 'stealing' issue, I talked about this in another thread on here, and in that dialogue my thoughts on it evolved into thinking that it's useless to try and capture an issue in a digital, electronically networked, lossless reproduction world using terminology from an analog, physically networked, lossy reproduction era. We still haven't figured out where the line between a 'good', a 'service', and a 'license' is, and until we do, the whole 'is it stealing' debate is just spinning our wheels. No one is coming into anyone's house: this is more like people looking in each others' windows.

Like you said, "[n]one of those guys could have forseen the world as it is today." Just like they couldn't have foreseen radio. And when radio came along, guess what? The government decided it wasn't "stealing" to take someone's recording and play it on the radio and get rich--they cut the performer totally out of the loop, and only protected the rights of the composer. Best I can tell, there was no way for a performer to make money off by taking advantage of mass media broadcasts the way composers could untill 1995 and the creation of the SoundExchange service and a statutory licensing scheme for performance rights. Maybe someone with a better working knowledge of all this than I can really explain it, but, best I can tell, the government already took away your rights as a performing musical artist so the owners of radio stations could get rich.

So I just wonder where the vitrol towards the person who downloads a CD for free comes from, when we've been living in a world where the government not only took away the right of the musical performance artist to control the use of that performance, but allowed other people to get rich off of the virtually uncompensated labor of those artists. Like I said, this is a confusing area and I'm not an expert--and I welcome someone who is to weigh in and correct my mistakes--but best I can tell, musical performance artists are being stolen from *less* in this day and age of the internet, where they finally have a statutory licensing scheme in place to protect their labor and compensate them.

Like I said in the other thread, this is an important issue, but letting music publishing companies who got rich when the government took away the absolute rights of artists to control their work by creating statutory licenses frame the debate by adopting their 'all or nothing' attitude, people who, to paraphrase a joke Brett Gurewitz of Epitaph Records/Bad Religion made, 'are in the business of selling little round pieces of plastic and found the cheapest way to do so is to put music on them', well, to me, that's a recipe for disaster.

 

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