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HD DVD Hack Posts Generate Web Controversy

3 May, 2007 By: Stephanie Prange

The hack of high-def disc copy protection, which has been floating around the Internet for about four months now, exploded in controversy this week on Web site Digg.com.

Digg at first pulled down posts of a key to break copy protection on HD DVD discs, then reversed course and allowed posts after a community revolt.

“We had to decide whether to remove stories containing a single code based on a cease and desist declaration,” wrote founder Kevin Rose in a letter posted on the site. “We had to make a call, and in our desire to avoid a scenario where Digg would be interrupted or shut down, we decided to comply and remove the stories with the code.

“But now, 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.”

Digg was just one of the sites receiving cease-and-desist letters this week from the Advanced Content System Licensing Administrator (AACS LA), a group that licenses the HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc copy protection, according to Fred von Lohmann, an attorney with San Francisco-based civil liberties group Electronic Frontier Foundation. Google and others also got notices.

AACS LA declined to comment on the Digg issue.

“They've taken what was a relatively minor story and turned it into an cause celebre,” von Lohmann said.

Still, the legal issues are murky, he noted. During hacks of DVD copy protection, a court ruled against a magazine that published copying information. However, it is unclear whether Digg, which merely provided an avenue for the posts, would be liable. The same issue has come up in Viacom's lawsuit against Google's YouTube.

Also, “the key posted on the site by itself doesn't do anything,” he noted. “Posting the key was more of a protest.”

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