Abandon All Fear

What nobody else seems to be saying…

[DMCA] Stealing Abstracts Part 1

Posted by Lex Fear on June 22, 2007

This Post Is Rated: I for Ooh… Illegal. Or is it… and what are the implications?

It’s already been done 1.3 million times and counting. After some careful consideration, I thought I’d join in and “break the law” too:

09-f9-11-02-9d-74-e3-5b-d8-41-56-c5-63-56-88-c0

This string of seemingly random numbers forms a key to unlocking the DRM on HD-DVD and Blue Ray hardware. The AACS-LA does not want people to publish this number. In fact it has even threatened legal action against those who choose to publish this set of numbers.

I won’t go into too much detail here because this story is old and there is already plenty of information on the web and it’s been covered extensively by BoingBoing.

But is it really illegal to publish a set of numbers? Interestingly (at the time of publishing this post) it has not been tested in court which really raises the question of whether it’s actually illegal to own and publish these numbers. Can you really own a number? Something tells me it never will be tested, or if it is, the AACS will probably fail. Can you really see them filing a law-suit against 1.3 million people, many who probably don’t even reside in America?

Interestingly, Ed Felton of Freedom to Tinker already addressed the issue of 128-bit number ownership:

Now, thanks to our newly developed VirtualLandGrab technology, you can own a 128-bit integer of your very own (and then presumably, start issuing take-down notices to anyone who publishes the numbers or keeps a copy of them).

Here’s how we do it. First, we generate a fresh pseudorandom integer, just for you. Then we use your integer to encrypt a copyrighted haiku, thereby transforming your integer into a circumvention device capable of decrypting the haiku without your permission. We then give you all of our rights to decrypt the haiku using your integer. The DMCA does the rest. – You Can Own An Integer Too – Get Yours Here!

I’m plan to do a follow up post on this subject as it demands a more thoughtful analysis, but my initial thoughts on this subject is that we have moved beyond a mere Information Age and are becoming part of a type of Information Revolution. Traditional business models and capitalist frameworks are being usurped by Creative Commons and Open Source. These examples speak for themselves:

EFF: Public Interest Prevails in Digital Copyright Showdown
The Inquirer: Linux Man says Microsoft screwed itself
Finish Court Rules CSS Protection used in DVDs “ineffective”
Lessig Blog: Required Reading: The Next 10 Years
The Enquirer: EMI Has DRM Free Sales Boom
SmartFlix: This Post is for You, Robert Tourtelot
eCoustics: Dell Introduces Linux Based Computers
Software Journal: Microsoft and IBM admits Google is now a rival…

Whether you know it or not you are witness to a civil war taking place over the net. The internet is a type of ‘wild west’ or Electronic Frontier if you will. All the rules from the old country no longer count. If you Google search, blog, social network, make internet calls or have ever used any kind of free or open source software then you have already chosen your side or become a sympathiser for the revolutionaries.

My second thought is this, by pursuing legal action even against people who simply publish a string of numbers (regardless of knowledge of how to use them), then the AACS and other vested interests are already losing the battle. They dilute the severity of their claim by attacking anyone without discretion, and they will be opening the door for people to claim ownership of numbers and text (see above)- the end result would be death of progress, innovation and design. Imagine a programmer that would have to obtain rights from a different ‘owner’ for every line of code they wrote for a new program? Perhaps the only way to move forward would be for programmers to learn Klingon or some other language- until the AACS claimed ownership of certain strings of Klingon numbers and words.

In my view, those who are blurring the lines between what is and isn’t illegal copying are the proprietors and proponents of DRM and the DMCA.

More to come.

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One Response to “[DMCA] Stealing Abstracts Part 1”

  1. lwtc247 said

    I am glad that this fake restriction has been exposed, I hate stuff like this and things like the old DVD zoning which meant I had to buy another DVD when changing continents and making it difficult for me to buy for example US stamped DVD’s. If I knew of anyone involved in this racketeering, and they came to me asking for my services, I can well imagine their dissatisfaction if I was to put obsticles on functionality and portability on the things they would buy from me.

    So I’m happy there greedy plan has been uncoveed. Trouble is, the number is USELESS as clear instruction on the actual practicality of using the number are not as well puiblicised.

    Can you really see them filing a law-suit against 1.3 million people, many who probably don’t even reside in America?” Sadly yes. Not on all of them of course but a few. There was an Australian man {sorry if a bit hazy on the details} who was procesucted for breaking US laws {or a law that was to ‘protect’ a US company – Microsoft I believe} – he may even have been extradited to the US. The news is full o the US prosecuting people outside the US, under US law.

    By the same token that as a sequence of letters can be copyrighted (in a book for example), so therefore can numbers, so can a digital picture comprized of discreet pixels, each made up of a number of coloured squares represented by numbers. I do not like that position but it is logical.

    I believe all copyright should be scrapped. I dont care if big companies dont earn billions as a result. I also believe the virtual blackmail that pharmaceutucal companies make when their patent rights come under scruitany regarding the drugs they have produced. Firstly I believe most drugs are actually poisons, which just so happened to show some effect on the body, and this efffect has been spun to say this compound is a medicine.

    Secondly there could EASILY be a way to financially reward the comnpany that developed a useful drug.

    Inventions and so forth – scrap their copyright. Copyrighting is essentially economic apartheid.

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