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Digg.com Insanity

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RationalBiker
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I've emailed Digg.com to see if they will terminate my account. Apparently there was quite the hub-bub over a code for breaking HD-DVD encryption and at one point it looked as though Digg was not going to support the spreading of this code. After the mob mentality of the average Digg user flooded Digg with topic after topic, comment after comment, Kevin Rose abdicated his own moral backbone to the masses.

Here is his abdication.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised given the "social" nature of the web site. Still, I'm disappointed that he did not make his own ethical evaluation and simply stand by it.

I have no desire to be in any way associated with that site any more.

Edited by RationalBiker
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I feel much the same about this. I hope Digg does go down "fighting." It deserves no better.

For those of you who don't know, Digg users posted a security code needed to get into some product (you only get the code if you buy the product), and basically a riot was instigated on the site when the people who run it refused to keep stories containing the code up. In response to the riot, they changed their minds... :huh:

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Gutless coward. Just because his users hate what they did doesn't mean he should change his mind. He should respect the rights of the company involved rather than allowing his users to get away with blatently breaching the companies rights. Clearly he cares for "the will of the people" and naught for rights.

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I think it helps to look at the issue from Kevin Rose's perspective.

The HD-DVD key is a number which allows you to watch HD-DVD movies on unlicensed devices. This allows you to play it on operating systems like Linux, which do not restrict HD viewing to all-digital connections.

The success of Digg is based on the belief that the users control the content. The "revolt" was a demonstration of the democratic nature of the site. Users accept some limitations on what is allowed, but they'd rather abandon the site than restrict what they believe is legitimate content. For Kevin Rose, it was a trade off between a legal risk and the success of his site, not a matter of principle. He decided that the success of the site outweighed the legal risks. Since Kevin Rose himself believes that censoring this number is wrong, it was never an issue of sacrificing a principle for him.

If I may make a parallel to The Fountainhead, it would be a mistake to think of this as Wynand giving in to the strikers. This is a case of Wynand siding with the strikers to begin with, and deciding in the end that he'd rather have the government shut down his paper than censor what he prints.

Edited by GreedyCapitalist
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The HD-DVD key is a number which allows you to watch HD-DVD movies on unlicensed devices. This allows you to play it on operating systems like Linux, which do not restrict HD viewing to all-digital connections.

So in your opinion (David, but also anyone else), is it a violation of someone's property rights to watch HD-DVD movies on unlicensed drives? I had assumed this was just like a serial number for, say, an operating system, but I see now that it may not be that simple.

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So in your opinion (David, but also anyone else), is it a violation of someone's property rights to watch HD-DVD movies on unlicensed drives? I had assumed this was just like a serial number for, say, an operating system, but I see now that it may not be that simple.

I think it is similar to serial keys for software

Furthermore, I think it is immoral to use it on unlicenced drives. When you purchase it you implicitly agree to use it only on licensed drives. Therefore if you do otherwise you are breaching the contract.

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I think it is similar to serial keys for software

Furthermore, I think it is immoral to use it on unlicenced drives. When you purchase it you implicitly agree to use it only on licensed drives. Therefore if you do otherwise you are breaching the contract.

That sounds like it's probably about right.

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It is funny that you have started this thread. Just last night me and one of my best friends swore off Digg for good. Digg magnifies everything that is wrong with direct democracy. It isn't that big of a loss though. The last couple months have just been redundant articles about Bush being evil, PS3 sucking, republicans causing global warming on purpose in order to kill atheists. The same old same old. Basically the site got taken over by a bunch of conspiracy theory lunatics and immature software pirates.

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It turns out that even New Zealand PC World, which supports the NZ government forcing Telecom NZ to allow its competitors access to its phone exchanges, thinks the Digg users done something wrong as the title of this post indicates.

I think the word "revolting" refers to "revolt" as in "rebellion," not "repulsive."

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So in your opinion (David, but also anyone else), is it a violation of someone's property rights to watch HD-DVD movies on unlicensed drives? I had assumed this was just like a serial number for, say, an operating system, but I see now that it may not be that simple.

The difference is that you sign an explicit contract when you purchase software. With movies and music there is a complex and confusing legal framework which is mostly controlled by the industry associations RIAA/MPAA. That doesn't justify piracy, but it does call for some skepticism over RIAA/MPAA claims. Should the government shut down all websites that mention a particular number?

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The difference is that you sign an explicit contract when you purchase software. With movies and music there is a complex and confusing legal framework which is mostly controlled by the industry associations RIAA/MPAA. That doesn't justify piracy, but it does call for some skepticism over RIAA/MPAA claims. Should the government shut down all websites that mention a particular number?

Well if the only way to purchase a HD-DVD movie is by implicitly agreeing to use it only on licensed players (and to not resell it), and the only way to make an HD-DVD movie is to agree with the proprietors of the format to sell the movie with that stipulation, it seems like this code deal could be completely morally and legally valid. There would be no reason to play an HD-DVD on an unlicensed player, since it would be breaking a contractual agreement you've made. The code just helps enforce the agreement.

On a separate note - should the government shut down all websites that mention a number like this? That's kind of like asking if the government should arrest all thieves who steal from people who keep their doors unlocked. It seems that an owner has some responsibility for enforcement of his own property claims. Maybe the owners of the HD-DVD format (I guess the RIAA/MPAA) aren't doing enough to self-enforce.

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The difference is that you sign an explicit contract when you purchase software. With movies and music there is a complex and confusing legal framework which is mostly controlled by the industry associations RIAA/MPAA.
This is an extremely important distinction. There is, in fact, no "implicit contract" when you buy CDs, books, whatever, except the seller's warranty that the product is indeed the product (that it isn't a bomb, poison, a blank disk or some other movie). There is an explicit EULA with software which is a contract, but a movie from a store involves no contractual obligations on the purchaser.

What obligation exists on the purchaser is only the obligation to not claim something they don't own, specifically, the right to make copies. This basic right to intellectual property is recognised and spelled out in law in every civilized nation on the planet and the uncivilized ones as well. That right, as formulated in all legal codes, states that the owner of the copyright is the only one with the right to give permission to copy. We know, in fact that RIAA/MPAA has publically asserted that the copyright owners -- the members -- have given a variety of permission to copy for personal use. Since playing an original copy is not a violation of the IP-owner's rights, even if the player is not "licensed", then the IP-owner has no further moral claim to restrict the actions of the physical-property owner.

The underlying problem is that respect for intellectual property is so negligible at present and theft is so common and socially acceptable that at least as far as IP is concerned, civilization has almost broken down totally. In the olden days -- 1000 or 2000 years ago (or less) -- the barbarian hordes would sack villages, taking everything of value, and in order to survive, men had to erect huge walls and post armed guards everywhere. These days, the benefits of civilization are evident in most parts of the world -- walking down the street, your rights will generally be respected (now, when it comes to working and manufacturing, that's another matter -- you still have to bribe the sovereign).

IP has, unfortunately, slipped back into the dark ages, where the barbarian hordes attack in numbers (millions of individual attacks rather than one big organised attack), and therefore to protect basic rights to intellectual property, to combat the massive initiation of force being launched by "content providers", otherwise-questionable laws have been passed designed to prevent these rights violations. I'm referring to the fact that it's illegal and immoral to aid efforts to steal IP.

In this context, it would be right for legal action to be taken against anyone who knowingly aids the theft of IP, and allowing security-cracking codes to be distributed through your web site is a form of aiding theft. On the other hand, Digg has to face the prospect of it's own death at the hands of its outraged customers, so should then sacrifice their own existence for the same of an abstract principle that doesn't immediately benefit them? It's a tough decision, and very unfortunately Digg seems to be faced with the alternative of short-term destruction vs. long-term destruction. Why?

The customers. The people have clearly demonstrated the fearful power of mob rule. If you cater to thieves, you have to expect to suffer the fate of thieves.

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I'm not sure I understand what the problem is. If the code that was released allows nothing more than the viewing of HD-DVD movies on "unlicensed players" then where is the rights violation? What is an "unlicensed player" anyway? If a person legally purchases a movie should that person not then be allowed to view it on any device that will accept it? I don't see how this aids, promotes, or faciliates IP theft.

In my opinion, stipulations by distributors that you watch their movies on specific "licensed" players are unreasonable and unnecessary and I don't recognize their authority to impose such conditions. Although I may not own the rights to the movie itself and am thus subject to the limitations imposed by copyright laws I certainly own the physical aspects of it (the disc, the box, the booklet, etc.) and those are for me to do with as I please. If want to throw the disc around like a frizbee or use the box as a hammer that's my business. Similarly, if I want to play the movie in some kind of frankenstein machine I pieced together from junked parts I stripped off of discarded machinery or a Linux computer that should also be my business.

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If the code that was released allows nothing more than the viewing of HD-DVD movies on "unlicensed players" then where is the rights violation?
That isn't the problem: the problem is that piracy is rampant, and publishing the code enables the pirates to violate the rights of the IP owners. So the pirates are the ones bearing moral responsibility.
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That isn't the problem: the problem is that piracy is rampant, and publishing the code enables the pirates to violate the rights of the IP owners. So the pirates are the ones bearing moral responsibility.

So then this code not only allows the viewing of HD-DVD titles on unlicenced players but actually decrypts the discs and enables pirates to illegally distribute the movies. In light of this I believe you and I are in total agreement.

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To clarify, to view a DVD/HD DVD/Blu-Ray, you have to decrypt it. Once it's decrypted, the content can be directed to your TV screen or a blank DVD-R. The act of decrypting is not equivalent to copying.

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I think the word "revolting" refers to "revolt" as in "rebellion," not "repulsive."

Maybe.

Well if the only way to purchase a HD-DVD movie is by implicitly agreeing to use it only on licensed players (and to not resell it), and the only way to make an HD-DVD movie is to agree with the proprietors of the format to sell the movie with that stipulation, it seems like this code deal could be completely morally and legally valid. There would be no reason to play an HD-DVD on an unlicensed player, since it would be breaking a contractual agreement you've made. The code just helps enforce the agreement.

On a separate note - should the government shut down all websites that mention a number like this? That's kind of like asking if the government should arrest all thieves who steal from people who keep their doors unlocked. It seems that an owner has some responsibility for enforcement of his own property claims. Maybe the owners of the HD-DVD format (I guess the RIAA/MPAA) aren't doing enough to self-enforce.

I am with BrassDragon on this one. The HD-DVD manufacturers have made it quite clear by now that you are only permitted to play it on licensed drives.

you still have to bribe the sovereign

Not in New zealand. Not with copyright anyway. In New Zealand copyright is automatically recognised by law without applying for it. In fact there is no way to apply for copyright in New Zealand because of the automatic recognition. We have to apply for other IP rights though.

Digg magnifies everything that is wrong with direct democracy.

That is why I have never bothered with it.

It's a tough decision, and very unfortunately Digg seems to be faced with the alternative of short-term destruction vs. long-term destruction. Why?

The customers. The people have clearly demonstrated the fearful power of mob rule. If you cater to thieves, you have to expect to suffer the fate of thieves.

Indeed. Personally if faced with such a decision I would choose a thrid option: immediate destruction of the site (I would destroy it myself effective immediately).

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I think it is similar to serial keys for software

Furthermore, I think it is immoral to use it on unlicenced drives. When you purchase it you implicitly agree to use it only on licensed drives. Therefore if you do otherwise you are breaching the contract.

There is no such thing as implicitly agreeing to something. You either agree to it consciously or you do not. If there is no general violation of rights in using it on unliscenced drivers, then there is no specific instance of violation of rights simply because the creator doesn't want you to use software a certain way.

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Not in New zealand. Not with copyright anyway. In New Zealand copyright is automatically recognised by law without applying for it. In fact there is no way to apply for copyright in New Zealand because of the automatic recognition. We have to apply for other IP rights though.
It would help if you read the quote and did not delete important parts of my statement. I said, in fact "(now, when it comes to working and manufacturing, that's another matter -- you still have to bribe the sovereign)". Recall that we're talking about the broader issue of a benefit of civilization being a general respect for rights, so that you don't have to be armed and constantly shooting people as you go to the store to buy a quart of milk. There are, unfortunately, two areas in which the benefits of civilization have not been realized (worse, one of those is where rights have been de-realized). Let me give you an example: you have to pay taxes. Let me give you another example: you need to follow various pointless government rules or get permission from the government to engage in certain forms of business. Are you claiming that New Zealand has no restrictions on business and no taxes? Sweet!

In the other respect, I suspect that NZ copyright law is virtually the same as US law, and invite you to identify the statutes in NZ which address the relationship between registration of copyright and limits on liability, which is an area where I think you have the best chance of finding a substantive difference between NZ and US law -- I'm skeptical.

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I think the word "revolting" refers to "revolt" as in "rebellion," not "repulsive."

From dictionary.com:

re·volt·ing /rɪˈvoʊltɪŋ/

–adjective

1. disgusting; repulsive: a revolting sight.

2. rebellious.

So, in fact, it means both.

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Are you claiming that New Zealand has no restrictions on business and no taxes? Sweet!

I wish! The only way for me to say that would be to lie, so i will not say it.

From dictionary.com:

re·volt·ing /rɪˈvoʊltɪŋ/

–adjective

1. disgusting; repulsive: a revolting sight.

2. rebellious.

So, in fact, it means both.

Moebius, I think SoftwareNerd was talking about in the context of the title for the blog post I linked to, not the complete definiton of the word.

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The HD-DVD manufacturers have made it quite clear by now that you are only permitted to play it on licensed drives.

I think that makes about as much sense as the the farmer telling me that I'm only permitted to use their milk with coco puffs but not frosted flakes.

The difference between a normal commodity and an intellectual property is the ease of privacy. As far as rights are concerned, my take is this -- once I paid for the product, it is my property and I should be able to do what I want with it. I am violating the producer's property rights if and ONLY IF I copy and distribute the movie without consent. But as long as I am not violating the rights of others, the IP's producer has no right to restrict me on how I wish to play my movie -- on whatever player I damn well please.

IP is only confusing when it comes to something along the lines of software codes, something that can be taken in bits and pieces, or even created independently.

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