Friday, May 04, 2007

The Revolution Will Be Dugg

Did you miss it? Many people on the wrong side of the digital subdivision did – and even some who weren’t.

If you need to get up to speed, here’s the short version (find a long version here). Part of the reason the entertainment industry is pushing HD-DVD and/or Blu-ray discs to replace standard DVDs is that these new formats have encryption keys that severely restrict what the consumer can do with them – even more so than with DVDs. This “unbreakable” encryption was promptly hacked – as virtually every form of DRM is.

The Shot Heard Round the World came Tuesday, when the numeric code was posted to, and promptly voted to the top of the lists. The AACS, which administered the code issued a cease and desist order. Digg complied, and the code was immediately reposted. As fast as posts were removed, new posts were added – sometimes faster. Eventually Digg bowed to the will of its subscribers and gave up trying to stop the tidal wave with a teaspoon.

Within a day the encryption code was all over the Internet. It was in subject lines of posts, Photoshopped into pictures, set to music, inserted in blogs and available just about everywhere.

While much virtual ink has already been spilled over what this means for DRM, I’d like to focus on the biggest picture.

The HD-DVD revolt was the greatest act of civil disobedience the world has seen.

There were so many posts – and not just at Digg – that it was simply impossible for the AAC to remove that hexadecimal code from the Internet.

Not everyone’s been paying attention, but we’ve been building towards this point for a while. The Bum Rush the Charts initiative did affect the iTunes music chart. The campaign to save Internet radio has spurred Congressional action. There’s been nothing like this before – but there will again.

When the online community vented their anger and frustration at the AACS, though, they displayed a magnitude of power not seen before – but I suspect one we’ll see again.

This time the spotlight was on something an industry wanted to remain hidden. What if next time it’s something a government wants to remain buried?

When the smoke cleared at Concord in 1775, things hadn’t changed that much. The map still showed 13 English colonies along the eastern seaboard of North America. Many living there still thought of themselves as English subjects, and a majority weren’t even aware of what had happened in Massachusetts. But the battle of Concord started a chain of events that changed everything in only six years.

Where will this act of international civil disobedience take us six years hence?

- Ralph

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