Digg users revolt over attempt to block encryption code

Users push to defy licensing group; Founder says site will 'go down fighting'

Kevin Rose, the founder of Digg Inc., threw in the towel on Tuesday night.

By that point, Digg executives had spent hours in a fruitless battle to remove repeated posts to the community news Web site that contained a key needed to crack the AACS (Advanced Access Content System) encryption used to limit copying of HD-DVD and Blu-ray discs. The company began removing the posts after it received a cease-and-desist letter from another company claiming these posts violated its intellectual property rights.

As soon as Digg removed one post with the AACS key, another one popped up. And then another one and another. In the end, Rose gave up and announced in a Digg blog post that the company would no longer fight its users over the issue.

"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," Rose wrote.

"If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying," Rose wrote. His post did not name the source of the cease and desist letter, but the letter likely came from the AACS Licensing Administrator LLC (AACSLA), which oversees the encryption technology.

Why the AACS key, which has been available online for months, should be the focus of so much attention on the Digg site was not immediately clear. But AACSLA apparently wants the key removed from Web sites.

"The people who control AACS, the copy protection technology used on HD-DVD and Blu-ray discs, are apparently trying to shut down websites that publish a certain 128-bit integer," Ed Felten wrote on Freedom to Tinker, in a May 1 posting to his blog. Felten is a professor of computer science and public policy at Princeton University.

Those efforts are unlikely to succeed, given the widespread availability of the key online. Sightings have extended far beyond the usual tech sites and have reached even mainstream sites such as I Can Has Cheezburger, which is devoted to captioned pictures of animals. "The key will inevitably remain available, and AACSLA are just making themselves look silly by trying to suppress it," Felten wrote.

Digg and AACSLA executives could not immediately be reached for comment.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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