HD DVD Digg Disaster

Digg has been at the forefront of a pretty significant controversy in recent days, and there were two obvious ways to react for them to react — amusingly enough, they did both.

It all started with someone who posted a series of HEX numbers and the story got massively ‘Dugg’ by Digg members. What was so special about those numbers? They can be:

used with certain software to allow the playback of HD DVD content on Linux systems, which are otherwise unsupported by the movie industry.

So Digg got a cease-and-desist notice from the HD DVD guys, and the posts about the HEX numbers on Digg started to disappear. Jay Adelson (Digg CEO) had this to say about the removal. That post was at 1PM on May 1st. At 9PM the same day, Kevin Rose (Digg Founder and Chief Architect) reversed the position in his blog post about the HEX code and community response, saying that they will no longer block the stories and essentially telling the HD DVD legal to ‘bring it on.’

There are tons of responses from Digg members about what has been going on with this, and while there is much bickering to be had, there are a couple of major reasons that they are angry about the request to cease-and-desist from HD DVD.

One group of dissenters is upset primarily from the standpoint of free speech. People never enjoy being censored – regardless of what they are saying.

Another group is upset about the fact that by denying them the ability to create Linux codecs for Linux software (allowing them to play the DVD’s), it furthers the Windows monopoly and creates a situation for them whereby they can purchase a product (in this case a HD DVD) and not be able to use it.

The creators of the HD DVD, on the other hand, are afraid that people will be able to upload them or share the files, and start more easily pirating the content.

Of course, this is actually not a new story. The first murmurs of the HD DVD breakthrough came back at the end of December in 2006 when it was talked about in an InfoWorld article. You can, in fact, see exactly how widespread the publishing of that HEX number is by doing a little Google search for the first two sets of the number (09 f9). Doing a search this morning, I get this result in Google:

Results 1 – 10 of about 2,420,000 for 09 f9.

Including someone who has a full domain name made of the HEX code (you knew someone had to do that, right?).

Now, people knew what was coming next (or they should have). With that many results for the number abounding on the Internet, you know the first thing the HD DVD guys would want to do is change it. In fact, the guy who started the fire had this to say on his blog:

Now, even if this number stopped working (and it will, thanks to the revocation procedures in HD-DVD’s encryption scheme) or if it were a hoax, the decryption system has already been figured out and is implemented in a software program called BackupHDDVD.

Of course, he was right.

Yahoo published an article talking about the new key and how it will apply to all new HD DVD’s:

On April 6, Corel issued an update for the InterVideo WinDVD playback software that refreshes and further obscures those device keys. New HD DVDs issued after April 23 will not work on players running the old software.

Of particular note in the Yahoo article is one thing said by Alex Halderman that really gets to the root of the issue:

“This may be the test in whether AACS (Advanced Access Content System) is going to provide any value to the movie studios in the long run,” Halderman said. “If the new version is broken very shortly … then it looks like the long-term prospects of AACS are very bleak. We’ll probably see this game repeated forever.”

A Digg member comment (username: Sishgupta) on the Yahoo story seems to indicate the future:

We will NOT stand for DRM [(Digital Rights Management)]. In the end it only hinders the true value of the product for the people who pay for it. The number will be cracked again and again and again. It does not matter what they do or for how long they do it, we will fight this.

If Digg members like Sishgupta are an accurate reflection of the community feeling, then it may very well be the beginning of the end for this sort of technology. At least – until the next time.