The recent stand-off and subsequent back down at Digg was an interesting example of the power of the internet users if they combine their efforts. Digg is a news aggregator site which is heavily dependent on its users for articles. Users vote for the stories that should be featured on the site. The higher the vote count, the further up the rank the article will move with the most popular articles appearing on page one.
On Tuesday, May 2, a contributor submitted an article which provided the 32-character code to break copyright protection on HD-DVDs. The owners of Digg faced a dilemma when the Advanced Access Computer System, AACS, requested that this article should be taken down or else legal action would be taken against them. Digg's moderators were then instructed to take down this article. According to the terms one has to accept in order to post to Digg, Digg's editors have the right to take down content they object to.
One would think that there would be no support for an illegal post. However, as far as I can understand it, HD-DVDs provide some real problems to people who are quite willing to purchase them. For instance Linux users are unable to play DVDs on their computers.
As another example, my daughter who has just returned from Canada found that she could not watch a DVD on her computer, if bought or rented in Canada, as her machine is set up for UK/Europe. If she changed the code on her machine she would immediately lose her warranty. This was obviously not an option. The only way she could chill out in her hotel room with a movie was to rent via the hotel's satellite system, which cost her $25.00 to hire one movie. It would have been cheaper to buy the DVD but under the hardcore licensing prohibitions, not possible.
The war between Digg and its users continued for about 24 hrs. As the original post was taken down, another user posted an article under a different heading, but including the code. Users would vote for this article in thousands and at such speed that the post would land on the first page before the moderators could react. Digg would then take the site down, not allowing any access, and clean up the entries taking down any article referring to the code. As soon as the site was up again, the attack started again. Finally founder Kevin Rose posted his decision on the site to allow articles showing the code to appear on Digg.
His words were: “After seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you've made it clear. 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. If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying. "
The situation appears to be one then, where the Digg user is irritated, possibly even outraged at an unfair licensing set-up. It is not that these users necessarily want to cheat the system, they want some fairness in its application. It is this sense of unfairness that made this war happen. Rather than suing Digg, AACS should hear this as a justified criticism and do something about it. Surely the consumer has spoken?
Anja Merret lives in Brighton, UK. Her personal blog http://www.anjamerret.com allows her to voice opinions on issues that interest her and observations she makes.
She has started a new blog http://www.pinkblocks.com that deals with observations on self development and personal power. Her recommendation for self help tools may be found on http://www.anjamerret.blogspot.com