Geek Ethics: A Modern Digital Mass Movement

Its odd when you realize that there is a strange informational ethic involved with geeks on the internet. Every-time something is censored, over covered-up geeks propagate the information to the point where enforcement becomes futile. This can be seen with web-pages such as The Memory Hole, which serves to document changes in records, and disappearing public records. And most lately in the "09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0" fiasco.

To explain, "09:F9:11:02:9D:74:E3:5B:D8:41:56:C5:63:56:88:C0" is half of the digital key to decrypt HD-DVDs (the other half being unique to each HDDVD), allowing it to be played on unlicensed platforms. Much the same thing happened with regular DVDs a long time ago, allowing them to be playable on older Macs and Linux machines(since the encryption is copyrighted, only authorized paying vendors are/were allowed access legally, which amounts to extortion, and precludes smaller vendors from supporting the ubiquitous technology). This code (and the one hidden within the HD-DVD itself) make it possible to rip HD-DVDs to data files, playable on all platforms.

Some noble hacker discovered this, and now it has lead to a cascade of DMCA take-down notices, burying its mention in blogs and large news services such as Digg, basically government enforced censorship. Censorship of a NUMBER. Yes, for all its cryptic looks it is a simple number encoded in hexadecimal. For a silly analogy, lets say that someone develops a new technology based on a circle, they copyright this. Then some intrepid Greek hacker known as Pythagorus on the internet finds the secret number that makes this "wheel" possible, lets call his number π. The cartel that brought you the wheel decides to censor this number, banning all public use of it under threat of legal attack.

But here comes the internet, a group of libertarian amoral egotists who read to much William Gibson books, and for all their faults still buy the old hacker adage "information wants to be free". Nothing pisses of the internets like censorship. Thus EVERYONE spreads it, copies it, makes poems and videos of it, and thus transform it into the common place, and make it so ubiquitous that no one could ever remove its mention, ensuring its free existence in the public domain. For all their faults, geeks have this one thing going for them.

EDIT: Even Wikipedia is riding the censorship train. Which is VERY shameful. Wikipedia is supposed to be a repository for knowledge that is useful, and not just that knowledge that a corporation or government decides we should see for their convenience. This is very much like the China issue I talked about the other day, where American online companies behave unethically for their own interests.

Happy May-Day. In related news.

Edit: This entry is post-dated to when I originally posted it to my other (more informal) blog. In the mean time Digg.com capitulated to the wishes of its users, but only after being nearly crippled with activity. It is amazing what a small mass-movement can actually do, at around 12 noon (MST) Google showed around 1000 hits for said number, while now, a little over 24 hours later, it shows 316,000. Many of these are fallout from the Digg Revolt itself, but many of them are still independent pages, thus securing the number to remain in the public domain by shear numbers. Though this still could be hurt by the "take down notice" sent to Google. Even if this is blacklisted by the top search engine, it has reached enough critical mass to never go away. Like many other things, an attempt at censorship has cause an idea to become more known than it ever would have without it.

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