You may have noticed that we have removed the “Digg It” feature that has appeared at the end of each NAM blog post since February.
Digg.com is a high-profile Internet “community site” centered around a user-based ranking system; the content leans heavily on technology-oriented issues. The “Digg It” feature allows readers to recommend individual posts, so with enough activity an item can become a hot topic on the web.
This week, controversy erupted when a Digg contributor posted the hexidecimal code to crack the digital rights management protection on HD-DVD. Lines of software programming are intellectual property — they don’t invent themselves, after all — and the posting allowed tech-savvy users to violate the copyright protections and copy high-density DVDs. Accordingly, the Advanced Access Content System consortium — an industry group that protects copyrights — sent a cease-and-desist letter to Digg.com, and the site’s operators deleted the post and banned the poster.
Many in the Digg “community” were incensed, believing that Digg buckled under to corporate pressure. Many of these people don’t view posting a code as any great transgression. You buy a DVD move and you should enjoy the right to personal use — making an extra copy in case your kid scratches up the original, perhaps converting it to another format so you can watch it on the computer or a portable device.
Others dispute the basic premise: How can a series of numbers be property?
Unfortunately, any reasoned back and forth was overtaken by an all-too-typical wave of Internet abuse, as users bombarded Digg with thousands of submissions, once again posting the code.
So Digg gave in. One of the founders, Kevin Rose, posted the code with an explanation:
[Today] was a difficult day for us. We had to decide whether to remove stories containing a single code based on a cease and desist declaration. We had to make a call, and in our desire to avoid a scenario where Digg would be interrupted or shut down, we decided to comply and remove the stories with the code.
But now, 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.
Digg made a mistake. Sure, the vast bulk of those posting the code have no interest in mass-producing pirated copies, and some of their arguments have intellectual merit. Perhaps Digital Rights Management does hold back introduction and advancement of new technologies.
But the reason companies use software to protect their DVDs, CDs and other electronic media is that people are stealing their property to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Pirates are running entire industries in China, India, Russia, even Canada, based on movies and sound recordings stolen from U.S. owners — including the artists who wrote and performed the song or acted in the movie.
Intellectual property is property, plain and simple. Just as a homeowner has the right to protect the contents of his house, a company has the right to protect the products of its employees, be it rock song or line of software code.
We think the “Digg community” doesn’t adequately acknowledge the legitimate property rights issues involved in posting a code that allows people to make copies of one or 10,000 DVDs or CDs. And by reversing its original stand, Digg’s operators sanctioned that disrespect.
Until the Digg community shows as much fervor in attacking intellectual piracy as attacking the companies that are legitimately defending their property, well, we do not want to be promoting the site by using the “Digg It” feature.
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