Never pick a fight with someone…

The AACS — the group of companies behind the encryption standard used in HD-DVD discs, whose encryption key was posted to Digg by about 10,000 people in the course of a day last week, which I wrote about here — just doesn’t seem to know when to quit. Despite the fact that its attempt to get BoingBoing and Google and Digg to remove the key string blew up in its face, the AACS now says it will continue its near-sighted campaign.

snipshot_e4qun407gkf.jpgThe lesson the AACS seems unwilling to learn is sometimes referred to as the Streisand Effect, in reference to the aging chanteuse who didn’t want photos of her home published, and only encouraged even more people to publish them. Is what happened with Digg petty? Perhaps. A lame attempt at civil disobedience? Maybe. An example of mob rule? Quite likely. But the AACS is still going to gain exactly nothing by trying to pursue its absurd strategy.

As someone once said (no one is quite sure who, but probably Mark Twain): “Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.” At the time it was said, it could only have referred to picking a fight with a newspaper publisher or journalist, since they were the only ones with the ability to publish whatever they wanted. Now anyone with a grudge, or an ax to grind, or a hobbyhorse to ride can be a publisher.

On a related note, Jason Calacanis talked to Digg CEO Jay Adelson and the EFF’s Fred von Lohmann on his podcast the other day, and it made for some interesting listening. Among other things, Jay said that at the peak of the submission frenzy, Digg was getting two submissions of the key every second, which meant that Digg was “essentially rendered inoperative.” The discussion over what to do about it, he said, “was an all-day thing.”

Adelson also said that Digg “is a living and breathing, user-controlled environment,” and that he “couldn’t hire enough people to moderate digg, it just wouldn’t be possible.” Digg tried to remove all the submissions — including some that posted the binary version, and some that posted links to a YouTube video in which someone sang a song containing the key.

But the bottom line for the AACS, as Fred von Lohmann said, is that “if they wanted to keep the key secret they did precisely the wrong thing.” And seem determined to continue doing it.

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About mathewi

I'm the chief digital writer at the Columbia Journalism Review in New York, and a former writer for Fortune magazine and the Globe and Mail newspaper.

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