Warning and disclaimer: vitriolic rant ahead; I am not a lawyer, just angry.

Recently I’ve been seeing a lot of a certain number on the internet. Specifically, the processing key for most of the HD-DVD movies published so far. And I’m getting really sick of it.

Most of the people copying this key did so under some delusional notion of “free speech” or “numbers not being copyrightable”. Under current US law (regardless of what you think of it), this number is part of an “circumvention device”, and as such is not under copyright, but is it also not protected speech. This number has no artistic merit or value beyond its purpose towards breaking the DRM on HD-DVD products. As far as I’m concerned, it’s just garbage that I’ve had shoved in my face constantly for the last few days.

By posting this number on your blog/web site/google notebook/tattoo-on-your-chest (I’m not making that up), you are not making a valuable contribution to the world. You are not even inconveniencing the AACS-LA or their lawyers. If you want to make a difference, you have several productive options:

  • Contact your legislative representatives and lobby for copyright/DMCA reform.
  • Put economic and social pressure on the various backers of DRM technology by writing letters and talking to people on the street. Teach people why these technologies are bad. Maybe you’ll even get them to help campaign for open formats.
  • Get out there and produce a competing technology for distribution of digital media that’s so better that everyone will want to adopt it.

I suspect these will be unpopular options, since they actually require some effort. The sort of “civil disobedience” exhibited by plastering this number all over the internet is idiotic. Picketing is effective. Boycotts are effective. Political action is sometimes effective. Whining on the internet is not. Especially when that whining is in violation of existing law. What happens when, in court, useful arguments are thrown out because the person making them was shown to have willfully disregarded existing statutes?

Please, stop polluting my internet with this garbage. Most of you doing this are bright, talented human beings. Go use that talent to create something wonderful.