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.