Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Magic Numbers

I've blabbed a bit about DRM here before, mostly in the context of music. However, it's also a problem with movies. I don't know if any non-geeks noticed this, but the controversy over DRM came to a hilarious climax over the last few days. HD-DVDs, one of the new high-definition versions of DVD, are all protected by a form of DRM. Unlike, say, CDs, smart people can't just write software or hardware that can play an HD-DVD. In order to do so, they need a special software key, which is really just a series of letters and numbers.

Well, some very smart person managed to find that series of letters and numbers. Then they posted it on the internet. And like the great philosopher Joe Rogan once said, trying to take something off the internet is like trying to take pee out of swimming pool.

That didn't stop them from trying, though. Any web site that posted (09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0) this key (09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0) was ordered to take it (09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0) down. Even the user-driven news site Digg censored stories containing the key, which lead to a revolt where, for about a day, every story on Digg contained the key (story).
Now the key is on any web site even remotely related to technology.

The funny thing is, this key has been available for months. It only spread and became common knowledge when idiotic lawyers tried to stop it from spreading. I find it especially funny because it's just a number - nothing physical, not even a complicated file like a movie - just a number. Anyone can memorize it, or tattoo it on themselves, and there isn't anything anyone can do to erase their brains or their skin. It also demonstrates the futility of trying to protect content like this. Any protection can be hacked through, and no information can be taken back once it's out there. The only way to make sure people buy content is to make it worth buying.

And people think that there are grand conspiracies involving covered-up assassinations and aliens. If one company can't keep a simple number secret, it's unlikely that a large government could keep anything more serious secret.

Oh, and this reminds me, I never told my blogfriends what I had engraved in the back of my iPod:

P.S. 09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0


El Vaso Ruso said...

www.elvasoruso.blogspot.com El Vaso Ruso (The Russian Glass) is a kind of controversial magazine in crescendo. It deals with different issues as politics, literature, humor (kind of dark humor, you know), movie history, books, comics,just anything we want. It's going pretty good, feel free to pass by whenever you want to, and if you do wirte, draw or take photos please, send them to us, and they'll might be included.
See you!
Talita. Córdoba, Argentina.

Jen said...

I hope that you never lose that iPod... just think of the irony.

William Spaetzel said...

Shame on myself, I actually had to google your iPod numbers. And I consider myself a hardcore Lost fan.

Harry J. Sachz said...

Thankfully, redune said those numbers were from the show Lost. I was sitting here staring at em wondering what sort of tech relevance they had. [never seen Lost]

Am I the only one that feels bad for Kevin about this whole thing? The numbers are just numbers, I get it... But is this really worth the possibility of losing such a well managed user based news site? If the site disappears, then they have no reason to do their podcast as well.

I don't want to go back to watching regular (ad-saturated) television again. This is the beginning of a new generation of media, and we obviously aren't showing that maturity is common.

Nölff said...

Do you know how to remove DRM for itunes mp3s? I want to burn CD's.

madamerouge said...

"Dude." [Hurley intonation] "Nice iPod!"

I am a luddite. I still don't have a portable mp3 player or a cell phone. And tonight, while grocery shopping, I saw a senior citizen in a zippy chair. With a Bluetooth.

I'm in the middle of an article in Vanity Fair right now (March 2007) about the Pirate Bay website. There's a quote from David Bowie that makes a lot of sense. Originally from a 2002 interview with The New York Times, it reads: "Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity."

Phronk said...

Vassily: I can't tell if you're a spammer or not. I'll hold off on cursing you and your famlily for eterinity...for now.

Jen: Haha! Nice. I kinda wanna lose it now just so I have a funny story. But would it really be "losing" it if it's intentional? Hmmmm. Deep.

Redune: Hey, are you from my Xbox Live friends list? I always see your name pop up when I'm watching movies 'n stuff, but I never actually play games with people on Live.

Sachz: I totally feel for Kevin. He's in an impossible position; he can censor the site from "illegal" activity, but then the freedom-loving hippies that frequent it will revolt. Or he can leave it up and risk being permanently shut down. He loses either way. I think he chose the right time to revolt along with the crowd, though...the number is on the New York Times, Wired, and the prestigious Phronk.com, so it's nearly impossible to enforce its takedown now.

Nolff: Ironically, the easiest way to remove DRM from iTunes is to burn a CD. If you use iTunes' built-in CD burning feature, you can burn songs that are protected to CD. If you want them DRM-free on your computer, just import them back to MP3 from your CD. Then you've just broken the law by circumventing DRM...you l33t hacker.

Mdm: What are you, a mennonite? Good quote there. There are some sites where it's already almost exactly that; you pay a monthly fee, and can download all the music you want (legally). But if you stop paying, all your music stops working. Not really my thing, but maybe it's THE FUTURE.

Jason said...

Didn't catch the Lost reference, but I agree with you about DRM. I've been ripping/burning dvds onto my new Archos 604 wifi now and love it.

Salem said...

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