A Web page that contained a key to remove the digital-rights-management used in HD DVDs has started to circulate widely on the Internet — and, at Digg.com, caused an open revolt after moderators initially removed postings containing the code.
The site's owners, however, finally said they would refuse a cease-and-desist letter and let the controversial code remain.
At issue is a 32-character code string containing the so-called "HD Processing Key," a common key to unlock the many if not all of the existing HD DVD movies using a program called BackupHDDVD, developed by crackers including MUSLIX64 and others who have posted on the Doom9.org message boards.
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The DRM was first cracked in December; SlySoft began shipping an HD DVD copying application in February.
Although the code has been available for some time, the rudd-o.com Web site began urging users to "share this number," in much the same manner as the original CSS code for decrypting DVDs began circulating.
"This means the (admittedly long) number is precisely the key you need in order to decrypt and watch HD-DVD movies in Linux (oh, okay, maybe software is also required)," the Web site said. "And the fact that it's out there, spreading like wildfire, is killing the types at the movie studios right now. Now, even if this number stopped working (and it will, thanks to the revocation procedures in HD-DVD's encryption scheme) or if it were a hoax, the decryption system has already been figured out and is implemented in a software program called BackupHDDVD.
"We did it with DVDs and DeCSS, and today I can use my trusty MPlayer to play any DVD movie," the site added. "We will eventually (rather soon) view HD-DVDs in Linux as well (because the codecs are already there, even if they are illegal in some countries)."
At Digg.com, a popular referral site, users began posting the link in user-submitted articles, which received thousands of votes, or "diggs."
However, in a blog post, Digg president Jay Adelson noted that the "owner" of the code had sent a cease-and-desist letter, ordering references to the code be removed from the site.
For much of Tuesday, users and moderators on digg.com played a version of whack-a-mole, as articles and comments containing the code were posted and then removed.
Finally, at 9 p.m., founder Kevin Rose gave in.
"So today was a difficult day for us," Rose wrote. "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," Rose added. "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.
"If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying," Rose said.
Rose seemed to indicate that the site would support any subsequent Digg posting that included the code. As of 11:15 p.m. PDT on Tuesday night, however, the site was not functioning, with a static "out of service" message on its front page.