09 F9 11 02: Chink in DRM Armor Is Showing Through

In late February, an enterprising hacker (the three educational degree kind, not the e-graffiti kind) took the movie King Kong, ripped the information to his computer (which is to say he copied all the data from an HD-DVD), and started testing all the packets of information. These HD-DVDs are encoded in such a way that you cannot normally rip the content and then record it onto a blank HD-DVD. This encoding is part of a security technology collectively know as Digital Rights Management (DRM). You can read about his breakthrough in real time at the DVD conversion forum.

After testing the data, he found and was able to generate what is called a product key. To my knowledge, this product key is a hexadecimal series of letters and numbers that allows the HD-DVD to be copied and backed up on a linux computer, or rather, it allows for the encryption software to be bypassed. To his surprise, the product key to all the HD-DVDs and Blu-Ray Discs was exactly the same. If you would like to see the number photoshopped into the oddest pictures , actually tattooed on skin, or talked about incessantly, just type 09 F9 11 02 into your search engine.
So, why is something that happened in late February news now? Last night the Digg community was digging everything they dig (for those of you that don’t know, Digg is a site where links are voted up or down (dug) by their popularity) when posts started to disappear. The Digg.com Web site had taken a proactive approach and started deleting any post referring to the so-called “forbidden number”. The Advance Access Content Systems Licensing Authority (AACS-LA), the controlling body of this DRM technology, had started sending hundreds of cease and desist letters to the Web sites that displayed all sixteen digits. However, as technology blog boingboing.net reported last night, the problem was that over 36,000 such Web sites existed. So when Digg.com started deleting the posts, the community responded by flooding the site with references to the forbidden number. This morning, Google counted over 360,000 Web sites displaying the forbidden number. I did some research, and it seems the intended effect of cease and desist orders is NOT to increase infractions by an order of magnitude.
Digg.com heard its community, and then the CEO issued a response that basically said, Users, you win, and then let the users post whatever they dugg. The response also made note of the fact that Digg.com could be opening itself up for a legal nightmare.


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