May 02, 2007

A Futile Attempt to Censor the Net

Greetings. As you may know, a few months ago one of the decryption keys to high-definition DVD copy protection (for both Blu-ray and HD DVD) was discovered and has been spreading around the Internet ever since.

What you may not have heard is that AACS-LA -- the entity that controls the copy protection system itself -- is now engaged in an broad legal effort to stamp out every copy of the key anywhere on the Net (via "takedown" notices and related threats).

This is the textbook definition of an utterly and totally hopeless endeavor, demonstrating once again my maxim that "You can't effectively censor the Internet." This keeps coming up over and over again in different contexts (DMCA, governments upset about YouTube video depictions, political repression ... you name it).

You can harass, you can subpoena, you can threaten. You can cry, you can demand, you can plead. You can certainly try (and often succeed) at holding specific individuals or persons responsible legally and even financially, and you can sometimes block particular distribution points.

But you still won't be able to significantly suppress the actual information or other data in question once it's out there. Attempts to do so -- as in this copy protection case -- will typically only speed the spread! Once leaked, it's leaked. Once done, it's done. Like with my motorcycle, there's no reverse gear available.

This applies whether you're talking about a pirated music video, or, very unfortunately, national security secrets of the highest order.

After materials have circulated more than trivially on the Internet, you can't ever stop them. There are simply too many sites, too many ways to encode and obscure, too many alternatives for persons wishing to continue disseminating the data in question.

We do not necessarily have to like this state of affairs in all cases. Though it is a boon for free speech, there can indeed be situations where it carries significant financial, security, and other risks. But we might as well come to grips with the fact that this is the way the world works now, and there's no escaping that reality.

Get used to it.


Posted by Lauren at May 2, 2007 09:07 PM | Permalink
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