An Over-hyped Copyright Issue?

This number has been all over the place recently:

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

Why? because this number is used in an encryption algorithm that encrypts new DVDs, so consumers can’t copy the movies. In the last couple of weeks, the RIAA has frantically tried to prevent this number from being published, but their effort back-fired and now it is all over the place (around 1,700,000 hits on google). Digg users revolted against censorship and forced digg to keep the number published. People have done all sort of things to get the number out there, like printing it on t-shirts, coffee mugs, etc.
(Remember that the RIAA recently received the “honor” of being America’s most hated corporation)

Ed Felten, from freedom-to-tinker, wrote a very interesting series of posts about the topic. In his last post he even offers a nice parody on the way that RIAA claims to own numbers.

The only problem is, RIAA doesn’t claim to own this number, and this stories is not about copyrights. According to the EFF, the RIAA is indeed using the DMCA as part of their battle, but they are not claiming that the integer in question belongs to them. What they are claiming (or will claim in court when the day comes) is that the integer in question is used in a technology that illegally circumvents encryption (i.e., the integer is a “part” or a “component” of a malicious technology). Further more, the number has no other practical purpose, and therefore whoever publishes this number is engaged in “trafficking”.
(You can read a much better explanation directly at the EFF site)

Nowadays, the term ‘copyrights’ sneaks into every story that somehow intersects between technology and public policy, be it about privacy, file-sharing, espionage, law suits, medicine, theft of personal information and what not. Many times this term used in the wrong way, where the real issue is perhaps related to trademarks, trade-secrets, trespassing, civil rights and a whole lot of other things.

I don’t mind that bloggers over-use this term so they can feel like freedom fighter, like this blogger did. I do, however, find it disappointing that Ed Felten, who is such a prominent blogger and a policy-expert second to none, doesn’t see the difference.

Oh well, at least I got a chance to publish the number myself. I wonder if anyone at the RIAA would ever read this page.

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