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Not Mob Power, but People Power

NY Times: How a Number Became the Latest Web Celebrity. A throng of tech-savvy Internet users have banded together over the last two days to publish and widely distribute a secret code used by the movie industry to prevent illegal copying of high-definition movies. The broader distribution of the code may not pose a serious threat to the movie industry, because only sophisticated technologists can use it to tailor the decryption software capable of getting around the copy protection on Blu-ray and HD DVD discs. But its relentless spread has already become a lesson in mob power on the Internet and the futility of censorship in the digital world.

The “code” is a number, and calling’s users a mob utterly misunderstands what’s going on here. I deeply admire what Kevin Rose at Digg is doing by refusing to keep removing the number as Hollywood has demanded. He posted today:

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.

The insanity of the legal framework on which the film industry is relying here has never been clearer. When will Congress figure it out?

4 Comments on “Not Mob Power, but People Power”

  1. #1 Joe Ranft
    on May 2nd, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    What I find interesting about the Digg blowup is that once Kevin Rose gave up, the offending number stopped appearing on the Digg home page and other news stories started to appear again.

  2. #2 Jon Garfunkel
    on May 2nd, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    Note that the Times wasn’t the first to use the word “mob” on this story. viddy these: Information Week, InfoWorld, PC World, and even, la voz de la revolucion, TechCrunch.

  3. #3 mblair
    on May 3rd, 2007 at 2:43 am

    Rather than mob rule, I like to think of it as a work stoppage. It did happen on May Day after all. Plus, Digg’s users that provide 99% of the value of the entire company. Realistically, they do call the shots.

    That said, I don’t think the word “mob” necessarily has negative connotations. Definition #1 at is “a disorderly or riotous crowd of people”.

  4. #4 Jeff Crigler
    on May 3rd, 2007 at 7:37 am

    Call me a traditionalist, but I believe in user participation, not user control. I’ve chimed in in more details on my blog at the news2020project dot com.

    Jeff Crigler