The New York Times, May 3, 2007 -- There is open revolt on the Web.
Sophisticated Internet users have banded together over the last two days to publish and widely distribute a secret code used by the technology and movie industries to prevent piracy of high-definition movies.
The broader distribution of the code may not pose a serious threat to the studios, because it requires some technical expertise and specialized software to use it to defeat 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.
An online uproar came in response to a series of cease-and-desist letters from lawyers for a group of companies that use the copy protection system, demanding that the code be removed from several Web sites.
Rather than wiping out the code - a string of 32 digits and letters in a specialized counting system - the legal notices sparked its proliferation on Web sites, in chat rooms, inside cleverly doctored digital photographs and on user-submitted news sites like Digg.com.
"It's a perfect example of how a lawyer’s involvement can turn a little story into a huge story," said Fred von Lohmann, a staff lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group. "Now that they started sending threatening letters, the Internet has turned the number into the latest celebrity. It is now guaranteed eternal fame."
The number is being enshrined in some creative ways. Keith Burgon, a 24-year-old musician in Goldens Bridge, N.Y., grabbed his acoustic guitar on Tuesday and improvised a melody while soulfully singing the code. He posted the song to YouTube, where it was played more than 45,000 times.
Read more on the growing rebellion against DRM here.