Wow. Josh pointed me to some of the rather strange goings on at Digg - a site where members control the headlines by promoting their favorite news stories. Apparently the site has been a hub for sharing the encryption code that can be used to access HD/DVDs. Digg received a cease and desist letter and tried to remove the offending links from Digg at the risk of being sued.
From a post by Jay Adelson:
Weâ€™ve been notified by the owners of this intellectual property that they believe the posting of the encryption key infringes their intellectual property rights. In order to respect these rights and to comply with the law, we have removed postings of the key that have been brought to our attention.
The problem is, they couldn't really keep up with the community who was hell-bent on sharing it. The community kept digging the code no matter what they did. They were stuck with users in revolt.
Eventually, Digg founder Kevin Rose decided that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. His blog post has the heading "Digg This: (and included the offending crack code)" and he wrote:
today was a difficult day for us. We had to decide whether to remove stories containing a single code based on a cease and desist declaration. We had to make a call, and in our desire to avoid a scenario where Digg would be interrupted or shut down, we decided to comply and remove the stories with the code.
But now, after seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, youâ€™ve made it clear. Youâ€™d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we wonâ€™t delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be.
If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.
I respect Kevin and Digg for taking a stand - especially a stand that the community is demanding that they take. Though, I'm not sure they have a choice, really. They know their users and if Digg is seen capitulating to the DRM lawyers, they lose credibility within their community - and that is hard to get back. If they do go down because of this, they maintain credibility on the street that will be with them long after Digg. Their company values are being tested in a very public way.
Also, I think this could be an interesting lesson for online communities in general. If Digg "loses", it will be at the hands of the community itself. By forcing the company's hand, the users could be insuring their own community's demise. Maybe they are prepared for that, but I always abide by the adage: "don't sh*t where ya eat" and it looks like this DRM code issue could spoil all the things that the Digg community has worked so hard to create - just to make a point. Is it worth it to them? Do they realize that this could be the case? Who knows.
This will be interesting to watch.