If you follow tech related sites, by now you've heard the story that the folks who control AACS, the copy protection used in next generation DVDs, have decided to send DMCA takedown notices to various sites that have posted the 128-bit integer that is needed, along with some software, to decrypt the video content on these new DVDs. This is odd for a few reasons. The key came out many months ago and has been available on the web for quite some time. There are, of course, the basic questions concerning whether or not this key alone really does violate the anti-circumvention clause of the DMCA -- but that's a separate issue. What's more intriguing here is trying to understand the thought process behind the decision to send out these takedown notices. As anyone who's been online for more than about two days knows, the more you try to suppress something online, the more attention you're going to call to it. Years back, we jokingly referred to this as the Streisand Effect -- after an incident where Barbara Streisand tried to remove some photos from the web, making them a lot more popular. The name has stuck, and it still amazes us that anyone doesn't recognize what will happen when they try to make such a move. While the group has forced some sites to pull pages here and there, every page they pull is just increasing the anger from a growing group of folks who are making sure the number shows up in many, many more places -- including directly in a URL. Digg, which was one of the sites accused of taking down pages about this, has been under a massive effort from folks to make sure that every story on the front page somehow points to the key in question (and it's interesting to see the anger of users turned against Digg for taking down some of these stories, even though they're pretty much required to thanks to the DMCA). As happened with DeCSS, it's only a matter of time until someone writes a song incorporating the key as well. Effectively, all that's been done here is to draw much, much more attention to the fact that the encryption on next generation DVDs is incredibly weak -- so that a lot more people now know about it. Most of us honestly couldn't have cared any less about the integer or the inner workings (or non-workings) of the encryption system -- and yet now we know a lot more. That can't be the intended consequence of these notices, but that's what's happened. Nice work, Hollywood.
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