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5/1/2007
07:17 PM
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HD DVD/Blu-ray Decryption Key Widely Posted Online

Despite efforts to unpublish it from search engines and other sites, the 128-bit integer that nullifies digital locks may even end up on T-shirts and in song lyrics.

The Advanced Access Content System Licensing Administrator (AACSLA), which licenses the copy-control technology that's supposed to secure HD DVD and Blu-ray discs, has embarked on what appears to be a quixotic quest: trying to unpublish the number that nullifies its digital lock.

The number in question, a 128-bit integer, is the "processing key" that decrypts HD DVD and Blu-ray video so it can be viewed. Code breakers published this key back in February, rendering the upcoming generation of video discs able to make copies before there's even much of a market for them.

Evidently having forgotten failed efforts to suppress DeCSS -- code that decrypts DVDs -- the AACSLA has been sending Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notices to blog service providers like Google in an effort to erase its number from the Web. The AACSLA's attorney demanded that Google remove four blogspot.com Web pages that contain the number.

Google and/or the site publishers complied; either the post or the number has been removed from the pages that the AACSLA complained about. Other Web sites like Digg.com have complied and removed posts referencing the number as well.

"Whether you agree or disagree with the policies of the intellectual property holders and consortiums, in order for Digg to survive, it must abide by the law," Digg CEO Jay Adelson explained in a blog post today. "Digg's Terms of Use, and the terms of use of most popular sites, are required by law to include policies against the infringement of intellectual property. This helps protect Digg from claims of infringement and being shut down due to the posting of infringing material by others."

But for winning the battle, the AACSLA appears to have lost the war.

By exercising its legal rights, the AACSLA has prompted mass civil disobedience. As of Tuesday afternoon, searching for the forbidden number on Google returned 9,410 search results. There are 106 pages that link back to online post that first publicized the number. And even on blogs where the number has been removed, readers have reposted it as a comment.

A post on Slashdot.org Tuesday mentions the takedown notice campaign. Slashdot readers have added numerous comments containing the ostensibly illegal number.

Princeton computer science professor Ed Felten sees the takedown campaign as futile. "The key will inevitably remain available, and AACSLA [is] just making [itself] look silly by trying to suppress it," he said in a blog post. "We've seen this script before. The key will show up on T-shirts and in song lyrics. It will be chalked on the sidewalk outside the AACSLA office. And so on."

Proskauer Rose, the law firm representing the AACSLA, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

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