04 May 2007

Tale of the "tar baby"

Advanced Access Content System Licensing Authority (AACS-LA) must not have paid attention to the "Uncle Remus" stories, particularly the one about Br'er Rabbit encounter with Br'er Fox and the tar baby that was bait for Br'er Fox to capture Br'er Rabbit. Seems they think they can intimidate the blogosphere with cease and desist notices.

A row erupted on the internet after popular website Digg began taking down pages that its members had highlighted were carrying the key.

The website said it was responding to legal "cease and desist" notices from the Advanced Access Content System.

Digg's users responded by posting ever greater numbers of websites with the key, and the site eventually sided with its users.

AACS-LA should pay attention to Ed Felton, who in an blog piece entitled Why the 09ers Are So Upset wrote:

The second part of the answer, and the one most often missed by non-techies, is the fact that the content in question is an integer — an ordinary number, in other words. The number is often written in geeky alphanumeric format, but it can be written equivalently in a more user-friendly form like 790,815,794,162,126,871,771,506,399,625. Giving a private party ownership of a number seems deeply wrong to people versed in mathematics and computer science. Letting a private group pick out many millions of numbers (like the AACS secret keys), and then simply declare ownership of them, seems even worse.

[Emphasis mine] Ok, I hereby declare ownership of all prime numbers. All of them. Thus AACS is in violation of my intellectual property and they need to license the use of this number - or, since it has been revoked, whatever numbers they choose to use. I think a license fee of 1 billion dollars is adequate. Pay up, you losers.

Ridiculous that I claim ownership of all prime numbers? perhaps. But not that much more ridiculous than AACS-LA claiming ownership of one prime number. Here's a free clue: your precious key has been found out. It's been published. It's no longer a trade secret. Just deal with it. I also happen to think your DRM system is inherently flawed. But trying to intimdate the blogosphere? oooo, them's fighting words.

At this point, my dear reader is wondering how a children's tale relates to this current event. That is quite simple. The best way to interact with it is on a level of mutual respect, or if not that, then ignoring the goings-on. But much like Br'er Rabbit, that AACS-LA can't do that. No, they have to attack. Br'er Rabbit did the same thing, and got himself stuck to the tar baby. Which left him unable to flee from Br'er Fox, which was Br'er Fox's goal.

Now it remains to be seen if AACS-LA has enough sense to cry out "oh, no, Br'er Fox, don't throw me in the bramble patch". That's what Br'er Rabbit told Br'er Fox, who bit on that bait and threw the poor rabbit into the bramble patch.

Out of reach of Br'er Fox and in a place where Br'er Rabbit would have the time and resources to extricate himself from a...sticky situation.


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