May 4, 2007 at 12:14 PM

It's been a while since I've posted, and I'm not going to say much in this post.

"Brendan, what's this strange title you've chosen?", you may ask. This is the original (there's another one coming out soon) HD-DVD encryption key. It's used by the MAFIAA to protect their intellectual property. The video and audio on all DVDs and HD-DVDs is encrypted—under the DMCA, it is illegal to possess or create tools to break said encryption, even if you legally own the movie. This means that all DVD (and HD-DVD) players must be approved to decrypt the movies, otherwise they are in violation—and of course, there's no legal player for Linux. This is ridiculous, but that battle is for another post.

What I'm posting about is a different misappropriation of intellectual property law. Digg received a notice demanding them to take down stories promoting this number (and yes, this is a hexadecimal number). The reasoning follows:

We've been notified by the owners of this intellectual property that they believe the posting of the encryption key infringes their intellectual property rights.

That a particular number could even be suggested as being intellectual property belonging to anyone is ludicrous. See, 09-F9-11-02-9D-74-E3-5B-D8-41-56-C5-63-56-88-C0 is actually equal to 13,256,278,887,989,457,651,018,865,901,401,704,640—a large number, to be sure, but a number nonetheless. Let's take a look at some US Copyright law, shall we? "What works are protected?", a consumer may ask—interesting, no numbers here. How about the answer to "What is not protected by copyright?"—now we're in interesting territory. Depending on your metaphysical beliefs, numbers may only be ideas, but that's beside the point: they are most definitely common property.

That's the rub—a number can't be "owned" by someone, and it certainly shouldn't be purported to be one's own development or "trade secret". Digg eventually capitulated to the demands of the masses and stopped trying to nix stories about this, to their credit.

So please, pass it on: 09-F9-11-02-9D-74-E3-5B-D8-41-56-C5-63-56-88-C0 is a cool, cool number. Use it wisely, or don't—just never allow anyone to tell you what you can and can't do with something as fundamental as an integer.

A small addendum:

Since I couldn't find one readily accessible online, I wrote a Ruby-based hexadecimal to integer conversion script and am releasing it via the MIT License.