Censorship

Integers Want to Be Free!

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Boing-Boing details the failed attempts to keep secret how to get around AACS (Advanced Access Copy System) copy protection on the latest HD-DVD movies. It raises the musical question: can you legally own a number and restrict others from using it or writing it in public? Whether you can or not, it apparently isn't going to do you much good in this crazy world of tomorrow we are living in today.

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  1. “It raises the musical question: can you legally own a number and restrict others from using it or writing it in public?”

    How is a number any different than a function or a formula? You can certainly own a formula or a function. I don’t see why you couldn’t own a number.

  2. can you legally own a number and restrict others from using it or writing it in public?

    Yeah, this is pretty obtuse thinking. If you can own the words you write or the music you record, you can own a number, since those things can be translated into a number. Everyone living in the digital age should already know this.

  3. I don’t know the details of AACS, but unless they can figure out an decryption mechanism that doesn’t involve making the decryptor have knowledge of the key (which, AFAIK, is impossible), then DRM will continue to be a stillborn effort.

  4. A function represents a process whereas a number is a building block to such processes. Also, why can’t I say I own the number 2? Anybody takes a dump, they send me a check or I’ll sue. Seriously. Where’s the slippery slope end? Alphanumeric figures?

  5. Depends on how you obtain the formula or function or number, and how you plan on using it. If you steal it (see the recent Coca-Cola case) then attempt to extort the owner, clearly a crime has been commited. If you crack a code and publish it, has a crime been commited? What if you make it available, but for a fee?

  6. whoops!!

    09F911029D74E35BD84156C5635688C0
    Its Hex, btw.

  7. For those who think the number owning question ignorant or idiotic, see this
    http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/?p=1155
    linked off the original Boing-Boing post in which a lot of people who seem to know a fair amount about the digital world find it interesting, and with many valuable distinctions, including:
    “I’m going to encrypt a poem using the interger 21. I admit that such a short key will make the encryption easy to crack, but then I’ll OWN 21, a number I happen to like.

    Next, I’m going to use ZERO as a key. As soon as I own zero, I’m going to try to stop all international artihmetic from happening! The DMCA protects both good and bad encryption, doesn’t it?”
    and the reply:
    “According to our crack legal staff, part of what makes the number yours is that it has limited commercially significant uses other than to circumvent. That’s not true about 21 or zero.”
    And then the reply to that:
    “What? I can’t own 21 or zero because they have “commercially significant uses other than to circumvent”? Hmm?but what if I decide to use a certain 128 bit number as a key? Can they prevent me from doing so and publishing my key publicly and thus granting it a commercial significance?

    Well, then, this brings also up the question of what part of publishing the “09? number is alleged to be illegal. Is it the publishing of the number or is it the identification of the number as being a key?”
    At any rate, there is more to this question than simply, “you’re an idiot for asking”

  8. “A function represents a process whereas a number is a building block to such processes.”

    So you can’t own the number “2” but you can own “(1 + 1)”? The number in this case is a process. It is a specific number that when fed into an algorithm does a specific thing. I would argue that in this case, the “number” in question is really more of a function. One piece of a function, but the necessary piece of the function. If you can’t own the key, how can you really own the cipher in any meaningful way?

  9. Yeah, this is pretty obtuse thinking. If you can own the words you write or the music you record, you can own a number, since those things can be translated into a number.

    You still don’t own the number. The only aspect of the number you own is the ability to put it into certain machine readable formats, where the format is amenable to reproducing that number as a book or a song or a tv show or whatever.

  10. In that patents are not given for things fanciful or not real (e.g. perpetual motion machines), the patents for imaginary numbers like i must remain pending.

  11. Nostar,

    But i is a real object. You can do real things with it. It is anything but fanciful or not real.

  12. I’m dibsing 17, because anytime someone plays the “Guess a random number between one and 20” game, *cha-CHING!*

  13. Libertarians can argue the merits and problems with intellectual property rights generally, but the problem in these cases, as has been true since at least the 80s, is that we continue to bang the square pegs of emerging technology rights issues into the round pegs of existing legal categories; specifically, copyright, trade mark and patent law. Sometimes the peg fits after a fashion, sometimes all we do is bang our thumbs and break something.

    So, in this case, talk about ownership of a “number” is simply misplaced and misleading. The issue is whether the release and use of copy protection information regardless of its expression (what if the code was “reason”?) should result in liability. The rest is conceptual confusion.

  14. “So you can’t own the number “2” but you can own “(1 + 1)”?”

    No argument here, John. I think owning either one is a stupid, shortsighted policy that basically subsidizes an industry that can’t even protect itself from teenagers.

  15. Jim Henley,
    I’m sure you meant “pick a random prime number between 14 and 18.”

  16. Someone should take into account the ease of stealing digital media. After all, the biggest protector of previous forms of intellectual property was not legal enforcement but rather the fact that the average person didn’t have the ability to manufacture a book or a record album. The fact that anyone with a computer can now cheaply replicate unlimited quantities of digital property changes everything, but we are pretending that it doesn’t. I don’t know what the answer is, but I think the answer isn’t going to be to apply the same methods we’ve always used before media were so easy to copy.

  17. Doesn’t the gubmint confiscate any encryption methods that are virtually unbreakable if they are submitted for a patent?

    So why do groups like AACS even bother with encryption when effective encryption is kept off the market?

  18. “The fact that anyone with a computer can now cheaply replicate unlimited quantities of digital property changes everything, but we are pretending that it doesn’t. I don’t know what the answer is”

    How about this answer? For most of human history there was no such thing as intellectual property on creative works. Artists and writers could make money performing or from wealthy benefactors but that was about it. Then in the early 20th century, the printed book became available in huge numbers to the masses and recorded music was invented. Musicians and writers went from being middle class tradesman to multi millionaires. Now, with the dawn of the digital age, artists and musicians can no longer make a premium selling their books and recorded music and will have to go back to being middle class tradesman. Sucks if you are a musician but I really don’t see a downside for society as a whole.

  19. How is it that DRM-stuff seems to get cracked within a couple of days of it being released, but public-key encryption (PGP, etc.) does not?

  20. Numbers are to formulae as words are to articles.

    You can copyright a formula, but not a number, for the same reason you can copyright an article, but not a word.

    So you can’t own the number “2” but you can own “(1 + 1)”?

    Theoretically, you could try to copyright (1 + 1), but I would imagine you are going to have trouble getting past the argument that its already public domain.

  21. So, in this case, talk about ownership of a “number” is simply misplaced and misleading. The issue is whether the release and use of copy protection information regardless of its expression (what if the code was “reason”?) should result in liability.

    In fairness, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act did deal with this issue head-on and explicitly, and not simply as an adjunct to the existing copyright scheme.

  22. How is it that DRM-stuff seems to get cracked within a couple of days of it being released, but public-key encryption (PGP, etc.) does not?

    Because public-key encryption is not a symmetric encryption algorithm. It doesn’t rely on both sides knowing the decryption key.

    It does require that the owner of the private component of the public key keep it secure. If the private key gets compromised, then all bets are off. This concern doesn’t really apply to web transactions because the private key can change constantly. It only applies to file transactions, were the private key must remain fixed.

  23. Theoretically, you could try to copyright (1 + 1), but I would imagine you are going to have trouble getting past the argument that its already public domain.

    You would also have a problem of whether there was sufficient expression, no idea expression merger, etc. See:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feist_Publications_v._Rural_Telephone_Service

  24. “In fairness, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act did deal with this issue head-on and explicitly, and not simply as an adjunct to the existing copyright scheme.”

    i.e., Hollywood bought off enough congressmen to create specialized industry protections.

  25. A bit OT, but is everyone else that follows technology as sick of the HD-DVD/Blu-Ray format war as I am?

  26. The fact that anyone with a computer can now cheaply replicate unlimited quantities of digital property changes everything, but we are pretending that it doesn’t.

    Does it really? Note that the computer software industry has faced this issue from day 1. Software was just as easy to copy in the past as it is now. The only “new” thing is that the copying is affecting industries that are (1) politically powerful and (2) extremely technophobic.

  27. Cesar,

    What is funny about that is that the day of the actual disk is ending. They are fighting over a dying market. Give it five years and no one will watch movies on disks. We will watch them from stored data on hard drives and purchased over the internet.

  28. Anybody takes a dump, they send me a check or I’ll sue.

    Check’s in the mail, Lamar.

  29. We are talking about meaningless random numbers. A random number is not copyrightable no matter if it is one digit or a billion digits.

  30. As disgusting as it is to write the next sentence, copyrighting numbers isn’t what this is about.

    The number is not relevant except that it also happens to be the key, and it was posted in a context that made it clear that it was a key, and how it could be used to unlock HD-DVDs.

    That’s a bit like driving around a large city, throwing house keys out of the car window with a note attached saying, “Here’s the address to the house this key unlocks … and the owners are on vacation!” Can’t do that … not because it’s illegal to throw the keys around, except for litter law violations, but because you would likely be an accessory to a burglary.

  31. John-

    “What is funny about that is that the day of the actual disk is ending. They are fighting over a dying market. Give it five years and no one will watch movies on disks. We will watch them from stored data on hard drives and purchased over the internet.”

    And thats why Apple’s strategy (Apple TV) is about a million times smarter than Sony’s (Blu-Ray). Especially since the Blu-ray player Sony is hawking makes their new Playstation so expensive very few people in the demographic that plays video games can afford it!

  32. What is funny about that is that the day of the actual disk is ending. They are fighting over a dying market. Give it five years and no one will watch movies on disks. We will watch them from stored data on hard drives and purchased over the internet.

    Not a chance. Maybe 15 years. Maybe. People may not give a crap about high resolution audio, but they’ll kill for high resolution video. Ever try putting a DVD collection onto hard disk? You’ll run out of space in a heartbeat. And hi-def multiplies that issue 10 times.

    And streaming Hi-Def over TCP/IP? Ha! (yes, I know it’s possible, but only on a LAN with good bandwidth).

  33. To me the HD-DVD / Blu-Ray war ended the day LG introduced their Super Multi Blue player. The only question now is if people will move to HD video.

  34. “Not a chance. Maybe 15 years. Maybe. People may not give a crap about high resolution audio, but they’ll kill for high resolution video. Ever try putting a DVD collection onto hard disk? You’ll run out of space in a heartbeat. And hi-def multiplies that issue 10 times.”

    But holographic memory is coming. Yes, the systems now are like 20K, but what will they be in five years? In at most 10 years, you will have holographic memorysystems measured in the terabites and you will be able to store high def anything.

    As far the bandwidth, our rotten regulations and cable monopolies and the like may keep us from getting the necessary bandwidth but not forever.

  35. People are missing the point:

    There is no way to know if any particular 128 bit number you publish is an encryption key.

    Select a random 128 bit number, and it could very well be an encryption key.

    How the hell are you supposed to know if the number is an encryption key? You can’t create a publicly accessable database like you can with trademarks or patents, because to reveal the number would then make it useless as a key? Understand?

    So what Dave W and the rest of the information authoritarians are saying, is that people should be allowed to say:

    “I own a number. If you publish this number, you will go to jail. However, I will not tell you what the number is so that you can avoid going to jail!”

    The number is not relevant except that it also happens to be the key, and it was posted in a context that made it clear that it was a key, and how it could be used to unlock HD-DVDs.

    But if that is the litmus test… then why couldn’t someone just create a site called “random128bitnumber.com”. Of course, the random numbers just happen to be the encryption keys to break HD-DVD. But the site doesn’t explicitly say that it is the encryption keys to break HD-DVD… so it would OK then?

  36. I don’t know MP, terabyte storage is rumbling into the “affordable” category very quickly, and drive space is getting cheap cheap cheap.

    The real horse to bet on in my opinion is solid state media (flash/sd cards) that doesn’t rely on moving parts to read, is tiny, and relatively unbreakable.

  37. i’m fairly sure dave w. is not saying what you think he’s saying, rex.

    given mr. watz’s usual proclivities, he’s not likely to be an “information authoritarian”.

  38. artists and musicians … will have to go back to being middle class tradesman.

    I have pretty much come to the same conclusion.

    As for movies, I already watch more movies on my Mac than I do on DVD. I’m not into hi-fi or hi-def or any of that silliness. Which is good for my wallet.

  39. I don’t know MP, terabyte storage is rumbling into the “affordable” category very quickly, and drive space is getting cheap cheap cheap.

    Backups, Jon, backups. It’s not just raw drive space, that’s important. You have to buy a pre-built RAID system for any security. And a TB is nothing. I couldn’t get half my DVD collection on a TB. So, today, I need a 2TB RAID device to run a collection of DVDs. Price? $900 for 1.5TB as of today.

    No, I don’t see local storage of movie content being generally consumer acceptable for quite some time.

  40. Annalee Newitz story on Alternet. Aside from the fact that she beat H&R to the punch by a week and a half, her take is that this issue revolves around playing the DVDs you buy on the machine of your own choice.

  41. How is a number any different than a function or a formula? You can certainly own a formula or a function. I don’t see why you couldn’t own a number.

    I claim 8 and 438234782141

  42. but unless they can figure out an decryption mechanism that doesn’t involve making the decryptor have knowledge of the key (which, AFAIK, is impossible)

    umm i don’t know my bank account number but in my back pocket i know i have a piece of paper with it written on it.

    Doesn’t seem that hard to make a decryptor that only knows where the number is…not the actual number

  43. I’m dibsing 17, because anytime someone plays the “Guess a random number between one and 20” game, *cha-CHING!*

    WTF?!? no one does that!

    they have you pick between 1 and 10 or 1 and 100

    no one does 1 and 20

    NO ONE!

    A bit OT, but is everyone else that follows technology as sick of the HD-DVD/Blu-Ray format war as I am?

    There is a war?

    Fuck it we should pull out now!

  44. The number is not relevant except that it also happens to be the key, and it was posted in a context that made it clear that it was a key, and how it could be used to unlock HD-DVDs.

    So what? Even though it may be illegal under the DMCA to use the information (although it also may not be – the law has some exceptions), it’s still perfectly legal to publish it, as far as I can tell. Explaining how to do something illegal is not generally illegal.

  45. 09F911029D74E35BD84156C5635688C0?

    What the hell is 09F911029D74E35BD84156C5635688C0?

    I’ve never heard of 09F911029D74E35BD84156C5635688C0 before.

  46. The number is not relevant except that it also happens to be the key, and it was posted in a context that made it clear that it was a key, and how it could be used to unlock HD-DVDs.

    But if that is the litmus test… then why couldn’t someone just create a site called “random128bitnumber.com”. Of course, the random numbers just happen to be the encryption keys to break HD-DVD. But the site doesn’t explicitly say that it is the encryption keys to break HD-DVD… so it would OK then?

    Yes, it would. Without context, any key is useless, unless you want to go around trying the key in every possible door (or even only those you want to unlock.)

    Explaining how to do something illegal is not generally illegal.

    While that is very true (even in the case of the “tossing house keys out onto the street” scenario), there are two factors that greatly mitigate the legality of this particular action: intent and, again, context.

    If the publisher of the key intended for it to be used to crack encryption, then in addition to being guilty of a copyright (or even patent) violation (see below), they could be criminally liable as an accessory to the actual crime when someone cracks the encryption on a disk using the key and the info they gained from the website. Of course, without the context (this key unlocks…), there is no chance of this happening, so the context is the primary factor, followed by the intent.

    Remember that a “random” key, regardless of its depth, is only random during the generation process. Once it is defined, and then incorporated into the encryption mechanism, it is no longer random, and may benefit from legal protection such as that afforded by copyright or patent law, and as such, by criminal law as well.

  47. Most speech is meaningless outside of its context.

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