Visitors of the popular news sharing website Digg revolted and briefly shut down the site Tuesday after it attempted to remove information about how computer users could remove digital rights management software from high-definition DVDs.
The issue began after Digg — in response to a cease-and-desist letter from the body overseeing digital rights technology on HD-DVDs — began removing references on its site to an encryption key used to lock up HD-DVDs.
The key, which has been available since it was discovered in December, is needed to allow users to play the disc on any machine.
The move angered users of the social bookmarking site, which ranks and displays news, blogs and other items based on visitor recommendations. Like websites such as YouTube, Wikipedia and MySpace, Digg is reliant on its users to generate its content.
As stories connected to the software key were deleted, users resubmitted them in the thousands, causing every top story on the site to include a reference to the hack or censorship. At one point, the site briefly collapsed from the volume of submissions.
Digg eventually relented, with founder Kevin Rose saying stories with the software key would no longer be removed.
"After seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you've made it clear. You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company," he wrote on the site's blog at 9 p.m. ET.
"We hear you, and effective immediately we won't delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be. If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying."
At issue was a letter sent to Digg and other social networking sites from the Advanced Access Content System Licensing Administrator (AACS), the group behind the DRM technology for HD-DVDs, demanding the removal of all references to the key used to unlock the access control on the discs.
"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," wrote Digg CEO Jay Adelson in a blog posting earlier on Tuesday. "In order to respect these rights and to comply with the law, we have removed postings of the key that have been brought to our attention."
Tough to remove entirely
While some sites have responded to the request to remove the encryption key, removing it entirely may prove impossible. A Google search of the 32-character key on Wednesday came up with 35,100 hits.
DRM or digital rights management is a catch-all term for a broad range of technologies used by copyright owners to control how a piece of data, software or hardware can be used by others.
The measure is commonly used to restrict the ability to copy or transfer music or movie files such as those bought from sites like Apple Inc.'s iTunes Store or burned from a computer to a CD or DVD.
The technology has been controversial: digital rights advocates feel it takes control away from consumers and treats them like potential criminals, while content industries have insisted on it as the only means to protect their copyright.