Blog Post

Could Digg Revolt Come to Video Sites?

Digg users, unhappy with the company’s compliance with a DMCA takedown request on the codes to break HD-DVD encryption, flooded and overwhelmed the social news site with stories containing the code, until its front page was filled entirely with references to the hack (visualization embedded below). Digg, whose premise is based on not controlling what happens on its site, capitulated last night, telling users,

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.

By this morning, it’s become cliche to say this was a turning point in user-generated content. But we wonder, what would happen if users revolted on a video-sharing sites, most of which are precariously balanced on key turns of DMCA phrase?

Of course, most video sites don’t have such a homogeneous and self-identified culture. And encryption keys are clearly little bits of information that seem impossible to contain once they hit the internet. But the core tenets are there: users submit content, and use social tools to find and elevate the stuff they like. If YouTube users submitted copyrighted content en masse, would Google delete all their accounts?

5 Responses to “Could Digg Revolt Come to Video Sites?”

  1. Wondering

    “effective immediately we won’t delete stories or comments containing the code”

    Does this imply that they will stop deleting stories, erasing accounts, and IP banning users who posted stories which simply commented negatively on Digg’s actions and did not contain the code at all? Or will user accounts continued to be banned on that basis since it’s not explicitly stated above?

    Digg went far beyond selectively filtering stories which actively contained the code itself, they went far overboard to wipe out every public mention of banning, any mention of the breaking of HD-DVD encryption even in general terms, and did their best to prevent those problems users from ever coming back.

  2. Liz Gannes

    I think you’re right that the effort required for flooding YouTube and flooding Digg is quite different. But I think people can get pretty passionate about video. And the reasons for keeping down video can get pretty arbitrary, for instance the NBA asking YT to take down clips of a brawl. I dunno, say Sanjaya won American Idol and Simon Cowell got all copies of the clip banned…a lot of people would get up in arms.

  3. Hi Liz,
    I think the situation that occurred on Digg is different than a hypothetical revolt situation you suggest could happen on Video hosting sites.

    The first involves the idea that a company that has had a previously encrypted code (stupidly put into hardware that may be against the DMCA to hack but put into users hands, got hacked) can use the DMCA to suppress something that is now out and readily available. In this case, the users see the removal as “wrong” (the type of DRM placed in hardware that is then sold to users, who are also told by law not to hack their own purchased products). Therefore they think the speech issues trump the DMCA. The law disagrees with that view, but the users are vigilant, and therefore have flooded the network (Digg) in order to assert “free speech.”

    This actually happened before, during the dispute between the voting software company, Diebold, in 2003 (see my old Biplog post on this, where students were C&D’d by Dieblod for linking to memos that showed they had uncertified code in voting machines — yeah — C&D’d for linking to the people who posted the memos as well as those who posted the memos receiving C&Ds. http://boalt.org/biplog/archives/490).

    It may be the first time this has happened on Digg but it’s not the first time this has happened online and in various communities. Copyright is often used to suppress speech by legacy companies, and this seems to be one of those cases. In fact, there are posts today at Yelp, on various blogs, in mail lists at Google and Yahoo, etc. Digg is in good company on this one.

    Once the cat is out of the bag, putting the code back in the bag is really hard, and people have revolted at the nonsensical action of trying to suppress them from talking about the information. I’m even on a mail list where someone is suggesting putting the code on tshirts and naming children after the code. It offends people’s sensibilities.. suppression of speech.

    I think this is very different from the idea that users might flood a network, like YouTube, with copyrighted materials (nonspecific videos that just violate copyright) to try to pushback on the takedown policies in force at hosting sites. One difference is that thought leaders would not support this, unless there was a specific issue (probably speech) on the line. And it’s not nearly as clear a speech issue. It’s far more grey. Another is that the companies do routinely take down that type of content not properly licensed, and I can’t really see the users getting up in arms about this because this has become a social norm there. It’s different when the social norm is about taking down random infringing content, verses something like hardware DRM code being removed by a site that doesn’t remove things that often and therefore doesn’t have a social norm for this.

    I just don’t see this happening on video hosting sites. But I suppose in a rare case it might.

    Also, Youtube will delete an account that repeatedly puts up infringing materials. But it’s also true that it’s different from a Digg account, in that you can make another account with no cost other than a little time.

    mary

  4. heddy

    If YouTube users submitted copyrighted content en masse, would Google delete all their accounts?

    I don’t believe that it’s Google / YouTube’s policy to delete accounts who upload copyrighted stuff. And who would care if they did? Sign up with another email. There’s no history tied to most youtube accounts like there is with Digg accounts which is – as you say – far more socially and community centred than youtube et al. But yeah, Google would delete the accounts if that was their policy: it’s pretty easy to say whether a video of the Simpsons is infringing copyright. A little less so when it’s a hex string. But whatever, the precedent is there with decss and other areas to say that the sane and sensible and least costly course of action was to take the stuff down.

    I think Kevin Rose made completely the wrong decision last night (after the user account had been deleted, which was really stupid). If he’d let it go for a day, it would probably have blown over and been done with. If Digg still haven’t figured out how to keep their site online when it’s busy, they need to learn pretty quickly.

    Now he’s put Digg (i) almost definitely at risk of a costly lawsuit from the movie industry and (ii) at the complete mercy of its users from this point on. The wisdom of the crowd when it comes to Digg is mob decision, led by unthinking teens who follow others without question and believe that what they’re up to is somehow getting back at the movie industry for… well, who knows what for: trying to stop them pirating stuff? being some kind of large industry body and therefore simply bad?