Last week we posted an image to our gallery that used random photographs to produce a mosaic of a particular 128-bit number. Doing that has made us criminals, at least in the twisted minds of the AACS consortium, who have vowed legal action against over one million websites who have published the number 09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0, over which they ludicrously claim sole ownership.
The blogosphere erupted with cries of censorship immediately after social bookmarking site Digg began removing posts referencing the number, which is used to encrypt HD-DVD discs. Apparently Digg had received cease and desist notices from AACS's lawyers. Digg eventually sided with their members once users started flooding the site with the integer in even greater numbers.
The AACS, however, has vowed to crackdown on these numerical vigilantes by all means at their disposal. Other than legal threats, however, it isn't quite clear what exactly they're able to do. In the meanwhile Ed Felten of Freedom to Tinker has tossed together a bit of code proving the futility—and the potential harm—of trying to claim ownership over a number. Thanks to what he calls his “newly developed VirtualLandGrab technology”, you too can own your very own integer just by visiting his web site. And as long as enough people visit—and we suspend our disbelief long enough to adopt the the privatization logic of the AACS—before long every 128-bit integer will be privately owned. A true victory for the proponents of intellectual property rights!
Felten perhaps sums up this cultural theft best by borrowing from a scientific great:
When the great mathematician Leopold Kronecker wrote his famous dictum, “God created the integers; all else is the work of man”, he meant that the basic structure of mathematics is part of the design of the universe. What God created, AACS LA now wants to take away.
If you're like us and are sick and tired of corporate copyright bullying, be sure to take part in our new campaign and public art project, PACT: Pooptagging Against Cultural Theft.