Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Web 2.0 run amuck?

I've been doing research on Web 2.0 for a presentation I'm making to coworkers. I thought I had it all wrapped up, when, while eating lunch, I stumbled upon a blog referencing an uproar at Digg.

It seems someone or someones had linked to a website which posted the encryption key that would allow people to pirate HD-DVDs. Initially, Digg pulled the posts down after the owners of the encryption key notified them that Digg was infringing on their intellectual property rights. When the Digg team posted the announcement they were pulling the plug on those posts, the Digg users went ballistic.

As a result, Digg stopped blogging the posts with the following announcement:

Today was an insane day. And as the founder of Digg, I just wanted to post my thoughts…

In building and shaping the site I’ve always tried to stay as hands on as possible. We’ve always given site moderation (digging/burying) power to the community. Occasionally we step in to remove stories that violate our terms of use (eg. linking to pornography, illegal downloads, racial hate sites, etc.). So today was a difficult day for us. We had to decide whether to remove stories containing a single code based on a cease and desist declaration. We had to make a call, and in our desire to avoid a scenario where Digg would be interrupted or shut down, we decided to comply and remove the stories with the code.

But now, 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. 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.

This is an interesting morality tale and I will be curious to see how this resolves itself. This seems this will be an ongoing friction point between property rights and freedom of expression. I can empathize with both sides in this issue, but I tend to favor the freedom of expression.

I have an ongoing fear that if we allow intellectual property to trump all other concerns we will put a drastic halt on intellectual growth. There is a need for the cross pollinization of ideas and putting financial hurdles in the way will only hamper progress.

I don't think what is being done here is proper. There is nothing legally to be gained by breaking and publishing the encryption code, but if Digg is shut down because of this I think it creates a chilling effect for communication of all ideas.

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