ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0 —

I think of it, and I laugh.

I consider the implications, and I laugh harder.

It’s a deep laugh, the laugh of realizing that you locked your lockpicking set in your car along with your keys. The laugh of the fact that I spent $70 on a digital sundial. And the laugh of remembering that asshole manager at the multiplex in 1988 who was using a goddamned bullhorn to direct people into lines to see Batman and how I not only let him do it, but happily sat for an hour inside a theater waiting for the movie to start. To see Batman!

In other words, it’s the ludicrousness piled on top of the stupid, the hilarity baked into the self-obvious bad idea, the on-its-face clarity of the totally untenable plan accompanied by the energetic, totally-cognizant shout of “onward to victory!”

To think we let things drag down until it got to the point that any entity, any entity at all considered itself the owner and protector of a set of 16 hexadecimal numbers, and not just the beloved guardian of this precious collection of letters and digits but one which would then attempt to cow and bend all the world to its will to remove all trace of this combination from the internet.

That they would do this isn’t a big surprise; groups do stupid things. But the fact that there’s a law on the book they could point to that would allow this to even be potentially actionable is what stacks on another layer of Moron Flapjack into the breakfast plate of this event.

In case this event hasn’t made itself to your corner of the world, the string in my entry’s title does something. I’m not even entirely sure how, but if you do all sorts of insane shit and plug it in the right place you can copy a movie. Maybe. The resultant movie is then going to be gigabytes huge and probably star Hugh Grant but damn, you now can have a copy. If you use this number. Somehow. Again, I don’t even know entirely how and I really, seriously don’t care.

Most people wouldn’t care, actually. Copying movies happens; it certainly happens to my movies, and it has been going on since… wait for it… forever! Movies used to be duplicated back in the “play it in a tent” days of over 100 years ago, and there were companies that would pirate/dupe these reels and then send them to countries or districts without copies of the movie, and make money at it. So yeah, that’s been afoot for a bit of time.

But what made people care was that there were actual lawyer letters sent out, threat-o-matic missives saying that this number was totally and utterly illegal and you should stop printing that number because there’s a law on the books that says that this thing is a device and method for circumventing copy protection and that’s illegal and hey stop it and oh shit you painted it on a wall.

The closest I could come up with to this happening in recent memory is Major League Baseball trying to copyright or make into trade secrets the score of a game. Two numbers! Ours! All ours! They were dumbfucks then and are dumbfucks now. But even that was very specifically directed at other businesses who were then selling access to those numbers, so maybe, you could convince yourself it wasn’t in fact Major-League Stupid.

We have entered the hopefully-short era of the Microtheft, the smallest possible unit of larceny, the atomic level of sin. We’ve boiled down the act of being immoral to one string of numbers being in your possession, one collection of digits representing you being bad and worthy of punishment. And the punishment is fucking crazy. Do I hear years? Years for printing this string?

Bring that shit on. The resulting fireworks of all these are delicious, like a ice cream sandwich on a ferris wheel in a breezy August afternoon. This is something that people get, they understand. Maybe this is the wedge where a critical mass hits and laws are changed. Stupid, stupid laws that get in the way of good laws that help the world.

Here’s the letter that’s been sent out to places, in case you think all those stories were fake.

Bring it on! I brought cake, fuckers!

Categorised as: Uncategorized

Comments are disabled on this post


  1. mgroves says:

    I think the fact that it’s a number is a red herring. Child porn can become a JPEG, which is, essentially, a string of numbers. Would you argue that it should not be illegal? Should it be okay to post someone’s credit card number on your blog?

    Just like with PCI compliance, the problem is not the number, it is the pairing of the number with some other specific knowledge.

    If I have the right to keep my credit card number and associated information secret, why doesn’t a company have the right to keep their number and associated information secret as well?

  2. Krisjohn says:

    Because this number isn’t secret. It’s in every HD-DVD or every HD-DVD player, or some such. Lots of people already own a copy of this number, they’re just not allowed to know it.

    If your credit card details were in every box of cereal, then I think you’ve probably given up the right to keep them secret.

  3. Jason Scott says:

    Kudos for mentioning child pornography while discussing a string of 16 hexidecimal numbers! I know a law firm that needs a typist if you feel like typing those numbers over and over.

  4. cassiel says:

    “summum ius, summa iniuria”

  5. mgroves says:

    So how long of a string of numbers does it have to be until the law can apply? How short until it doesn’t apply?

    I give my credit card number to merchants every time I make a purchase. Does that mean they have the right to know it and use it for something that I don’t want them to use it for?

  6. Jason Scott says:

    Here’s your problem.

    Actually, that’s a lie. You have a whole host of problems in effect, a veritable haystack ride of problems, and some are falling off the back of the haystack but we’ll focus on the fat ones eating pretzels that are hanging on and hogging the hayride.

    First of all, things like credit card number disseminating and publishing of social security numbers are not, in themselves, crimes, unless it is proven there is intent to defraud. With me? Someone having dupes of your credit card carbons, the old school kind that has the entire number, isn’t the crime. Using it is. In the case of a credit card number, additionally, you are talking about a situation where the number, the password if you will, gives you access to a centrally located funding system, which is granting access to the funds contained within based on the password. The level of security is a debatable topic, but the situation is, specifically, different.

    What we’re talking about here is a situation that an entity has arbitrarily tried to quash the publishing of a number. This number, in accordance with a mass of other mechanical and programmatic activites, could lead to the duplication of a high definition disc’s contents. A disc which, until relatively recently, was thought to be the property of the person who purchased it. However, in recent times it has been made quite clear that whoever has one of these discs isn’t really the “owner” per se but is merely a storage box, holding the Company’s properties until whatever time they feel like people not having them any more (key rescinding). This is an abortion wrapped inside of a car crash.

    That said, let’s keep going along the edge because it’s not absurd enough for you, because you apparently have an absurdity tolerance greater than mine. And bless you for it! Let’s say the key was a single hex number. Like, say, 09. Let’s make that key simply the number 9. (The 0 is assumed in the keys, you see). They thought “9” was going to be secure, but it’s not!

    So now let’s say people mention the number 9 in places, going “Wow, it’s pretty shit stupid this whole house of cards depends on the number 9”. Are you going to grab one of the readily available law weapons now available to attempt to describe 9 as a “device” being used to usurp copy protection? Are you realizing you’re talking to a guy who’s spent years interviewing and collecting the writings of people who break copy protection, and so he’s kind of in a different camp?

    It’s the distinction of calling a number a “device”, of saying that people are distributing these “devices” by mentioning them online. It is a cancer of logic, a boil of reason, it is a big glowing ball of stupid and it happens to be that I can read by the glowing ball.

    I’m sorry it’s not bright enough for you to read the writing on the wall by, yet. Enjoy the hayride!

  7. Chris Barts says:

    You’ll probably never see this post and I’m getting kind of tired of typing what is essentially the same post over and over again in different discussion fora, but since this is dying down maybe this will be my last time. Possibly.

    THE NUMBER HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH COPYING. That is what’s so crazy about all this: Encrypted bits (and that’s what you have there: an encryption key) copy and transfer just as well as decrypted bits and, so far as I’ve ever been able to find out, HD-DVD players will play copies just as well as originals. So you don’t need the key to put the movie on Bittorrent and the person grabbing it doesn’t need the key to burn it to a disk and play it (or play the file with software, even, I don’t know).

    The only possible way the key will be of use to you is if you’re running Linux or OpenBSD or Solaris or any OS not blessed by the Movie Gods. Then the key allows you to play the movie you bought legally without having to also buy into their monopolistic hardware/software game as well.

    Which, as far as I’m concerned, is not a valid use of encryption. It is predatory behavior and in a rational world it would be laughed out of court.

  8. Salvia says:

    Chris has just owned this discussion.

  9. fuzz says:

    Don’t I remember something about store bought disks (proper ones), having some of the decryption information stored in a lead in part of the disk that the consumer burners can’t write to? Meaning you can’t just directly copy a disc.
    (I could be making that up tho)

  10. Dennis Connolly says:

    fuzz: I believe there’s something to that, in the effect that numerous copy-protected CDs and DVDs cannot, purely as an example, be backed up with Alcohol or other such programs. Naturally, this doesn’t stop those who really want to view those movies on their computer, in any way, shape or form – but it does prevent legitimate consumers from ensuring that Something Bad doesn’t happen to media they’ve purchased.

    This also has negative effects on some drives from the get-go, if I recall correctly – much like Starforce, which gathers hatred at a macroscopic level wherever it’s placed, there was a significant brouhaha some years back when Macintosh computers, audio devices, and some PCs would accept a music CD, and never eject it.