Coolhunt Log #13
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Scott Cooper, MIT research affiliate with the Sloan School of Management, co-author of "Coolhunting"
Steve O'Keefe, moderator
MODERATOR: Could you tell us where you're calling from?
SCOTT: Today, I'm calling from my home office in Newton Highlands, MA.
MODERATOR: I'd like to remind everyone of the rules of the Coolhunt. We do at least one site review, one blog post, one comment on another blog, and try to make one personal connection via email or phone.
SCOTT: Something's happened in the last 24 hours in the blogosphere that will be a day people will remember in history. Go to Dailytech and go to the Top Stories section.
Click on "AACS Key Censorship Leads to First Internet Riot." I also praise the writer for coining the term "Internet Riot." Here's the scoop: There's a string of letters and numbers allowing people to hack into HD DVDs and Blu-ray discs, breaking the encryption that keeps them from being copied. This script has been available on the web for a while, but about two weeks ago, a licensing administrator said Google must remove links to sites that post the code. Google complied.
Then Digg -- the social networking site that allows people to praise content online by "digging it" and leads people to content based on the number of "Diggs" an item gets -- got a "cease-and-desist" order instructing them to take down Digg's stories that had contained the forbidden code. When Internet users got wind of this censorship, they started spamming the code all over the net, then digging the stories by the tens of thousands, and people began posting everywhere the string of numbers that makes up the code.
Finally, so many posts had been "digged" so many times that Digg couldn't keep the story down. So Digg co-founder Kevin Rose reversed the company's position on compliance to the cease and disest order. Digg isn't the only place this happened. One Digg user calculated that there were close to 51,000 Diggs, or votes, for stories trying to keep the code available.
MODERATOR: I read on Fox News today that it was like playing whack-a-mole trying to keep the code off the Internet, or to keep people from linking to the code.
SCOTT: This is directly related to what we've been talking about during our coolhunting. Jay Adelson, president of Digg, states that Digg must abide by the law and decided to comply to avoid being shut down. Digg co-founder Kevin Rose later posted a notice of noncompliance, vowing to "go down fighting" and deal with the consequences. The subject line of Kevin Rose's announcement contains the actual code.
This is an amazing development on two levels. First is what is says about democracy, transparency, and swarm behavior. Digg is a site that generates income for those who founded it. Legislation is being considered to limit access to create taxation, etc. regarding what you're able to see and share on the Internet. Second is what it means for the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), which has pursued a policy of suing college and high school kids for sharing files over the Internet. The RIAA decided that instead of figuring out how to change with the world, they'll just penalize the kids. One day, within minutes of a new musical release by a popular artist, the music will be available on tens of thousands of sites for free.
MODERATOR: So Digg isn't actually spreading the code but rather spreading links to posts that have the code. While some of this might be splitting hairs, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act appears to allow Google to post information as long as they take it down when notified by copyright holders -- again, the wack-a-mole process. It's one thing to have copyrighted content on your site; it's another to be punished for linking to a site that has infringed on intellectual property rights. This is the "common carrier" argument that Napster tried unsuccessfully to use against the RIAA.
SCOTT: Go to Blogsearch.google.com for another site. Input search "DVD" and "code." See the fourth link to the article "A day on the Planet of Digg: Living and dying by UGC." It's from MediaVidea -- a good blog. The story here conveys the historical nature of this decision, and the reversal of it. So, here there's speculation about what will happen next. Did Digg do the right thing? It's said that suing Digg will accomplish nothing. People want this type of news and content, and want Digg to stick to their guns.
MODERATOR: Once you have an open market where you're allowing user-generated content to determine what's important, it's difficult to shut it down. People come to rely on the wisdom of the crowd for what is popular or important. When you can't tap that wisdom, you make more mistakes.
MODERATOR: At this point, the Coolhunt entered a discussion of legal skirmishes regarding the "common carrier" argument: The phone company doesn't police what you say on the phone. Google and other sites are censored in China. eBay prohibits the sale of certain merchandise. Even Digg has a clear policy against linking to posts that trade in pornography. This led to a discussion of whether efforts to suppress Internet access to certain information can possibly succeed.
SCOTT: Since the late 90s, the Internet has become a great vehicle for organizing protest. Loose collectives of young people, defining themselves as anarchists, used the Internet to organize, transparently with consensus, during the Seattle trade protests. Imagine if a protest similar to Tiananmen Square were organized over the Internet.
MODERATOR: If you can't even link, must less host, critical stories on the Internet, the environment seems almost totalitarian.
SCOTT: Searching Google for "china google censorship" leads to a great article in The New York Times about this:
SCOTT: I remember when this article came out, about a year ago. It's a great piece of reporting.
MODERATOR: Once again, The New York Times is a primary source for news. Join us tomorrow when we'll look at The Wall Street Journal online and other primary news sources.
SCOTT: The government of China was concerned also about chat rooms.
MODERATOR: Do you think we're now near the end of copyright?
SCOTT: I don't know, but there's no denying that it's under assault, coming from all sorts of directions. CreativeCommons helps people say, "just give me credit and you can use my content any way you like." Then there's the open source content movement. On the other hand, some companies are trying to lock down every patent and copyright they can.
MODERATOR: Like biotech companies copyrighting the DNA of plants.
SCOTT: In some respects, the Digg story might be a sign of the end of protectionism. I do know that the copyright holders themselves are scrambling.
SCOTT: Now, let's go to 38 Pitches to end our hunt on a lighter note.
This is a blog for Curt Schilling. He's an ace pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and potentially could go into the Hall of Fame. He's controversial in that he's so opinionated and speaks out about issues regarding baseball. When congress had steroid hearings, Curt was the only player to testify who was not himself suspected of juicing. Part of what prompted Curt to start this blog is a journalist who constantly needles Curt, which prompts him to write after every game to tell his own story, preventing him from being misquoted by "the red-haired curly one." This is a real blog written by the star, not by a publicist. It's just an interesting use of the web to counter media misrepresentation.
MODERATOR: In the online PR class I teach at Tulane, we talk about how democratic technologies are everywhere, enabling more free sharing of information without having to rely solely on the media. Companies are increasingly sharing their side of every story with the public through direct-to-consumer news releases and blogs.
MODERATOR: We are out of time. Thank you, Scott. We've been talking today with the co-author of Coolhunting: Chasing Down the Next Big Thing. Listeners, please post your comments to the blog -- whether they're about commentary on the subject of today's coolhunt or any connection problems you experienced. The transcript of today's coolhunt will be posted with previous ones at The Swarm Creativity Blog:
Join us tomorrow for the next installment of our live, online coolhunt with Peter Gloor and Scott Cooper.
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