I’m sure you’ve all been following (at least heard of) the DRM/censorship/power of community story at Digg. For those who haven’t, here’s a quick overview:

Hackers, as hackers are wont to do, cracked the the DRM on the HD-DVD standard. This was pretty much inevitable. These nutty hackers have broken every other DRM scheme to date, so this one was probably doomed from the beginning. This crack in the DRM opens the door for people, in a best case scenario, to make back up copies of discs they own. Of course, the industry points of the wost-case scenario: That the sole purpose of these cracks is to steal intellectual property and pirate lots of movies. Personally I think it’s somewhere in the middle, but that’s a discussion for another post or 10.

Anyway, the Digg community got a hold of this code and kept bumping it to the top of Digg’s list of “dug” web pages. Digg, fearful of take down notices and lawsuits under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act DMCA, started deleting these links, but as fast as they could delete them, their community added more links. The battle escalated to the point where ALL the top links on Digg were about either the DRM code or Digg’s censorship of the story.

At that point, Digg capitulated to their user base and let the links stay. Rather than losing the sure-thing (their users) by continuing to remove links and tick off their user base, they chose to make a stand against potential DMCA notices. As Dig founder Kevin Rose noted in his blog (where he actually posted the code in question), “If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.”

Lots of issues here, but I’m interested in the aspect of the community revolt. Were the users successful here because the community is still small enough and homegeneous enough that everyone felt the same way? Is it because Digg founders realize that no matter how cool Digg is, there’s no barrier keeping their community intact. In an online environment these days, these communities have lots of options for their loyalty.

My guess if that the Digg founders realized this and also realized they certainly weren’t going to get rich if they gave into the DRM legal forces and lost their user base. Better to take a risk fighting the take-down notice than just watch your community disappear, I guess. I’m not sure if that’s quite as noble as Rose makes it out to be, but it’s an interesting angle nonetheless.

Some links worth checking out: