After attempting to stifle repeated postings of a crack for the DRM on HD-DVDs, the user-edited site Digg.com has caved to a user revolt, allowing users to post the information, exposing the site to substantial legal liability.
The Lede (a Times blog about the news) has an excellent summary of the story’s very recent history. Perhaps the best very short summary, however, is on Passion 2 Publish:
It’s the classic story of boy hacks HD-DVD encryption, community spreads hack, community owners get cease and desist letter, try to shut down the story, the community revolts together and community owners give up and take credit for the bold defiance.
This story is both why I love and rarely read Digg. User control is truly an awesome force, and Digg has unearthed some powerful stories. But it’s also very often late to the party. Wired broke this story, digits and all, almost three months ago. That same week, the hack was included in HD-DVD backup software.
Tragically, the moral of this story may be: Don’t give control to your users, because you can never get it back, under any circumstances. I hope that’s not the moral, but I don’t see what else the innovators and investors of the world are supposed to take away from this story. User-generated and user-controlled content is awesome, but the legal liabilities (and preposterous zealousness of certain litigious parties) may make it too hot a potato, driving sites offline or overseas.
P.S. Personally, my favorite posting of the digits is at I Can Has Cheezburger. If that blog is news to you, go there now, but be prepared to laugh out loud.