Last updated: May 3, 2007 1:01 am

User revolt forces Digg copyright retreat

The power of internet users was demonstrated on Wednesday when a popular news website said it would ignore requests to remove stories featuring a code that can be used to crack copy protection on high-definition video discs.

The decision by Digg.com, a “Web 2.0” site that relies on users to act as editors of news stories, came after users rebelled by voting for stories featuring a 32-digit key that can be used to hack HD-DVD copy protection.

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The revolt began when Digg’s administrators began deleting stories with the key. The purge came in response to demands by the Advanced Access Content System – a consortium of computer and entertainment companies, which manages licensing for high-definition copy protection. But stories with the key ended up plastered across Digg’s home page as disgruntled users flooded the site with votes.

Kevin Rose, Digg’s founder, said the company would no longer delete articles containing the key, even though that might lead to the site being shut down by lawsuits. He wrote to users on Digg’s weblog: “You’ve made it clear. You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company...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.”

Digg is among the most prominent of hundreds of websites that rely on users to provide content, which attracts audiences and advertising revenue. Others include YouTube, the user-generated video company bought by Google last year for $1.65bn.

Digg had said that, to survive, it had to respect the demands of intellectual property holders. Jay Adelson, co-founder and chief executive, said it had not consulted its investors, which include Pierre Omidyar, Ebay’s founder, and Greylock Partners, a Silicon Valley venture capital group, about the change.

“Investors in Digg have really empowered management to make those sorts of decisions,” he said. “We understand there is a risk of a suit that’s out there but...there is a pretty strong argument that this information is in the public domain. At this point what we’re going to do is get back to work, get back to democratising media and empowering our users,” he said

AACS, whose founders include Microsoft, Intel, IBM and Walt Disney, declined to comment.

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