The Digg Incident Was Nothing LIke the Boston Tea Party

by on May 5, 2007 · 78 comments

The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Cord Blomquist also doesn’t approve of the Digg protesters:

Websters are calling the ‘revolt’ at Digg an online Boston Tea Party. This is offensive to anyone who knows the history of the Boston Tea Party. The Sons of Liberty destroyed someone else’s property, a very non-libertarian thing to do, but they did so to protest the unjust taxation of their own hard earned dollars and the tyrannical British rule. Besides, the British East India Company was nothing like what we would call a private enterprise. Before it was dissolved in the middle of the 19th century the East India Company had many governmental and military functions and virtually ruled India. The revolutionaries were against this kind of government granted monopoly and unjust use of power.

Digg users posting HD-DVD encryption keys is no Boston Tea party. These rogue digg users are referencing a proprietary code, which is not their property, and they’re using a private website, which is also not their property. This attack on private property is more like an online October Revolution. The people at Digg can exercise control over their own property, while the users claim that controlling a private site is equivalent to theft. (They should read What’s Yours is Mine). It all smacks of Marxism to me.

So in other words, it’s OK to destroy private property if you’re protesting a law Blomquist disagrees with, but it’s not cool to even “reference” private property if you’re protesting a law Blomquist likes.

  • Doug Lay

    Jim:

    What kind of mess gets made when people disobey the DMCA, as happened on Digg last week?

    Also, I’d like to state that the scope of the law isn’t fully settled. There was one relevant court decision in NY (the 2600 case) about seven years ago, which was upheld by the Second Circuit and never appealed to the Supreme Court. So those of us who feel the law is unconstitutional don’t have a firm statement by the Supreme Court telling us we’re wrong. The only way to test the constitutionality theory is to have a test case.

  • Doug Lay

    On the issue of civil disobedience, let me throw one more piece of info out there. Over at the University of Chicago Law School Faculty Blog, Professor Randy Picker (a DMCA backer) has reviewed Thoreau’s oiginal essay on Civil Disobedience, and found that Thoreau did NOT consider the Boston Tea Party to be a legitimate example of civil disobedience. After all, if the colonists didn’t like the taxes on imported goods, they could simply have done without the goods. Hmmmm…sound like a familiar argument? So, reasonable people can disagree about this stuff.

  • http://www.limnthis.com Jim S

    Ok… well, I was a little bit hesitant to use the auto analogy because it is a bit remote (and I am not surprised that it didn’t sway your pov; it is clear that your pov is pretty firmly established). However, I do still think there is a connection. At the heart of regulations like the ones on how I can use my car is the idea that government regulates use for the good of all participants. You might not remember how pissed off people were about catalytic converters and mandatory seatblet use?

    What we seem to be arguing about is whether the subverting of a DRM mechanism harms anyone or not (like if I remove the catalytic converter from my car) and whether you have some fundamental inalienable right to use a device that you own in any way you see fit. I don’t believe that their is any such inalienable right, though I think it is a desirable state when it comes to the impact of DRM on personal computing and similar devices.

    If by “really important stuff” you mean important enough for civil disobedience, then I really disagree. That’s a pretty low bar for civil disobedience and if everyone with a similar level of passion about something has a similarly low threshhold for invoking civil disobedience it’s gonna get messy out there (although the people still protesting mandatory seat belt use would probably prune their own ranks pretty quickly).

  • http://www.limnthis.com Jim S

    Doug,

    You are misunderstanding my point, I may not have been clear. I didn’t say that the Digg episode is a mess (although it will probably turn out to be one for Digg). I was attempting to say that if the bar for civil disobediance is this low in this domain and becomes a norm of public behavior and is applied to other domains, we will find ourselves in the position where everyone with a passionate position on anything decides which laws apply to them. I think that would be a mess. And just to be clear, I’m not arguing a cauality from DRM to other stuff; I’m simply saying that widespread use of civil disobedience for every quitodian cause would be at best a pain in the ass (like strike days in France) and at worse a real mess.

    Personally I think speed limits suck and have only reluctantly adhered to them. They hardly strike me as a kind of natural law like “don’t kill.” I’m sure somewhere in the courts is a case arguing that they are set too low. Until that is settled I think I’ll just go as fast as I want, and after it is settled I will still go as fast as I want because it is my inalienable right. You may think that speed limits are a rational limit on my behavior but I say that is just your opinion and need have no bearing on my behavior. Furthermore, if you think my going fast is somehow endangering you I’ll just say stop being a dinasaur, find a business model that works, and go fast too.

  • Doug Lay

    Jim:

    What kind of mess gets made when people disobey the DMCA, as happened on Digg last week?

    Also, I’d like to state that the scope of the law isn’t fully settled. There was one relevant court decision in NY (the 2600 case) about seven years ago, which was upheld by the Second Circuit and never appealed to the Supreme Court. So those of us who feel the law is unconstitutional don’t have a firm statement by the Supreme Court telling us we’re wrong. The only way to test the constitutionality theory is to have a test case.

  • Doug Lay

    Jim:

    Speed limits have been increased in most states in (relatively) recent years, and one reason is that a whole lot of people not only thought they were set too low, but basically refused to obey the lower limit.

    I doubt, though, there is a court case anywhere in the country that challenges the constiutionality of speed limits. They have been with us a lot longer than the DMCA.

  • http://www.limnthis.com Jim S

    Doug,

    True, but it has basically nothing to do with the point I was making. This is starting to feel like squeezing a water balloon.

    But if you’re saying that a change in the DMCA laws that was qualitatively equivilent to a moderate 10mph increase in speed limits, and some passage of time to “age” the DMCA laws like Carter’s speed limits, would be sufficient to make you happy with the law and ready to follow it, I think we are all done. Just have to figure out what that little tweak to DMCA would be and then wait.

  • Doug Lay

    Jim:

    I have no idea how anyone could possibly determine that a change in the DMCA could be qualitatively equivalent to a 10mph increase in the speed limit. So no, I can’t accept your offer of a compromise position.

    I’m also not terribly interested in waiting. I would like to hurry the process along, and civil disobedience that underscores the futility of the law is one way to do so. I am sorry that you don’t approve.

  • http://www.limnthis.com Jim S

    Doug,

    You are misunderstanding my point, I may not have been clear. I didn’t say that the Digg episode is a mess (although it will probably turn out to be one for Digg). I was attempting to say that if the bar for civil disobediance is this low in this domain and becomes a norm of public behavior and is applied to other domains, we will find ourselves in the position where everyone with a passionate position on anything decides which laws apply to them. I think that would be a mess. And just to be clear, I’m not arguing a cauality from DRM to other stuff; I’m simply saying that widespread use of civil disobedience for every quitodian cause would be at best a pain in the ass (like strike days in France) and at worse a real mess.

    Personally I think speed limits suck and have only reluctantly adhered to them. They hardly strike me as a kind of natural law like “don’t kill.” I’m sure somewhere in the courts is a case arguing that they are set too low. Until that is settled I think I’ll just go as fast as I want, and after it is settled I will still go as fast as I want because it is my inalienable right. You may think that speed limits are a rational limit on my behavior but I say that is just your opinion and need have no bearing on my behavior. Furthermore, if you think my going fast is somehow endangering you I’ll just say stop being a dinasaur, find a business model that works, and go fast too.

  • http://www.limnthis.com Jim S

    Doug,

    My mistake. I thought it was you offering that as a compromise position. Weren’t you suggesting that futile-to-enforce speed limits were ok now that they have been moderately improved and there are no cases remaining in the courts? I should have read your post more carefully.

    Personally I still think I should be allowed to go 150 mph on I-95 since I have a vehicle with the means to do it. I simply don’t buy the argument that I’m hurting anyone by doing it, they just need to speed up too. I’m beginning to come around to your way of thinking and you are giving me the moral courage to say to hell with Carter’s speed limits. I suggest if you still drive slowly, use the right lane.

  • Doug Lay

    Jim:

    Speed limits have been increased in most states in (relatively) recent years, and one reason is that a whole lot of people not only thought they were set too low, but basically refused to obey the lower limit.

    I doubt, though, there is a court case anywhere in the country that challenges the constiutionality of speed limits. They have been with us a lot longer than the DMCA.

  • Doug Lay

    Jim:

    I think we’ve reached a point of diminishing returns.

    Best wishes.

  • http://www.limnthis.com Doug

    Doug, I agree. I was just kind of laughing that at this point this has become an excercise in futility. Good luck and watch out for those little wrist lock zip tie things when you do your DMCA sit in. Wrap your wrists in a few layers of inside out duct tape so the ties don’t pinch.

  • http://www.limnthis.com Jim S

    Doug,

    True, but it has basically nothing to do with the point I was making. This is starting to feel like squeezing a water balloon.

    But if you’re saying that a change in the DMCA laws that was qualitatively equivilent to a moderate 10mph increase in speed limits, and some passage of time to “age” the DMCA laws like Carter’s speed limits, would be sufficient to make you happy with the law and ready to follow it, I think we are all done. Just have to figure out what that little tweak to DMCA would be and then wait.

  • Doug Lay

    Jim:

    I have no idea how anyone could possibly determine that a change in the DMCA could be qualitatively equivalent to a 10mph increase in the speed limit. So no, I can’t accept your offer of a compromise position.

    I’m also not terribly interested in waiting. I would like to hurry the process along, and civil disobedience that underscores the futility of the law is one way to do so. I am sorry that you don’t approve.

  • http://www.limnthis.com Jim S

    Doug,

    My mistake. I thought it was you offering that as a compromise position. Weren’t you suggesting that futile-to-enforce speed limits were ok now that they have been moderately improved and there are no cases remaining in the courts? I should have read your post more carefully.

    Personally I still think I should be allowed to go 150 mph on I-95 since I have a vehicle with the means to do it. I simply don’t buy the argument that I’m hurting anyone by doing it, they just need to speed up too. I’m beginning to come around to your way of thinking and you are giving me the moral courage to say to hell with Carter’s speed limits. I suggest if you still drive slowly, use the right lane.

  • Doug Lay

    Jim:

    I think we’ve reached a point of diminishing returns.

    Best wishes.

  • http://www.limnthis.com Doug

    Doug, I agree. I was just kind of laughing that at this point this has become an excercise in futility. Good luck and watch out for those little wrist lock zip tie things when you do your DMCA sit in. Wrap your wrists in a few layers of inside out duct tape so the ties don’t pinch.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/ enigma_foundry

    You are misunderstanding my point, I may not have been clear. I didn’t say that the Digg episode is a mess (although it will probably turn out to be one for Digg). I was attempting to say that if the bar for civil disobediance is this low in this domain and becomes a norm of public behavior and is applied to other domains, we will find ourselves in the position where everyone with a passionate position on anything decides which laws apply to them.

    Hmmm…well I totally agree there; however the First Amendment and issues of War and Peace (and by extension, discrimination, which is really a form of violence) are ones that are so central to the well-being of society that in those two cases, civil disobedience is required.

    Required.

    (as in NOT optional.)

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/ enigma_foundry

    Clarify the above post; there = bar for civil disobedience should not be set to low…

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    You are misunderstanding my point, I may not have been clear. I didn’t say that the Digg episode is a mess (although it will probably turn out to be one for Digg). I was attempting to say that if the bar for civil disobediance is this low in this domain and becomes a norm of public behavior and is applied to other domains, we will find ourselves in the position where everyone with a passionate position on anything decides which laws apply to them.

    Hmmm…well I totally agree there; however the First Amendment and issues of War and Peace (and by extension, discrimination, which is really a form of violence) are ones that are so central to the well-being of society that in those two cases, civil disobedience is required.

    Required.

    (as in NOT optional.)

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    Clarify the above post; there = bar for civil disobedience should not be set to low…

  • Ned Ulbricht

    Publishing a truthful fact is not civil disobedience. Not in America.

    Civil disobedience is a protest against an unjust law. But Congress simply lacks the power to abridge people’s freedom to print truthful facts. Hence, no law broken—and no civil disobedience.

  • http://www.limnthis.com Jim S

    Ned,

    Not to belabor the point, but I’m really curious. Do you think it would be ok (both legally and morally) for me to publish your social security number, bank account number, home address, mother’s maiden name, phone number, current prescriptions, medical history, past employment record, and any prior record of incarceration here and elsewhere? All truthful facts? Is that consistent with your interpretation of the first amendment? (I’m not baiting here, I’m just trying to understand your statement above regarding congress’ powers).

    engima_foundary… good point. It rather obliterates my automobile analogy. I am following my intuition here but when I think of things (especially in the world we live in today) that require me to go get zip tied, I just don’t think of DCMA. It seems like a rather tenuous connection to the first amendment.

  • Ned Ulbricht

    Publishing a truthful fact is not civil disobedience. Not in America.

    Civil disobedience is a protest against an unjust law. But Congress simply lacks the power to abridge people’s freedom to print truthful facts. Hence, no law broken—and no civil disobedience.

  • http://www.limnthis.com Jim S

    Ned,

    Not to belabor the point, but I’m really curious. Do you think it would be ok (both legally and morally) for me to publish your social security number, bank account number, home address, mother’s maiden name, phone number, current prescriptions, medical history, past employment record, and any prior record of incarceration here and elsewhere? All truthful facts? Is that consistent with your interpretation of the first amendment? (I’m not baiting here, I’m just trying to understand your statement above regarding congress’ powers).

    engima_foundary… good point. It rather obliterates my automobile analogy. I am following my intuition here but when I think of things (especially in the world we live in today) that require me to go get zip tied, I just don’t think of DCMA. It seems like a rather tenuous connection to the first amendment.

  • Ned Ulbricht

    Jim S,

    If you have a specific duty of confidentiality towards me, created by contract, privilege or otherwise, then I decline to waive your duty.

    But in the general case, absent a specific duty, then there is simply no remedy against a member of the general public for their publication of a truthful fact.

    In the specific case under discussion here, AACS LA, their agents, and others operating under their authority knowingly, willfully and voluntarily published their supposedly “secret” number. They have no right at all to object to the public’s discussion of their revealed “secret”.

  • Ned Ulbricht

    Jim S,

    If you have a specific duty of confidentiality towards me, created by contract, privilege or otherwise, then I decline to waive your duty.

    But in the general case, absent a specific duty, then there is simply no remedy against a member of the general public for their publication of a truthful fact.

    In the specific case under discussion here, AACS LA, their agents, and others operating under their authority knowingly, willfully and voluntarily published their supposedly “secret” number. They have no right at all to object to the public’s discussion of their revealed “secret”.

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