[Air-l] Digg user 'riot' going on now

Alexis Turner subbies at redheadedstepchild.org
Thu May 3 10:40:58 PDT 2007

On Thu, 3 May 2007 elw at stderr.org wrote:

::The AACS key being posted is just a string of numbers, fairly short. 
::Numbers, like letters and words, ought to fall well within the bounds of 
::free speech.... shouldn't they?

People use the idea of free speech to suggest that they can say anything they 
want, but legally this is not what free speech represents.  "Free speech" is 
related only to political speech.  There are actually certain types of speech 
that are NOT protected.  I can say the word 'jackass' for instance.  By itself 
this is okay.  I am actually NOT protected if I say 'you are a jackass' (please 
note that this is for example only and not a reflection of an actual opinion).  
'You are a jackass' is considered an example of 'fighting words,' which are 
explicitly NOT protected by the Constitution.  This is why liable is also not 
protected.  Screaming 'Fire' in a crowded movie theater is not protected.  See 
http://supreme.lp.findlaw.com/constitution/amendment01/18.html for an 
explanation of the history of Free Speech and the specific limits on it.

So, a number is okay, by itself.  But that is not the question if we want to 
talk about free speech.  The question in terms of free speech  
is, can I say '00-00-00 is the key to crack DVD copy protection?'  For that 
question, see the section on seditious speech and seditious libel - words used 
to incite criminal acts.  Among other things, it leads to subquestions like 'Am 
I inciting people to crack copy protection by stating this number, or am I 
stating a fact?'  'If I am stating a fact and someone later uses it to break the 
law, am I responsible, or are they responsible?'  'If gun manufacturers are not 
responsible for people using their wares illegally, could a parallel be drawn 
here?' 'Is there any reason I might legitimately state this number that is not 
related to crime?'  'Am I inciting or advocating?' (advocating is okay, inciting 
is not)

These are thoughts on the notion of free speech as related to words.  But, as 
pointed out earlier by others on the list, they are trying to argue that the 
number in question is not a word at all.  They are arguing that the number in 
question is machine code, which, like any other business object, can be 
patented, copyrighted, and controlled.  They cannot win a free speech debate on 
its face.  They could, potentially, win others. 

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