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If you post a copy of a cryptographic key, such as the AACS encryption key or the Texas Instruments signing key, and it vanishes off Wikipedia, you're not being oppressed by the man.

At Wikipedia, we are just a bunch of individuals using the Internet, just like you...

However, we are also volunteers committed to improving this project. We believe that our work will help make overly restrictive copyright protection obsolete, by building an enormous library of content distributed under free content licenses which cannot be locked up with digital restrictions management. Like GNU/Linux or Firefox, Wikipedia shows there are viable methods to produce useful material without overbearing copyright limitations.

Wikipedia intentionally does not include a great many things, most of which have no alleged legal problems at all. Some examples of things which are not usually included are detailed how-to material, long natural constants (such as PI to billions of digits), or the complete source code to free software that Wikipedia discusses. Even when there is no controversy related to keying material, it isn't obviously the sort of thing Wikipedia normally includes. The specific inclusion / not inclusion decisions are not universally shared by all Wikipedians, but they do reflect our best attempt at balancing a number of important editorial factors.

Certainly keying material does not belong in unrelated articles, but many people have pasted this kind of information all over Wikipedia in an effort to promote its propagation.

People who show up blasting Wikipedia pages with some random keying material are, from our perspective, just spamming the heck out of us and making our work harder to accomplish our goal. Many of us think that you are not helping freedom at all: you're just defacing our work.

Rather than posting the key again, take more direct and personal actions — write a letter to the US Congress or your own government expressing your feelings on over-restrictive copyright protection, DRM, and the ACTA, or give us a hand creating more free content so that in the future people won't have to worry about those restrictions if they don't want to deal with them.

At the moment, the legality of the inclusion of previously secret keys for rights restrictions or even links to pages containing these key is unclear. The Wikimedia Foundation is not taking a stance at this time. Jimmy Wales has reminded editors that there is no hurry and has advised that we "try not to get nervous and depressed about strings of sekrit numbers." Until the WMF takes a position on the issue, you may be interested in taking a look at the Electronic Frontier Foundation's article "09 f9: A Legal Primer" for an overview of precedents already set by previous court rulings.[1] Several US-based press sources have run stories about the AACS controversy, containing the key. [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

As with many other popular disputes, community opinion varies. Some of us think the DMCA should be respected in spirit as well as letter unless and until it can be changed. Some see the key-copying craze as ultimately counter-productive and think the publicity this event is generating will just be perfect fodder for the movie industry to go back to Congress and say, "Look, the Internet is a bunch of anarchists. If you want copyright to still be useful you'll give us even more power and control." Some of us would consider it appropriate to use orbital lasers to burn the key in 500-foot-long letters across the middle of Hollywood ...

However, we all agree the spam is damaging to this project. And we don't want to seem to encourage the next memespam.

The AACS key isn't in the site spam filter any more. Whether or not we end up including any key in an article is a decision we'll make by deliberation, consideration of the issues involved, and discussion (and the occasional lame edit war). Exactly as we make any other decisions on the site.

Repeatedly spamming the key will prejudice such discussions against any use at all. If you want to place the key in an article, you'll help your position far more by making a well-reasoned argument as to why, not by trying to force the issue by repeatedly posting it. And regardless, it may be decided not to use it at all.

By no means does this exclude discussions emerging in other relevant pages, but rather it allows for a central barometer of opinion. We must remember that consensus can change and having an epicenter for the seeking of consensus can help us all keep in the same page.


Outside resources[edit]

If freedom in the electronic world is a subject you are passionate about, these sites may be of interest:

Or... for a lighter take on this subject, see Consumers buy HD DVDs to spite copyfighters at Uncyclopedia.


  1. ^ von Lohmann, Fred (2007-05-02). "09 f9: A Legal Primer". Deep Links. Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved 2007-05-22. 
  2. ^ Buchanan, Matt (2007-05-02). "Breaking: Digg Riot in Full Effect Over Pulled HD-DVD Key Story". Gizmodo. Retrieved 2007-05-04. 
  3. ^ Berger, Adam (2007-05-02). "HD-DVD cracked, Digg users causes an uproar". Gadgetell. Retrieved 2007-05-04. 
  4. ^ Beal, Andy (2007-05-02). "Rose Hands Over Digg Control". WebProNews. Retrieved 2007-05-04. 
  5. ^ Lane, Frederick (2007-05-02). "Digg This: Web 2.0, Censorship 0". Retrieved 2007-05-04. 
  6. ^ Singel, Ryan (2007-05-03). "HD DVD Battle Stakes Digg Against Futility of DRM". Wired News. Retrieved 2007-05-03. 
  7. ^ Segan, Sascha (2007-05-02). "Digg Users Storm the Bastille". PC Magazine.