[Foundation-l] 09-f9-...

Andrew Gray shimgray at gmail.com
Thu May 10 21:09:25 UTC 2007

On 09/05/07, Yann Forget <yann at forget-me.net> wrote:

> That's exactly what I ask. A number can't patented. A number can't be
> copyrighted. A number is just a code. To get useful information, you
> need to know how to decode the information hidden in the number. So it
> seems to me that a number alone is not usefull information (except as a
> pure mathematical object) unless you know how to get the information out
> of it. So where is the limit?


> Is 09-f9-... + 1 illegal?
> Is x * y * ... + ... + z (= 09-f9-...) illegal?
> I hope that people start to realise how the discussion stands on the head.

I am afraid there is a fundamental misconception here; law does not
make sense in this way. Law, confusing as it may seem to those of us
reared in technical backgrounds, is illogical and fuzzy and vague; it
is designed to cope with people, and emphasises very heavily the role
of undefinable factors like "intent" and "purpose".

What the law here is prohibiting - let us assume for a minute that the
law would stand in court, and that the interpretation of the key as
forming such a tool is valid - is possession of a tool intended to
bypass copy protection. This tool would happen to be a tool of pure
information and perfectly expressible as a number, but a tool


"No person shall ... offer to the public, provide, or otherwise
traffic in any technology, product, service, device, component, or
part thereof that that ... a) is primarily designed or produced for
the purpose of circumventing ... b) has only limited commercially
significant purpose or use other than to circumvent ... or; c) is
marketed by that person or another acting in concert with that person
with that person's knowledge for use in circumventing..."

It isn't really in dispute that there are legitimate uses for any
fourteen-digit hex string, including this one - there is a
sufficiently huge amount of digital data created, processed, and
transferred each minute that, even were it all to be random noise,
you'd find that string embedded innumerable times as part of perfectly
legitimate data. The legally dubious thing isn't the integer as a
concept; it's the "aspect" of that integer that is a tool.

But once you add context - by adding the words "the HD DVD encryption
key" in front of it, for example, or for quoting it in a discussion
such as this one - which shows you are aware it has that aspect, and
that you are referencing it with regard to that aspect, *then* you get
thumped by the statute...

... because you're knowingly providing something which was produced
with the intent of circumvention. It doesn't *matter* to the law that
it is conceptually identical to and indistinguishable from a random
integer; you can't get out of it by arguing that you were only using
it in its "innocent" aspect, because the number you got was obtained
via the criminalised context and retains that "taint".

Sure, there are untainted uses. But any time you're doing it knowingly
and in the context of the tainted use, it's tainted.

Does that make any sense? It's hard enough to explain to me, much less
to anyone who has English as their second language...

http://ansuz.sooke.bc.ca/lawpoli/colour/2004061001.php was mentioned
right at the beginning of this discussion, and may be very helpful in
explaining it.

- Andrew Gray
  andrew.gray at dunelm.org.uk

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