Geeky stuff Internet Law

Did you know you can own a number?

Yep! It’s true!

So I’m now laying claim to the hexadecimal number “C6 8C 14 E1 9F 29 2A 6B 9E 6C C7 38 D2 80 9E 27” and if I wanted to, I could sue any of you bastards who decided to use that number for whatever dastardly purposes your evil little minds imagine. I could probably also go after you for using the base 10 equivalent of 17,859,592,074,240 if I felt the desire to do so.

You see, there’s currently a lot of hoopla going on about the movie industry claiming that it can own certain 128-bit numbers like the one above. They used one of these random numbers as a “key” on the encryption system on HD-DVDs to keep you from making copies of your favorite movies or watching them on DVD players they don’t like. Then someone figured out what that number was. So the “owners” of this key got really upset. They say they’ll sue or maybe even bring criminal charges against anyone who tells other people what that key is, because to do so would be a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

So the combination is one, two, three, four, five? That’s the stupidest combination I’ve ever heard in my life! The kind of thing an idiot would have on his luggage!

Unfortunately, they’re pretty much right. The DMCA made it illegal to circumvent (or tell others how to circumvent) any copy protection scheme, regardless of whether you own the rights to that protected material or not. It’s kind of like how it’s “breaking and entering” to pick the lock on someone else’s house and open the door, regardless of whether you actually go inside or steal anything. Except in this case, it would also be illegal to break into YOUR OWN house if you accidentally lock your keys inside. The way the DMCA reads, you can’t use your own stuff, stuff you legally bought with your own money, in whichever way you see fit. You can only use your stuff in whichever way the maker of the locks on your doors says you can — even if that means not at all! For them, it’s more important to their business that their locks remain secure than it is that you be able to legally use your own door to enter and exit your own abode as you please.

Okay, before I extend and mix up this crazy analogy any further, I best move on…

I read on Boing Boing (link) a little while ago that a professor at Princeton thought this whole thing was rather messed up, so he created a page to help people stake claim on their own randomly generated 128-bit numbers before all of the good ones are gone. (link) After all, there’s only 2^128 numbers available to go around! So I’ve gone and grabbed a few for myself, and it couldn’t hurt for you to ring up a few of your own, too.

You may say, “what in the world would I need a 128-bit number for?” Well, do you have a wireless network in your house? Do you have a WEP key (one of those funky jumbles of numbers and letters) on there so your neighbors can’t leech off your connection and download dirty pictures using your internet account? If so, you’re likely already using a 128-bit number. (You better hope your number’s not the same as the one that the movie industry doesn’t want you to know, or you could be in big trouble!)

And like I said before, if I wanted to I could decide to be a real jerk and not let anybody else use that number ever again without paying me a bunch of money to get my permission.

But you know me, I’m a nice guy. I’ve decided that I’m going to print my number at the bottom of this post as a pretty line of text. And I’ve decided to share this work with the world by publishing it with a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license. This means that you’re free to share, copy, distribute and transmit the number, as well as to adapt the number to suit your own purposes. The only conditions are that you have to credit me as the original author of this number, and you have to be willing to share your new creation just as I have.

So if you want to use this number as the key to your own encryption system, you’re more than welcome to do so.

Do you want to put the number on a t-shirt? Go ahead!

Want to spell it out in your Alpha-Bits and take a picture of it? Knock yourself out!

Think it might be fun to multiply it by two? Sure, if you’re one of those dorks who likes maths, have at it. Just don’t forget to credit me, Bo Nash, on the bottom of your paper.


C6 8C 14 E1 9F 29 2A 6B 9E 6C C7 38 D2 80 9E 27

Creative Commons License

10 replies on “Did you know you can own a number?”

is it wrong that cowboy mouth jumps to mind when reading the comments – I think not

I have spent the last several years of my life generating 128 bit numbers and transmitting them on radio waves out into space…and if there is intelligent, or not-so-intelligent life in space that then uses my numbers, I’ll sue the bastards, or let my successors in interest sue them – with penalties and interest it should be massive, but collection may be an issue

I’m thinking of trademarking the phrase “that’s cold, bitch!”
did I mention I have also patented and copyrighted an angle

there may be certain flaws in my plans

Sounds reasonable, after all –let’s say– a poem, is just a bunch of letters and spaces ordered in some unique way. So if i can hold the copyright to that, I don’t see a reason to not be able to hold the copyright of a unique order of numbers, letters and spaces.

SO that’s a nice number you got there, I might start doing some of those myself. Maybe it could become a book!. :)

Ah, see, that’s just the thing … This ISN’T an “order of numbers, letters and spaces.” This is just a number. The reason it has letters and spaces is that’s how you write hexadecimal numbers. It’s the equivalent of saying, “I’m copyrighting ‘4.’” It just happens to be a much larger number. Hex is just a shorter system for writing numbers in the trillions than our standard way of counting.

congrats on being boing boinged!

LOL@ You better hope your number’s not the same as the one that the movie industry doesn’t want you to know, or you could be in big trouble!


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