While it’s obvious why the creator of a movie or a song might deserve some special claim over the use of their creation, it’s hard to see why anyone should be able to pick a number at random and unilaterally declare ownership of it. There is nothing creative about this number—indeed, it was chosen by a method designed to ensure that the resulting number was in no way special. It’s just a number they picked out of a hat. And now they own it?Which gets at what needs to be said, over and over again, about the post-DMCA legal regime: this isn’t a storyline about “copyright radicals” trying to overthrow the established order. The DMCA was the radical change, and the people using it to slap “takedown notices” on anyone who inconveniences their business model—those people are the crazies. The people pointing out that it’s nuts to claim ownership of an integer—those people are traditionalists.
As if that’s not weird enough, there are actually millions of other numbers (other keys used in AACS) that AACS LA claims to own, and we don’t know what they are. When I wrote the thirty-digit number that appears above, I carefully avoided writing the real 09F9 number, so as to avoid the possibility of mind-bending lawsuits over integer ownership. But there is still a nonzero probability that AACS LA thinks it owns the number I wrote.
When the great mathematician Leopold Kronecker wrote his famous dictum, “God created the integers; all else is the work of man,” he meant that the basic structure of mathematics is part of the design of the universe. What God created, AACS LA now wants to take away.