(this is a cross post from my other blog - thesocialbookmarker.com - something I normally don't do, but wanted to share here also)
I had told myself that I was not going to write about the temporary Digg.com takeover and subsequent capitulation (since nearly THE ENTIRE BLOGESPHERE has pretty much already beaten it to death), but after having a nice phone conversation with a good friend of mine last night, I thought I would summarize some of my thoughts about it here.
Clearly, I'm all about the whole "wisdom of crowds" (even though it's often NOT wise) & this grand social experiment in news gathering, relevancy, and more. Furthermore, I am a big fan of the FSF, the GNU project, and the "creative disruption" that comes with technological advance and free information. You might think that I would've been one participating & cheering the whole thing on, or decrying Digg's initial actions, and finally as some are, criticizing them for "caving" only after their site had been overrun by its users. But I honestly don't feel that way at all and here's why:
Democracy =| Anarchy.
Digg.com is an awesome site that lets users generate, moderate, and determine what's on it's site - within their Terms of Service. (Ahhh, those pesky rules.) Now, You may not agree with them or their implementation - and that's fair game, but it is a *company* with employees, costs, and much more. It's their right to have a T.O.S -or- some rules in place for how they run their site and thus business.
That being said, here is my only constructive criticism /feedback: I don't think Digg.com can or should be held -or try to hold themselves- legally responsible for user-submitted links to any "Intellectual Property" - so long as it's not in the story description or headline. This is the distinction between them and say YouTube. YouTube is in trouble & being sued because they are hosting and serving copyrighted material. Digg.com is a site that displays links and descriptions to other sites - BIG DISTINCTION. The perception (and/or reality depending on your viewpoint) was that Digg was going a little too far in trying to "censor" what users were submitting -- when they could've handled it in a different way.
No court or judge could reasonably expect them to know and monitor all the content displayed on sites that their's links too!! They could be expected to make "reasonable best efforts" to prevent piracy, but basically that would just mean "No direct display of copyrighted material/ intellectual property" DIRECTLY on their site. They could've even explained this on their blog. Something like, "We can't control what you guys digg (link too), but don't be stupid and blatantly infringe copyrights in your headlines & descriptions, because it could get us shut down - so we'll ban you if you do!"
It's all a moot point now, since Kevin went ahead and posted the key to the Digg blog. Like Dr. Tiki, I think they deserve some credit for listening to their users. They could have easily pulled the plug on the site for a few hours, or day or two and posted and explanation that they were in risk of being shut down. The kids and pranksters who were just rebelling and joining the mob would have lost interest and moved on. The hardcore diggers and users of the site would've stayed - and there still would've been plenty of publicity that would've brought new users to the site. (In fact, I'm sure since this whole "mess" a lot of new people have been attracted to the site and registered)
It's more than easy for me and everyone else to armchair quarterback & hindsight is always 20/20, but I do think these guys really need to think through some of these thorny 21st century issues from both the corporate AND hacker perspective, so that when something like this happens again, (and it will) they a legally defensible compromise that their intelligent user base will be able to understand with a ;-) and most importantly- prevent the site from being sued or taken down.
That way too, they won't have to stumble through a PR morass or appear to "cave", or much worse -put themselves at a real legal risk to prove they "get it". I know they do, and did, and that's why I'm now digging on...