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Illegal prime...

By joto in MLP
Sun Mar 18, 2001 at 07:26:53 AM EST
Tags: etc (all tags)

A potentially illegal prime is discovered by Phil Carmody.

Well, perhaps not so surprising, but amusing anyway. On the prime curious site, a prime that when gunzipped forms the original source code (without tables) of DeCSS.

It should perhaps be mentioned that this is not really so difficult to do, as gzip will allow you to add garbage at the end to make sure something is a prime. Anyway, a cool idea that deserves credit.


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Prime numbers are...
o works protected by copyright 8%
o patentable, like genes 8%
o easy to factor 35%
o beyond me 5%
o fascinating objects of study 24%
o small flying pigs 17%

Votes: 79
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o prime curious
o prime
o Also by joto

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Illegal prime... | 26 comments (21 topical, 5 editorial, 1 hidden)
Numbers (4.00 / 6) (#4)
by gunner800 on Sat Mar 17, 2001 at 10:20:22 PM EST

Any computer data / file is a number if you choose to interpret it as such. While vaguely amusing, this prime-number-as-DeCSS is no more persuasive than me saying that the contents of my Windows CD is just a big number: something similar in size to two to the 640 millionth power.

Just how persuasive is that? I don't know. Windows is copyrighted; the bigass number is not.

---Ignore poorly-chosen handle for purpose of gun-control discussions.

Re: Numbers (4.00 / 1) (#13)
by joto on Sun Mar 18, 2001 at 09:46:25 AM EST

And, of course, using gunzip and interpreting as an ASCII source code file is a pretty complex transformation. Any number will of course have some transformation that eventually outputs the DeCSS program (without tables) as well. Such as:

add n
interpret as ASCII data

But I really thinks it is interesting anyway, because it sort of makes a mockery of the whole IP thing. Most people (well, I guess, as I haven't done any real research...) would claim that numbers can't be owned, and still think that copyrighted works can be owned. But the distinction is arbitrary as any data is easily representable as a number. Does information really want to be free?

[ Parent ]

"Anarchism Triumpant" (5.00 / 1) (#18)
by Luke Francl on Sun Mar 18, 2001 at 09:28:13 PM EST

That's exactly the line of reasoning that Eben Moglen (the FSF's legal counsel) takes in his essay Anarchism Triumpant. Basically he says that since all software (music, programs, data) are just numbers (bit streams) then it is totally arbitrary to say that one bit stream is "protected" and illegal to copy or change, while another is free. He argues that such distinctions are inherently contradictory, and any legal system which attempts to uphold the contradiction will ultimately collapse in on itself.

[ Parent ]
Wow, and I thought *I* had too much free time... (3.33 / 3) (#5)
by DoomHaven on Sat Mar 17, 2001 at 11:47:15 PM EST

I mean, I thought I was bad for figuring out all by my lonesome that 9 * 6 = 42 in base 13 (for all the HHGTTG fans out there), but this is just too much. Amusing, in an *OMG* sort of way.

My bleeding edge comes from cutting myself on Occam's Razor.
Everyone should memorize this! (3.20 / 5) (#6)
by cezarg on Sun Mar 18, 2001 at 12:33:02 AM EST

So that even when all mirrors are shut down you'll still be able to decript your dvds.

When my home country was invaded by Prusia, Russia and Austria in the eighteenth century many folk memorised the great pieces of the national literature and then taught their offsprings. C'mon we've only a few hundred digits as opposed to few hundred pages. I'm sure we all can do it!

Interesting application... (2.80 / 5) (#10)
by WWWWolf on Sun Mar 18, 2001 at 06:42:02 AM EST

Really interesting. =)

I had been thinking of mathematical approximations of stuff recently, too... Mostly, I toyed with Octave's excellent polyfit() function to produce polynomials that produce numerical sequences of ASCII values... to produce really, really hideous "hello world" programs (these efforts are documented in Everything2 under "Inefficient hello world programs" - here!)

Prime numbers are not my field of interest - I'm not a mathematician, anyway, but I do know what's Cool and what's Approximated. This DeCSS thing is, of course, Cool. =)

-- Weyfour WWWWolf, a lupine technomancer from the cold north...

Fascinating! (2.00 / 4) (#12)
by Haglund on Sun Mar 18, 2001 at 07:09:49 AM EST

This is just beautiful.

I think I have to look more into this and see what other similar things one might find... I expect nothing but it should be interesting to try, at the very least. When I have time...

But aren't the tables kind of important? (2.66 / 3) (#14)
by davros on Sun Mar 18, 2001 at 12:00:55 PM EST

Except for the recent very short perl and C programs, all of the peculiar representations of DeCSS I've seen so far, from haiku to guitar accompanied vocals, eventually fall into a verbatim recitation of the numbers in the tables. Although I hate to be arguing the MPAA's position, in my opinion reciting a list of numbers does not seem like it necessarily deserves any first amendment protection. Would the haiku be any less poetic or the song any less musical if a few of the numbers in the tables were not slavish copies of the original decss?

why a prime? (3.20 / 5) (#15)
by jkominek on Sun Mar 18, 2001 at 02:47:24 PM EST

whats the point of it being a prime? it'd be a lot more interesting if you could find a composite number that represented decss that was made up of a bunch of factors that were each memorizable. then you and your group of 100 or so friends could each pick a factor to memorize.

after the mpaa nazis sweep through your town and you've had to delete your copy of decss, you all get together and share the factor you memorized with everybody else and then you all have decss again.
- jay kominek unix is all about covering up the fact that you can't type.

What was really interesting (1.00 / 4) (#16)
by Bob Abooey on Sun Mar 18, 2001 at 07:33:18 PM EST

Was that according to the snip at the bottom of this page,Jenny McCarthy wrote some fancy pants perl program that extracts the source code from the number. I'm quite frankly shocked that she has the brains to pull off such a task. Not that I'm stating she is stupid or anything, I mean just because a woman has bleach blond hair and fake boobs doesn't make her an idiot... but who would have thought she would have the free time to be a perl hacker. Well, then again, her career isn't exactly on fire these days...


Comments on politics from a man whose life seems to revolve around his lunch menu just do not hold weight. - Casioitan
What are you talking about? (5.00 / 1) (#17)
by Khalad on Sun Mar 18, 2001 at 08:32:05 PM EST

The program was written by Jamie McCarthy, not Jenny McCarthy.

You'd better watch it, it could be libel calling Jamie McCarthy a woman with bleach blond hair and fake boobs without the brains to write such a program. I mean, jeez, talk about an unfounded attack!

You remind me why I still, deep in my bitter crusty broken heart, love K5. —rusty

[ Parent ]
Thanks... (2.00 / 1) (#19)
by Haglund on Mon Mar 19, 2001 at 03:10:10 AM EST

...this just about made my day :)

anyway, even IF the hacker's name would be Jenny McCarthy, how likely is it that it would be THAT Jenny McCarthy...

Perl script seems to cheat (none / 0) (#20)
by pw201 on Mon Mar 19, 2001 at 06:54:34 AM EST

That Perl script deletes some zero bytes at the beginning of the output. Isn't that cheating?

I did a Python version using Python's built in bignums and when I printed out the string I could see the "css_descramble.c" in there. Coolness.

Not cheating: artifact of packing (none / 0) (#21)
by pw201 on Mon Mar 19, 2001 at 07:08:42 AM EST

My mistake: the packing's always going to produce a file with a length in bytes divisible by 4, so they need to strip off some of these to get the right representation of the original number.

[ Parent ]
My favorite "not decss" site (4.00 / 1) (#22)
by Lelon on Mon Mar 19, 2001 at 02:26:33 PM EST

This is really cool... http://www.cs.nmsu.edu/~joshagam/css/ If you compile the code on the image, and then pass the image as a parameter into the program it will give you a gzip of the full decss code.

This sig is a work in progress.
Only interpretations are copyrighted (2.00 / 2) (#23)
by interiot on Mon Mar 19, 2001 at 05:26:04 PM EST

Indeed, any copyrighted work can be expressed as a number.

Insert a CD-ROM with random bits on it into a machine, and it displays an Escher tesselation. Insert that CD-ROM into a different machine, and it could play a Metallica song.

Metallica doesn't own the copyright to the random bits or to the internals of the machine. Yet, they own the copyright to any soundwaves that are close enough to some standard set of soundwaves.

To me, Phil's idea doesn't show that specific numbers are illegal and others are not. Instead, it makes me think that no number or combination of bytes can ever be copyrighted, but that copyright means that you have to be licensed to do any action which results in your senses being stimulated in certain ways. The specific inputs and algorithms are irrelevant.

The only reason why specific bits that are put in a file and suffixed with ".mp3" are said to infringe on a copyright... there's a commonly known way to interpret those bits in a way that infringes on a copyright... even if a user intends to interpet those bits in a different way.

real world analogy (none / 0) (#24)
by interiot on Mon Mar 19, 2001 at 05:32:31 PM EST

This is similar to explosives. It's legal to posess the ingredients to a very powerful explosive, but it's not legal to combine those ingredients (in the US).

[ Parent ]
Ahh.. Yeah (none / 0) (#25)
by Girf on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 07:13:46 AM EST

The fact that it is a number may be signiciant. Until you realize that everything in a computer is expressed as a number. So basically he has read a file and fgetc() and then printf() the char as a decimal number.

Now the fact that it is prime; this fact is likely what is making it make headlines. Everybody knows that prime numbers are just so cool that they can't be ignored. However, what most people don't realize is that ~10% of all numbers are prime. That's right, 10%; and that number doesn't decrease as we look at the really big numbers either.

I have about 50 000 files on my C:\ . All of them are numbers, that means that 5 000 are primes. The fact that deCSS is one of those 10% is not really signiciant; and then there is the issue that gzip allows trailing garbage.

James deBoer

Nothing new, but... (none / 0) (#26)
by jd on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 09:04:34 AM EST

Still very significant, in it's own way. Alan Turing was the first to note that ANY computable algorithm can be expressed as a single number, so this is as old as computing itself.

Having said that, if the number is provably identical to the algorithm, in some form, it weakens the entire IP concept for computer programs.

(Various courts have already ruled that programs and/or data are what they are, regardless of compression or encryption. Which shows a considerable lack of understanding by the courts. Nonetheless, once you accept those rulings, then EITHER every number that equates to a copyright or patented work is itself copyright/patented, OR software cannot be copyrighted/patented. I can't see any other meaningful interpretation.)

IMHO, IP should be equated with privacy, except at the level of organizations. It would solve a lot of problems, and also get rid of all these DeCSS/DMCA/UITCA/Dumb Patent articles on here and Slashdot, as well as forcing companies to fix privacy rules, if they're to retain any control over their own stuff.

Illegal prime... | 26 comments (21 topical, 5 editorial, 1 hidden)
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