Via Mark Frauenfelder, I came across this fascinating little video that informs me that being in possession of a particular number is now illegal in the US and why. I cannot tell you the full number because I don’t know it but apparently knowing it and even writing it on a piece of paper could land me in prison. All I know is that the number is a prime number that has 1419 digits that begin with the sequence 85650789657397829.
Why is this number illegal? Because its binary representation is that of a computer program that enables a computer to circumvent a DVD’s copyright protection. Distribution of such programs is illegal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998. The Wikipedia article states that the act “criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures (commonly known as digital rights management or DRM) that control access to copyrighted works.”
It turns out that it is not the only illegal number around. Who knew?