We have fought the practice of Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) for almost two decades. This year, we made breakthroughs in two important DRM battlegrounds: the US Copyright Office and the World Wide Web Consortium. We are gaining ground against the offenses of DRM: malware and spyware foisted on users, remote deletion of cultural works, good-faith security researchers muzzled, and more. Now we need to push the advantage.
Zak Rogoff's blog
Defective by Design is supported by memberships and donations to our parent organization, the Free Software Foundation. On Monday, the Foundation launched its yearly fundraiser with the goal of welcoming 500 new members and raising $450,000 before December 31st. If you have the resources, please support our work against DRM: make a donation or join as a member today.
Twenty-five years ago, Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. Back then timbl -- as he's known online -- declined opportunities to lock down his creation and established himself as an advocate for a freedom-affirming, interoperable, and universally accessible World Wide Web. Now he's considering turning his back on this vision to make Netflix, Google, Apple, and Microsoft happy.
This week, the chief arbiter of Web standards, Tim Berners-Lee, decided not to exercise his power to extend the development timeline for the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) Web technology standard. The EME standardization effort, sponsored by streaming giants like Google and Netflix, aims to make it cheaper and more efficient to impose Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) systems on Web users. The streaming companies' representatives within the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) were unable to finish EME within the time allotted by the W3C, and had asked Berners-Lee for an extension through next year.
Next week, demonstrators will gather at a meeting of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in Lisbon, Portugal. They will make the same demand that we made at the last major W3C meeting in March: stop streaming companies from inserting Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) into the HTML standard on which the Web is based.
Our friends at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recently filed a lawsuit challenging Section 1201 of the US's Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which provides legal reinforcement to the technical shackles of Digital Restrictions Management (DRM). Defective by Design applauds this lawsuit and agrees with
Microsoft made the news last week when it announced that its Edge Web browser could deliver a better Netflix streaming experience than the other three most popular browsers. On Windows 10, Edge is the only one that can play Netflix's video streams — which are encumbered with Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) — in 1080p high definition. A PCWorld article confirmed the claim, but no one writing online has been able to give a clear explanation for the discrepancy. Following the tone of Microsoft's announcement, most writers seem content to imply that Edge's "edge" in Netflix playback on Windows derives from technical superiority, and that intelligent Netflix users should switch to Edge.
Despite dedicated resistance by tens of thousands of Web users and civil society groups, Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee has allowed Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) to move to the next phase of development within the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
On Tuesday, people all over the world spoke out against Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) with demonstrations, writings, speeches, discussion groups, social media, and more. The tenth anniversary of the International Day Against DRM was a confluence of activism to protect our rights and freedoms from the surveillance, unaccountable control, and security threats effects of DRM.
Watch Harry's resignation pledge. CC BY 4.0
Since 2013, Defective by Design has been fighting Encrypted Media Extensions, a plan to add a universal DRM system to the Web. In March, as an element of this campaign, we led the first-ever protest rally at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which designs official standards for the Web.
Digital Restrictions Management (DRM), the software that comes bolted to your digital media and computerized devices and tries to police your behavior. The major media companies are its masters, and they justify it as a necessary evil to prevent filesharing, calling it Digital Rights Management. But it does more than that, and worse than that. Giving its owners power over our cars, medical devices, phones, computers, and more, it opens a deep crack in our digital rights and
Just a quick reminder that the International Day Against DRM is coming up this Tuesday, May 3rd. This is the tenth anniversary of the Day, and we're burning the candle at both ends, winding for up for a momentous day of action.
In corner offices around the world, those who profit from Digital Restrictions Management are writing their speeches for this Tuesday, "World Intellectual Property Day."1 This global but decidedly not grassroots event is a project of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Yes, those are the same wise folks who convinced governments around the world to make it a crime to circumvent DRM even for legal purposes, undercutting digital freedom, security research, and access for those with disabilities.
Activists protesting Apple's use of digital restrictions on the 2015 Day Against DRM.
In the last year, we've seen those that profit from Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) move to spread the world's most regressive DRM laws through the TPP trade agreement and pressure technologists to add DRM to Web standards. Their intention is to further strengthen the international system of law and technology that lets them weaken our security and curtail our freedom, in an effort to prop up a business model that is exploitative in the first place.
Activists around the world protested in solidarity with this demonstration in Cambridge.
On Sunday, we led a protest at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) against the attempt by Netflix, Hollywood and other technology and media companies to weave Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) into the HTML standard that undergirds the Web.
Explore the gallery of photos against DRM in Web standards, and add your own!
Last week, we asked you to show the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) that you wouldn't allow Digital Restrictions Management in the Web's technical standards, and you answered. From around the world, you sent in protest selfies against the proposed restriction standards championed by Netflix, Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Hollywood. With you at our backs, we're organizing a major demonstration this Sunday, outside the building where the W3C will be meeting to discuss DRM. A parallel demonstration is planned outside the W3C office in Amsterdam. Our activism is working -- the campaign has drawn renewed attention to this once low-profile issue and more people are learning that DRM standards would be a major regression for user freedom on the Web.
Join these activists and take your own photo at a W3C office near you.
For years, Defective by Design and the anti-DRM movement have been fighting Hollywood and proprietary software companies who want to weave Digital Restrictions Management into the HTML standard that undergirds the Web. Winning this is a top priority for us -- the DRM proposal, known as EME (Encrypted Media Extensions), would make it cheaper and more politically acceptable to impose restrictions on Web users, opening the floodgates to a new wave of DRM throughout the Internet. We've been calling this awful possibility the Hollyweb -- a network riddled with restrictions that serves Hollywood, not its users.
What is the central goal of the Defective by Design campaign?
It is to shine a light on the abuses of Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) -- to expose it as digital handcuffs, and motivate people to break free. We may not always notice the handcuffs, but we feel them chafe when DRM installs malware and spyware on our computers, when its owners remotely delete ebooks without warning, and when DRM laws are used to intimidate good-faith security researchers working to hold corporations accountable.
In the flurry of holiday advertising that happens at the end of the year, many people are swept into buying electronics gifts that are rotten with Digital Restrictions Management, and restrict their users in other ways as well. Our Giving Guide is designed to make it easy for you to choose tech gifts that respect recipients' rights and avoid those that don't. But to have the greatest possible impact, we also need you to spread the word about ethical tech this season.
Electronics are popular gifts for the holidays, but people often overlook the restrictions that manufacturers slip under the wrapping paper. From remote deletion of files to harsh rules about copying and sharing, some gifts take more than they give. The problems include DRM but go beyond it -- any device running proprietary software, instead of freely licensed software, is a locked box its users can't control or understand.
Ten years ago today, Sony was caught red-handed in a flashpoint that galvanized popular resistance to Digital Restrictions Management (DRM). A security researcher named Mark Russinovich published a description of surveillance malware (in this case a technically sophisticated rootkit) that was secretly installed on users' computers by the DRM on Sony music CDs.
Last week's International Day Against DRM was the biggest ever, with fifteen actions from Guatemala to Bangladesh, endorsement from major ebook publishers, and a chorus of support on social media. Community members shared diverse perspectives on DRM in community blog posts and helped bring new people in to our movement. Together we sent a strong message to the DRM and publishing industries: we will not tolerate digital restrictions.
Protestors at the New York City Apple store were evicted by uncomfortable security guards. Principled cooks in Italy created painfully spicy -- but tasty-looking -- DRM-themed snacks to illustrate the bait-and-switch deception of DRM-encumbered media. And a solitary activist took on the entire University of Illinois at Chicago campus with nothing but a few hundred flyers and an unflappable attitude. As of the time of this writing, we've heard about three times as many organized events as last year, a total of fifteen. Great job, anti-DRM community!
This post is by Kat Walsh, a lawyer with extensive background in the free culture movement, who recently joined the Free Software Foundation's board of directors. The post was written for the 2015 International Day Against DRM.
Everyone knows how to recognize cartoon villains. They twirl their mustaches as they kick puppies, delivering speeches about world domination for personal gain, and often let their arrogance lead to their undoing. People recognize this kind of evil immediately and rise up in protest, banding together to resist. In the real world, most evils are much harder to see coming: they look reasonable at first, perhaps taking just a little bit from many people to get to some unexpected end. Once the effect is widespread enough that most people notice, you have a systemic problem that's hard to get rid of. The evil that's easy to identify is easy to fight. The one that initially looks like something good can betray you, and that's why when we recognize it, we need to speak out against it.
Digital restrictions affect almost everyone, but most people have never heard of them. Today is one of our best opportunities to change that.
People around the world are coming together to say that we will not tolerate the remote deletions, unethical surveillance, and invasive restrictions of DRM. In fact, with events in at least nine countries and huge online participation, it's the world's biggest anti-DRM protest.
It's two days before the International Day Against DRM and our community is kicking into gear. We'll come together as a strong movement and we'll make sure the world hears our message: Digital Restrictions Management is wrong, and we will not sit idly by while it is imposed on us.
The International Day Against DRM is in two weeks on May 6th. On the same day across many countries, we will be meeting together and raising our voices against the unjust restrictions, control and surveillance that DRM imposes, and pointing the way to a future of empowerment for computer users. Will you join us at an event?
In the last year, we've seen DRM spread into more types of products, with Mozilla giving in to DRM in its Firefox Web browser and the media fawning over Apple's DRM-laden "smart" watch. But more people are waking up to DRM's oppressive effect every day, and the movement to regain control of our technology is growing.
Santa's helpers (activists) about to distribute the Giving Guide to commuters
I'm writing this with chilly fingers, having just come in from handing out our DRM-Free Giving Guide on the sidewalks around Cambridge, MA's central shopping district with some other activists. A few of the passersby were savvy about the issues of digital freedom and privacy, but for most, it was the first time they'd heard of ethical technology. Interacting with both types of people was meaningful -- sometimes hilarious as in the case of the man that said "I'm already ethical enough" -- and it reminded me why the Defective by Design campaign is so important: though DRM touches the lives of almost everyone we know, a disappointing few even know what it is.
We've just released a printable version of our online Giving Guide, which helps gift-givers choose tech gifts that are DRM-free and respect recipients' rights as computer users. The Guide is hosted on the Web site of the Free Software Foundation, which runs Defective by Design. The printable version, which is available in color as well as black and white, makes sharing and translating easy so the Giving Guide can spread far and wide.