Anti-DRM activism first sparked in the 1990s, as media and technology companies wielded digital restrictions more and more blatantly to lock-in customers and control people's access to computers. There are countless examples of the collateral damage DRM has caused to culture, privacy and security, but just over ten years ago, Sony accidentally gave the anti-DRM movement special inspiration. By infecting thousands of its own customers with a DRM that spied on them and broke their computers, the company spurred public awareness of DRM's menace to society. The burgeoning anti-DRM movement combined old-school free software activists with newcomers who were concerned with the digital books, games and other media increasingly being locked down. The Free Software Foundation started the Defective by Design campaign as a home for the movement. On October 3rd, 2006, we launched the first International Day Against DRM.
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
Activists helped the FSF hand-deliver a comment to the
Copyright Office with over twelve-hundred co-signers calling for the
repeal of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's (DMCA)
anti-circumvention provisions and the triennial exemptions process,
but the Copyright Office refused to accept the comment.
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.
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.
After years of protesting against the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)'s anti-circumvention provisions and the broken process of gaining exemptions from it, the Copyright Office calls for comments on how to "improve" the system. But the system cannot be fixed. We need to end the DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions now.
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
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.
We have written previously about the organizations and individuals who opposed exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's (DMCA) anti-circumvention provisions. These drones oppose the rights of users to backup, modify, and study the software and devices that we own. The DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions create legal penalties for simply accessing your software under your own terms, and raises those penalties even higher should dare to share the tools needed to do so. It creates real penalties for anyone who wants to avoid Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) controls. The granting of exemptions to these totalitarian rules is a broken and half-hearted attempt to limit the damage these rules bring, granting for 3 years a reprieve for certain specified devices and software.
When we say people and groups lack integrity, we mean that they're corrupt and deceitful. Similarly, when computer scientists say that a file lacks integrity, they mean it's been corrupted: unintentionally or maliciously modified. Apple's recent decision to impose Digital Restrictions Management -- the favorite anti-feature of proprietary format developers -- on many music fans lacked integrity, and took away the files' integrity as well.
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!
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.
This is a guest post by Free Software Foundation board member Benjamin Mako Hill. It focuses on the rise of DRM in subscription streaming services like Spotify and Pandora. The post was written for the 2015 International Day Against DRM.
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.
This is a guest post by Storm Dragon and Kyle (co-writer), two blind anti-DRM (Digital Restrictions Management) activists. It focuses on the problems facing blind readers in the US, but much of it is applicable to other countries as well. The post was written for the 2015 International Day Against DRM.