Forging a DRM-free future with DbD

The Defective by Design (DbD) campaign is a project of the Free Software Foundation (FSF). In an effort to expand our work towards a world without Digital Restrictions Management (DRM), we are asking you to donate $10 or become a member of the FSF as part of its yearly fundraising drive.

The state of DRM is as bad as ever -- restricting your rights every day, whether you realize it or not. Intentionally or unintentionally, you are caught by these digital handcuffs. Looking back on 2018, we see new themes around DRM, largely concerning access: Apple created a new chip to limit repairs of Apple products; Amazon released their SPEKE API making it even easier to include DRM on AWS servers; and we saw a year with EME on the Web. These are just a few of the new ways DRM infiltrated our lives in 2018.

In addition to these examples of DRM technology, we've also had to deal with DRM in the policymaking world. I'd like to spend a little time highlighting net neutrality in the United States, a battle still raging in the US House of Representatives, and Article 13 of the European Copyright Directive. Both of these are issues being tackled by DbD's home organization, the Free Software Foundation, and they're just as important to the fight against DRM as they are to other digital rights.

By gutting net neutrality provisions in the United States, problematic corporate interests are being given even more control over the Web and what we get to do there. This supports DRM, as the Internet Service Providers and companies pushing against net neutrality are the same ones that support DRM on the Web and in your homes. By ceding greater control to them, the government is making it harder to avoid DRM. This matters outside the US as well, as giving companies greater control in one country sets a precedent for them gaining those same legal supports for control in other countries.

Article 13 of the Copyright Directive also limits access to materials on the Web, but in a different way. It is known for its requirement of "upload filtering" and removal of referenced, copied, reused, and remixed materials from the Web. This form of control is yet another shape DRM can take -- it might not be what we traditionally think of when we consider the technology used to lock down individual files, but it is mandating software to control your access to information and limit your ability to exercise your rights.

These battles are ongoing, but we will continue to be at the front lines with you.

Thankfully, we have good news as well. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is broken, and the anti-circumvention rules need to be abolished. We'll keep working towards that, but in the meantime we participate in the triennial process to carve out specific exemptions to those rules. With your help, we supported every single new or expanded request in the 2018 process, with nine classes gaining some sort of new or expanded exemption. We had a very successful International Day Against DRM (IDAD), during which seventeen stellar organizations around the world created, took action, and wrote in support of a world without DRM. We've also been doing our share to raise awareness around issues with DRM, publishing on topics including the Apple App Store.

What does all this mean? We've spent another year fighting against DRM, and there's still a lot more for us to do. As we look ahead to 2019, we see new battles we're going to fight, new angles supporters of DRM are going to take, and increased risk for the proliferation of DRM.

DRM is different than how it used to be. In the early days, media you "purchased" would be given to you on loan, with access being controlled by a third party (usually the company from which you purchased the media). These days, DRM takes a different shape: streaming services, and fighting DRM in streaming requires new ways to communicate, new ideas, and new tactics. We'll be focusing on these in 2019, and need your support.

Activists, volunteers, and donors are the force behind everything we do. You bring the message of a world without DRM to companies, organizations, and individuals around the world. You help us update the Guide to DRM-free Living. Keep doing what you're doing: follow our work and tell others why you share the vision of this world without DRM. The most important way to help right now is financially, by becoming an Associate Member or making a donation, so we can plan a solid strategy for 2019.

Thank you for everything you do in the fight against DRM and your support of DbD.

Molly de Blanc
Campaigns Manager