Tim Berners-Lee approves Web DRM, but W3C member organizations have two weeks to appeal

BOSTON, Massachusetts USA — Friday, July 7, 2017 — Yesterday Tim Berners-Lee, the chief arbiter of Web standards, approved the controversial proposed Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) standard for the Web, Encrypted Media Extensions (EME).

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) and its campaign Defective by Design have opposed EME since its inception because it infringes on Web users' control of their own computers, and weakens their security and privacy. A UN official, a group of human rights defenders, and a litany of noted security researchers and Internet scholars, have also objected to EME's approval without additional protections for vulnerable activities and groups. EME is supported by Netflix, Google, Microsoft, and Apple, as well as the Motion Picture Association of America, all of whom made financial contributions to the W3C. 1

Opponents' last opportunity to stop EME is an appeal by the Advisory Committee of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the body which Tim Berners-Lee heads. Requiring 5% of the Committee's 475 members (corporate, nonprofit, and educational institutions) to sign on within a two-week period, the appeal would then trigger a vote from the whole Committee to make a final decision to ratify or reject EME.

"W3C member organizations must take responsibility for the digital rights of Web users and appeal Tim Berners-Lee's disastrous decision," said FSF campaigns manager Zak Rogoff. "Standards-setters' top priorities should be user freedom, privacy, security, interoperability and accessibility, not helping Hollywood and streaming companies make their anti-user DRM more efficient. If you have any personal connection to a W3C member organization, we encourage you to contact them immediately about appealing."

If EME is ratified by the W3C, the FSF expects it to cause a long-term increase in the amount of DRM on the Web, by simplifying the DRM implementation process for streaming services. That would invite more abuses of users like the Digital Editions DRM, which was found to be exposing user information to snoopers, and more digital handcuffs preventing legal uses of media, like accessibility modifications, translation, commentary, and archiving.

"We're mourning the Web today, as the W3C sells everyone out. This is still not the end; it can be appealed. Don't let giant corporate publishers control the Web." said John Sullivan, executive director of the Free Software Foundation.

W3C member organizations wishing to join the campaign against EME are invited to contact Defective by Design at info@defectivebydesign.org. Concerned individuals can take action on defectivebydesign.org.

1: Specific amounts are not available, but the listed organizations are W3C members paying significant dues.

Sunday, July 9th is the International Day Against DRM, the world's largest recurring day of action for digital rights.

About Defective By Design

Defective by Design is the Free Software Foundation's campaign against Digital Restrictions Management (DRM). DRM is the practice of imposing technological restrictions that control what users can do with digital media, creating a good that is defective by design. DRM requires the use of proprietary software and is a major threat to computer user freedom. It often spies on users as well. The campaign, based at defectivebydesign.org, organizes anti-DRM activists for in-person and online actions, and challenges powerful media and technology interests promoting DRM. Supporters can donate to the campaign at https://www.defectivebydesign.org/donate.

About the Free Software Foundation

The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users' right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software -- particularly the GNU operating system and its GNU/Linux variants -- and free documentation for free software. The FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of freedom in the use of software, and its Web sites, located at https://fsf.org and https://gnu.org, are an important source of information about GNU/Linux. Donations to support the FSF's work can be made at https://donate.fsf.org. Its headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA.

More information about the FSF, as well as important information for journalists and publishers, is at https://www.fsf.org/press.

Media Contacts

Zak Rogoff
Campaigns Manager
Free Software Foundation
+1 (617) 542 5942