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).
EME (full text) is a proposed technological standard for Web-based Digital Restrictions Management (DRM), digital handcuffs that video-streaming services use to micromanage users' access to legitimately obtained media. As Web users asserted while protesting the W3C's meeting this March, DRM is coercive, disempowering and insulting to users. It also causes broad collateral damage to the health of our digital society. DRM's dark history — from the Sony rootkit malware to draconian anti-circumvention laws — demonstrates that integrating it into Web standards would be nothing but bad for the Web's users. It is predicted to stymie security research, curtail privacy, freedom, and accessibility, and set back the interoperability that is necessary for innovation on the Web. There is considerable dissent about EME within the W3C — staff member Harry Halpin has pledged to resign if it becomes an official standard.
Defective by Design campaigns manager Zak Rogoff made this statement:
"The W3C and its director, Tim Berners-Lee, are abdicating their responsibility — as stated in their official design principles — to put users first in the design of the Web. We had hoped that Berners-Lee would uphold the vision of inclusion and empowerment that he articulated in his famous Tweet about the Web: 'This is for everyone.' But by allowing EME to continue, he has given license to Netflix, Google and media owners warp the Web so that it works firstly for them.
We are inspired by the worldwide network of activists who have joined us in our struggle for the freedom-respecting Web we deserve. Defective by Design will continue to escalate our campaign, deploying new and creative forms of resistance until EME is stopped."
The EME standardization effort, sponsored by streaming giants like Google and Netflix, aims to take advantage of the W3C's influence over Web technology to make it cheaper and more efficient to impose DRM systems. As of yesterday, the EME proposal is now upgraded from Working Draft to Candidate Recommendation within the W3C's process. Under the W3C's rules there are at least three more chances to pull the plug on EME before it becomes a ratified standard, also known as a W3C Recommendation.
W3C member organizations wishing to join the campaign against EME are invited to contact Defective by Design at firstname.lastname@example.org. Concerned individuals can start by signing Defective by Design's petition or adding a protest selfie to the growing gallery.