Signs from a demonstration at Cambridge, MA city hall last week.
The inventor of the Web is considering allowing corporate interests to change its underlying technology, extending their ability to control users' computers with DRM (Digital Restrictions Management), undermining Internet freedom, and exposing people to surveillance and criminal threats online.
As Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee considers this decision, people around the world are placing hundreds of phone calls urging him not to allow the change. Now a small artist-led group called Ethics in Tech is taking it to the next level—this Saturday, they will march to Berners-Lee's office in Cambridge, MA, to demand he heed the call of human rights groups, tens of thousands of Web users, and his fellow Web pioneers: reject DRM in Web standards and stand up for the free, fair Web that everyone except a handful of big companies wants.
Can you march with Ethics in Tech this Saturday in Cambridge, MA? We are calling on everyone who can to do so, because by bringing an unprecedented outcry down on Tim Berners-Lee, we can still convince him to do the right thing. March details are here.
The proposed change to the Web takes the form of a draft technical standard called EME (Encrypted Media Extensions), which specifies a new way for DRM to integrate with the Web. Netflix, Apple, Google, and Microsoft require users to run DRM software on their computers to stream videos, and if Tim Berners-Lee uses his power as director of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) to make EME an official Web standard, it will become cheaper and easier for them to deploy massive DRM systems across browsers and devices.
This would invite more abuses of users like the Digital Editions DRM, which was found to be exposing user information to snoopers. It would also increase the amount of media for which DRM prevents people from doing important, legal actions, like accessibility modifications, translation, commentary, and archiving.
"Dear W3C: we demand you comply with UNESCO & international civil & political rights. Halt EME—ensure the protection of a secure, accessible, & open web. Make ethical standards or stand on the wrong side of history," wrote artists K8 Howl and Jak Ritger, the march's organizers, referring to a concerned statement issued by the UN organization about EME.
Netflix, Apple, Google, and Microsoft are dead-set on EME. They are powerful and their membership dues provide money to the W3C. But we can stop them if we show Tim Berners-Lee that the Web's users—whom both he and EME's proponents ultimately rely on—will not tolerate a Web that puts corporate interests above their own security and rights.
The march will start at 2:00 PM on Saturday, May 13th, at Cambridge City Hall (Central Square T station) and follow the sidewalk to Tim Berners-Lee's office (Kendall Square T Station). It aims to comply entirely with Cambridge law. For more details about the march and the sign-making party this Thursday, see the organizers' wiki page. Check back as details may change.
The march in Cambridge is not organized by Defective by Design or the Free Software Foundation, but we strongly support its goals.
The image is under the GNU Free Documentation License 1.3, copyright Free Software Foundation 2017, and was originally taken by K8 Howl and Jak Ritger.