Have you ever purchased a digital product, only to discover that you couldn't use it as you wish? Maybe you bought your favorite musician's new album and realized that you couldn't make a copy to share with your friend, or you downloaded an ebook that you couldn't read on both your tablet and your desktop computer. Those are both forms of Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) -- technological handcuffs that control how you can use digital media.
Microsoft made the news last week when it announced that its Edge Web browser could deliver a better Netflix streaming experience than the other three most popular browsers. On Windows 10, Edge is the only one that can play Netflix's video streams — which are encumbered with Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) — in 1080p high definition. A PCWorld article confirmed the claim, but no one writing online has been able to give a clear explanation for the discrepancy. Following the tone of Microsoft's announcement, most writers seem content to imply that Edge's "edge" in Netflix playback on Windows derives from technical superiority, and that intelligent Netflix users should switch to Edge.
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).
On Tuesday, people all over the world spoke out against Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) with demonstrations, writings, speeches, discussion groups, social media, and more. The tenth anniversary of the International Day Against DRM was a confluence of activism to protect our rights and freedoms from the surveillance, unaccountable control, and security threats effects of DRM.
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.
Watch Harry's resignation pledge. CC BY 4.0
Since 2013, Defective by Design has been fighting Encrypted Media Extensions, a plan to add a universal DRM system to the Web. In March, as an element of this campaign, we led the first-ever protest rally at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which designs official standards for the Web.
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.
Activists protesting Apple's use of digital restrictions on the 2015 Day Against DRM.
In the last year, we've seen those that profit from Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) move to spread the world's most regressive DRM laws through the TPP trade agreement and pressure technologists to add DRM to Web standards. Their intention is to further strengthen the international system of law and technology that lets them weaken our security and curtail our freedom, in an effort to prop up a business model that is exploitative in the first place.
Activists around the world protested in solidarity with this demonstration in Cambridge.
On Sunday, we led a protest at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) against the attempt by Netflix, Hollywood and other technology and media companies to weave Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) into the HTML standard that undergirds the Web.
Explore the gallery of photos against DRM in Web standards, and add your own!
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.
Co-sign the Free Software Foundation's (FSF) comment to the U.S. Copyright Office regarding DMCA anti-circumvention provisions by noon EST (5pm UTC) on March 2nd, 2016
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 or understand.
The blight of the DMCA continues as another round of the anti-circumvention exemptions process comes to a close.
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.
These DRM offenders tried to squelch anti-circumvention exemptions; let them know that DRM is always wrong.
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!
This post is by Kat Walsh, a lawyer with extensive background in the free culture movement, who recently joined the Free Software Foundation's board of directors. The post was written for the 2015 International Day Against DRM.
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.