Since the beginning of the Web—the age of dial-up Internet connections—the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) has kept the Web's technical standards tuned in a careful balance that enables innovation while respecting users' rights.
We have fought the practice of Digital Restrictions
(DRM) for almost two decades. This year, we made breakthroughs in
two important DRM battlegrounds: the US Copyright Office and the
World Wide Web Consortium. We are gaining ground against the
offenses of DRM: malware and spyware foisted on users, remote
deletion of cultural works, good-faith security researchers muzzled,
and more. Now we need to push the advantage.
Defective by Design is supported by memberships and donations to our
parent organization, the Free Software Foundation. On Monday,
the Foundation launched its yearly fundraiser with the goal of
welcoming 500 new members and raising $450,000 before December
31st. If you have the resources, please support our work against DRM:
make a donation or join as a member today.
Twenty-five years ago, Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. Back then timbl -- as he's known online -- declined opportunities to lock down his creation and established himself as an advocate for a freedom-affirming, interoperable, and universally accessible World Wide Web. Now he's considering turning his back on this vision to make Netflix, Google, Apple, and Microsoft happy.
This week, the chief arbiter of Web standards, Tim Berners-Lee,
decided not to exercise his power to extend the development timeline
for the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) Web technology
standard. The EME standardization effort, sponsored by streaming
giants like Google and Netflix, aims to make it cheaper and more
efficient to impose Digital Restrictions Management (DRM)
systems on Web users. The streaming companies' representatives within
the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) were unable to finish EME
within the time allotted by the W3C, and had asked Berners-Lee
for an extension through next year.
Next week, demonstrators will gather at a meeting of the World Wide
Web Consortium (W3C) in Lisbon, Portugal. They will make the same
demand that we made at the last major W3C meeting in March: stop
streaming companies from inserting Digital Restrictions Management
(DRM) into the HTML standard on which the Web is based.
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
(DRM) -- technological handcuffs that control how you can use digital
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.