International coalition of Internet freedom organizations urges W3C to reject Encrypted Media Extensions, a proposal to build Digital Restrictions Management into the Web
The coalition opposing EME includes the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and its sister organizations FSF Europe, Latin America, and India; the Electronic Frontier Foundation; Creative Commons; Fight for the Future; Open Knowledge Foundation; Free Culture Foundation; April; Open Technology Institute; and several chapters of the Pirate Party. In the letter (full text of which is visible at http://www.defectivebydesign.org/sign-on-against-drm-in-html), these organizations lay out their reasons for opposing EME, and encourage principled Web users to sign Defective by Design's petition against DRM in HTML at http://www.defectivebydesign.org/no-drm-in-html5. On May 3rd, the International Day Against DRM, the Defective by Design campaign plans to hand-deliver 50,000 petition signatures to the W3C's Cambridge, Massachusetts, office.
The letter argues that "DRM restricts the public's freedom, even beyond what overzealous copyright law requires," and warns that for the W3C, "ratifying EME would be an abdication of responsibility; it would harm interoperability, enshrine nonfree software in W3C standards and perpetuate oppressive business models. It would fly in the face of the principles that the W3C cites as key to its mission and it would cause an array of serious problems for the billions of people who use the Web."
EME is sponsored by a handful of powerful companies who are W3C members, like Microsoft, Google, and Netflix. These companies have been promoting DRM both for their own reasons and as part of their close relationships to major media companies.
In order for watching, sharing, recording, and transforming media to be restricted, computer users must be prevented from modifying the plug-in software used to view the media (otherwise people would modify the software to remove the restrictions). This makes DRM by nature incompatible with free "as in freedom" software. The letter argues that by enshrining nonfree software in HTML itself, EME would comparatively diminish the values of freedom, self-actualization and decentralization so critical to the Web as we know it.
FSF executive director, John Sullivan, said, "Building DRM hooks into HTML is another attempt by Hollywood and its friends to gain control over our home and mobile computers in order to restrict the way we use media on the Web. DRM turns these companies into gatekeepers capable of filtering and controlling not just movies and music but also educational materials -- anything digital. The FSF and its partners won't allow these companies to sneak this change into the Web's core language. We want the World Wide Web, not the Hollyweb."
Web expert and W3C HTML Working Group member Manu Sporny has also warned that EME would spur a new proliferation of incompatible proprietary browser plug-ins for playing DRM-encumbered media, harming interoperability on the Web. This would run counter to the W3C's stated principles, which include an explicit commitment to "global interoperability," as part of the Open Stand guidelines to which W3C is a signatory.
The coalition signing the letter is an international group of free software and Internet freedom organizations. Frédéric Couchet, executive director of the French free software organization April, wrote, "DRM is an outrageous threat made by the entertainment industry against its own customers. Accepting the EME proposal would make the W3C complicit in forcing DRM on every computer user."
The W3C hosts the full text of the EME proposal on its site at https://dvcs.w3.org/hg/html-media/raw-file/tip/encrypted-media/encrypted-media.html.
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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 fsf.org and gnu.org, are an important source of information about GNU/Linux. Donations to support the FSF's work can be made at http://donate.fsf.org. Its headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA.
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