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You are here: Home FSF News International Day Against DRM (IDAD): Defending the right to read on Oct. 12

International Day Against DRM (IDAD): Defending the right to read on Oct. 12

by Greg Farough Contributions Published on Sep 12, 2019 11:38 AM

BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA -- Thursday, September 12th, 2019 -- A global community of students, teachers, and activists are taking part in the Defective by Design campaign's 13th annual International Day Against DRM. Though from different backgrounds, countries, and perspectives, participants in the campaign share the common cause of opposing Digital Restrictions Management (DRM), a widespread technology that places heavy restrictions on how people access digital media.

On Saturday, October 12th, there will be two events held in Boston: a protest outside of the Pearson Education offices at 501 Boylston Street, followed by an evening "hackathon," or collaboration session, on unrestricted and truly shareable educational materials at the offices of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) at 51 Franklin Street.

Typically, DRM is used to restrict a user's access to music, films, and software. It is embedded in both physical and digital media, such as the "copy protection" on a Blu-ray disc or the mechanism that prevents recording (or even taking screenshots) from services like Netflix. Increasingly, however, it has been extending into the realm of education. Pearson Education and similar publishers' move to a "digital-first" method of textbook distribution is an example of this. This new method of educational publishing forces students away from the reliability of a paper book, moving them instead to a temporarily "rented" text that can only be accessed under strictly specific conditions and for a limited amount of time. In many cases systems like these also require a constant Internet connection for authentication purposes, to make sure the reader is authorized to access their book, and additionally collects telemetric data based on their reading habits.

"DRM is about more than just 'bad' file formats or streaming services. It is more than just an inconvenience. DRM is a concerted attack on free society," said Greg Farough, campaigns manager at the FSF. "It isn't just that DRM is an ineffective method of protecting copyright, or that it undermines historic preservation of digital media. It is fundamentally unethical and anti-education. The International Day Against DRM is one way we can empower people to take a strong stance against DRM, and educate others on its importance. I'm very glad that this year we will be able to voice our dissent against DRM, as well as demonstrate that it is possible to envision a world without it."

Now in its 13th year, Defective by Design has a long history of campaigning for a user's rights to control their media and the devices they use to interact with it. Likewise, being the anti-DRM campaign of the FSF, it is inspired by the spirit and community of the global movement for user freedom. This year, Defective by Design is not only encouraging people to protest against Pearson, but is also sponsoring local and remote "hackathons" on collaboratively edited and shareable textbooks like those produced by FLOSSManuals and Wikibooks.

The campaign is encouraging people to participate in a variety of online and in-person actions, coordinated through the Web site dedicated to the anti-DRM cause at DefectivebyDesign.org. To be part of Defective by Design's year-round anti-DRM campaigns, supporters can join the low-volume Action Alerts email list. Those interested in more active participation in the fight against DRM are invited to join the FSF's LibrePlanet wiki to document the new developments and threats DRM poses to user freedom worldwide.

Along with blockchain technologies, artificial intelligence, and algorithms, DRM has been a hot issue this year, and has been reported on widely in the press:

  • Reacting to Microsoft's announcement that they would be closing down their ebook store (and with it, the forcible deletion of many of its users ebook libraries), Wired wrote a popular article on the "ebook apocalypse" users of the service faced.

  • The MIT Press issued a landmark study on the use of DRM in streaming media services, analyzing both the technical and ethical implications of the popularity of Spotify and its ability to leverage DRM-restricted media to gather data and even psychologically manipulate its users. During their work on Spotify Teardown: Inside the Black Box of Streaming Music, the authors received a cease and desist notice from the company.

  • Writing for Locus Magazine, author and technologist Cory Doctorow wrote on the "broken promise" of DRM, calling the shift from a user's "owning" a piece of digital media to "licensing" it a return to feudalism.

  • An article addressing the shutdown of the digital video service UltraViolet appeared in Forbes, highlighting it as a Hollywood failure to control the flow of digital media.

The campaign is inviting other organizations to participate, by contacting info@defectivebydesign.org to have their names added to a list of supporters, and to discuss possible actions. In 2018, organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Creative Commons, iFixIt, and the Document Foundation were partners.

About Defective By Design

Defective by Design is the Free Software Foundation's campaign against Digital Restrictions Management (DRM). DRM is the practice of imposing technological restrictions that control what users can do with digital media, creating a product that is defective by design. DRM requires the use of proprietary software, and is a major threat to computer user freedom. It often spies on users as well. The campaign, based at https://defectivebydesign.org, organizes anti-DRM activists for in-person and online actions, and challenges powerful media and technology interests promoting DRM. Supporters can donate to the campaign at https://crm.fsf.org/civicrm/contribute/transact?reset=1&id=40.

About the Free Software Foundation

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 https://donate.fsf.org. Its headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA.

Media Contact

Greg Farough
Campaigns Manager
Free Software Foundation
(617) 542-5942
campaigns@fsf.org

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