Raspberries to @timbl

Boston, Massachusetts, USA——Yesterday (Thursday, April 13th, 2017) Defective by Design granted Tim Berners-Lee the first ever Obedience Award, recognizing his work to help wealthy corporations add DRM (Digital Restrictions Management) to official Web standards. Inspired by the MIT Media Lab Disobedience Award, the Obedience Award highlights activity upholding the status quo despite an overwhelming ethical case against it. Today is the first opportunity for the addition of DRM to become final as per the formal process for setting Web standards.

As the director of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) Berners-Lee previously fought to advance Web users’ rights, supporting net neutrality, privacy and universal access. Born in the UK, he was knighted by H.M. Queen Elizabeth in 2004 and awarded the Order of Merit in 2007. Most recently, he received the Association for Computing Machinery’s A.M. Turing Prize.

Though he was previously critical of DRM, Berners-Lee decided not to take a stand against Netflix, Microsoft, Google, and Apple when they began developing a Web standard for streaming video DRM, instead encouraging them to do so within the W3C. These wealthy companies supply copious membership dues to the W3C.

Their proposed standard, EME (Encrypted Media Extensions), will be the first W3C specification designed specifically to control and restrict users. As of today, EME has progressed through the entire W3C development process, and awaits Berners-Lee’s final decision to approve or veto it as an official part of the Web.

Defective by Design and a coalition of organizations have warned that standardizing Web DRM would lead to an increase in the amount of restrictions encountered by users, as creating them becomes cheaper and easier. They argue that EME will invite more abuses of users like the Digital Editions DRM, which was found to be exposing user information to snoopers, and more digital restraints preventing important, legal things that people do with media, such as accessibility modifications, translation, commentary, and archiving. Many are concerned that, should Berners-Lee allow the W3C to add DRM to video standards through EME, existing efforts to DRM-encumber text and image standards would be accelerated.

Since the beginning of EME’s development, the proposal has faced dissent from within and outside the W3C. In the last month, hundreds of concerned Web users have telephoned Berners-Lee to demand he reject EME, while a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) official, two members of the European Parliament, and a coalition of human rights groups published statements urging him to reconsider. In 2016, demonstrators protested against EME at the W3C’s meetings in March and September, as the Open Source Initiative and a group of high-profile security researchers urged Berners-Lee not to ratify EME without additional protections for those harmed by DRM. In 2013, a coalition of organizations led by Defective by Design wrote a letter opposing EME and more than 34,000 people signed an anti-EME petition.

Presenting the Obedience Award, the Defective by Design team issued this statement:

“Overcoming his lifetime history of visionary work and his initial ethical concerns with DRM in Web standards, Berners-Lee turned a blind eye to the diverse groups opposing Encrypted Media Extensions. This man persevered to champion the interests of wealthy media and technology corporations. For his commitment to obedience, we recognize him today.”

Defective by Design requests that readers who are impressed with Berners-Lee’s tenacity take five minutes to call him about EME, giving him a chance to further prove his commitment to obedience.

The Obedience award echoes a 2013 “Oscar for Best Supporting Role in The Hollyweb” granted to the W3C as a whole for beginning work on EME.

Learn more about Encrypted Media Extensions and the campaign to stop it.

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 good 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 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://www.defectivebydesign.org/donate.

Defective By Design: Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0 License (CC By-SA)

I really don’t understand why anyone would cross over to the dark side and do this to his reputation ~ LLR  


Keep DRM out of Web standards — Reject the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) proposal

Connectivity (cc by laurelrusswurm)

My Letter

Mr. Clifford’s response,an argument in praise of DRM

My rebuttal:

Dear Mr. Clifford:

Just so you know, a devil’s advocate is one who argues against their own belief in an argument, clearly *not* what you are doing here.

1) If DRM is not in the specification, why is backwards compatibility required?

2) As you point out, since DRM is only effective when supported by law, it begs the question: why is DRM necessary?

It is the law, not DRM, which does the work of fighting bootlegging. DRM serves only to thwart ordinary people engaging in their own personal uses.

It has been demonstrated over and over again that the bootleggers that DRM is supposed to stop always find ways to circumvent DRM. DRM is really only most effective against those who can not circumvent it, whether they are blind people prevented from running an ebook though software that will make it accessible, or the student wanting to watch a public domain film, or the senior who wants to copy a grandchild’s home video.

3) I certainly never said “I create therefore its yours is a de facto truth.”

Like every creator since the beginning of time, you most certainly do have absolute control over your own creations, so long as you keep them safely locked up in your own private domain (i.e. unpublished). Once anyone publishes their work into the public domain, the work is no longer private, and the reality has always been that the creator loses absolute control over their work at this point.

When your work is performed in front of my eyes, or played into my ears, it stops being solely your work, because it is now part of my sensibility. When many people see/hear/touch a work it becomes part of our shared culture. We share and talk about our culture with our friends. A thriving culture, like a thriving Internet, requires interoperability because it is a shared thing.

Unless you have been raised by wolves in a cave, like all of us, the reality is that you have been influenced by all of the culture that you have been exposed to. Any creative work that arises out of your own sensibilities has been influenced by the work of the other creators you have been exposed to over the course of your life, whether you are consciously aware of it or not. There is no doubt in my mind that George Harrison believed “My Sweet Lord” was a totally original composition when he wrote it.

The imposition of copyright monopolies over the past few hundred years has attempted to alter that reality with the legal imposition of cultural restraint. When creators (or more often corporate rightsholders) impose state granted monopoly rights onto the culture, it violates the sovereignty of human beings to be influenced by the work of others and remix it into their own creations.

Copyright never did guarantee any creator a right to make a living. All it does is turn our former free culture into permission culture. The resultant copyright chill impedes the free creation of new work. Artists don’t dare expand on a theme, and writers can’t safely quote a few lines of prose without first consulting lawyers.

In fact, creators made a living long before there was copyright. Human beings have been creating art probably even before we painted pictures on cave walls.

Yet even with our current permission culture in place, Josh Woodward is one of the most successful independent musicians I know, and he licences all his readily available creative work with a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States (CC BY 3.0 US) License.

It isn’t the W3C’s place to decide on the validity of the various copyright monopolies, however, but rather to establish Web Standards that support an interoperable open web. This is another compelling reason why copyright issues, up to and including DRM, should not appear in W3C specifications.

4) I agree there are legitimate arguments against encrypted media content. And as a creator from a creative family, I well understand the arguments in favour of copyright, and by extension, DRM.

As most of the world has seen over this past week with all the PRISM revelations, there are certainly good arguments for encryption. Banks employ good encryption now. Very often (as with PRISM) it is human action that endangers our private data. Encrypted email is certainly a good thing. When sharing digital photographs of private individuals, or sending out unpublished work, even I have plastered passwords over web content. This has always been possible without requiring the inclusion of DRM in the W3C web specification. It is a red herring to suggest that universal DRM is necessary to facilitate security.

As I said before, I have been certain that free culture will win out eventually. But that confidence presupposes a free market. If DRM can be used to shoehorn copyright maximalism into the very structure of the Internet, if DRM becomes both the default and the norm, independent creators will be shut out and the Internet will stop being open and interactive and become the modern incarnation of television.

5) This *is* advocacy.

Even if I wanted to coerce anyone, which I don’t, in order to dictate, I would require the power of coercion, which I simply don’t have. Unlike Copyright Law, which is itself an example of state backed coercion.

The funny thing is, even though all the influence, power and money resides in the hands of copyright maximalists, I don’t think coercion is necessary. Though the apparent advantage is theirs, culture and artistic creation are human essentials. We are driven to create and share. As creators come to realize that we can create as well or better without the state imposed coercion of monopolies, we will win out eventually. I think the special interests know, this, which is why so much effort has gone into changing the rules.

I don’t want to force you to share your work any way you are not comfortable with, Mr. Clifford. Lock it up with all the DRM you like. All I want is to reserve the right to avoid such content. My concern is that the inclusion of DRM in the web specification will lead to the imposition of DRM across the Internet. That would strip creators and users of our ability to make our own choices.

6) Attribution existed long before copyright law. Neither copyright law or DRM are needed to ensure attribution. If anything, the prevailing copyright maximalism is encouraging many people to not attribute the works they share for fear of reprisal. Best practice is to always attribute any cultural work.

Plagiarism is not covered by Copyright Law either, nor is it remedied by DRM.

Seriously, Mr. Clifford, if it were not for corporate incursions into the personal sphere, I would not be here arguing about the merits of copyright or DRM. Like most everyone else, I used to accept the legitimacy of copyright law. Copyright used only to be the concern of creators, publishers, lawyers and bootleggers.

In the zeal to impose control over the new digital mediums, Corporate Special Interests have been successfully lobbying governments to erode the rights of people, audiences, users, and creators.

Over the course of my life, the reach of copyright has spread from the commercial realm into the personal, making it possible for activities that used to be perfectly acceptable to result in criminalization. Today’s children need to understand copyright law before creating, copying or sharing anything for their own self protection. It is incomprehensible to me that anyone could be bankrupted or jailed for non-commercial copyright infringement.

Web Standards are intended to secure the free exchange of digital ideas and content, DRM exists to limit the free exchange of digital ideas and content. Were it not for the unrelenting efforts of dedicated corporate lobbyists, no one would even be considering incorporating DRM into the HTML5 specification.

Laurel L. Russwurm
This letter is now posted on the W3C Discussion List

See the whole list: W3C – DRM – HTML5.

The Process

Knocking (cc by laurelrusswurm)After last week’s article, “Tell the W3C “No DRM” I signed up for an account at W3C and submitted the letter I republished moments ago.

I kept checking back, but it wasn’t posted to the list. I assume that my letter had to be vetted by a moderator before even being considered. Then there was a further delay because I next received an email where I was asked to agree to allow my letter(s) to be posted publicly and archived online forever. Finally, my letter was posted online.

Today I received this reply in praise of DRM on the mailing list that required substantial rebuttal. I’ll publish my reply here next.

My Open Letter to Sir Tim Berners-Lee and the World Wide Web Consortium

[Suggested by “Tell the W3C “No DRM” this letter was first published on techDITZ then mirrorred on visual laurel. Future articles relating to the topic will be posted here.]
connectivity (cc by laurelruswurm)

Dear Sir Tim Berners-Lee and the World Wide Web Consortium:

Re: Keep DRM out of Web standards — Reject the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) proposal

As a middle aged mother, I’ve been learning (and sharing what I’ve learned) about net neutrality, the importance of free software, free culture, nd an open Internet, ever since I began hand coding my own HTML web pages and participating on the Internet in 2009. As a creator from a creative family, as well as publishing my own content online, I run a blog for my eighty three year old father. I have come to consider myself a netizen.

One reason DRM is dangerous is that it can hide all manner of spyware and malware from users. Another is that most people don’t even know what it is, or if they do, how to recognize it. While governments have allowed large corporations and media conglomerates to cripple digital products with DRM, there is no requirement anywhere in the world to to inform customers or computer users of such application.

I have avoided DRM wherever possible, but even with the absurd extension of copyright laws, I have been certain that free culture will win out eventually. But that confidence presupposes a free market.

In Canada where I live, our new Copyright Act makes it illegal to circumvent DRM for any reason at all, even if the the circumvention is allowed under our “fair dealing” exemptions, or if the DRM is applied inappropriately. I consider the application of DRM to freely licensed or public domain creative works to be inappropriate.

This is a huge concern for me, both as a cultural consumer and as a self publishing author. Existing copyright law has prevented me from even seeing the finished production of one of my own works.

Independent creators and Internet users are already at a huge disadvantage, because the large media special interests have the wherewithal to successfully lobby governments around the world into maximizing copyright laws and the attendant copyright monopoly to their own great benefit, at our expense.

These large and powerful special interest groups have long had a seat at the W3C table. But where is there representation for Internet users?

Most of the public does not even know W3C exists, let alone how to comment on an issue such as this. Although I am passionately interested in the subject, until I read Harry Halpin’s Guardian article last week, I had no idea there was any way for Internet users or creators to express our dismay beyond signing the Defective By Design’s “Keep DRM out of Web standards — Reject the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) proposal” Petition. But Mr. Halpin pretty much implies that petition wasn’t enough.

Although Canada has been a world leader in Internet adoption, most Canadians are still not online. For most of those who are, participation on Facebook signifies the height of technical prowess. Certainly most Canadians haven’t even heard of the Guardian, and so will not have even read the article.

Mr. Halpin essentially gave me the weekend to get the word out. This weekend Identi.ca, the social network of choice for a great many people who are aware of these issues, is undergoing a massive migration from a backend of StatusNet to pump.io software. Many users like myself have been consumed in setting up our own federated status net instances. As well, those of us with privacy concerns have been caught up in the NSA Prism news story. For myself, I’ve had two major family happenings this weekend in addition to those online issues.

Maybe a few people who understand the issue will have read the blog post I wrote, but a weekend is not much time. Especially considering that the special interests that want DRM written into the Web Standard have been at the table for so very much longer.

Until the W3C holds a widely publicized meaningful consultation process, that Free Software Petition must be given at least as much weight as the opinions of any other group of stakeholders. Perhaps more, since the inclusion of DRM in the standard panders to the direct benefit of a specific special interest lobby group. Internet Users are easily the largest group of stakeholders, and our exclusion from the process means that the W3C must look out for the public good.

Keeping even a whiff of DRM out of the Web Standard will not harm the corporate special interests who lobby so effectively for it. They can just continue on as they have been, locking their own content behind DRM. Allowing the DRM toehold EME provides will lead to DRM becoming the default.

DRM exists to break interoperability. If DRM is allowed into the W3C Standard, it will become the W3C Standard. If W3C supports this, it will sacrifice the free and open Internet, not just for us, but for generations to come.

Please don’t do this.

Laurel L. Russwurm

Tell the W3C “No DRM”

beta video cassette

I remember the days when everything did *not* work together… when a script written on an Apple computer could not be read on an IBM computer.

That was a problem due to technical limitations, similar to the way a video tape recorded in Canada couldn’t play on UK machines. The video tape problem was because television networks in different geographic regions used different versions of the broadcast technology. PAL video was the format needed for British televisions, which had more scan lines than North American television sets (NTSC format). Switching from analog to digital video resolved the video issue with technological progress. With digital video it doesn’t matter whether it was made in Canada or the UK… a digital recording can be read by any DVD player anywhere in the world.

Or at least it could be, but for DRM.

The big media companies agreed to digitally restrict the technology in an attempt to maximize profit.  They divided the world up into regions, and added digital restrictions that deliberately impair DVD players, preventing people from watching DVDs manufactured for other regions. The public accepted this because we didn’t realize our devices have been deliberately sabotaged by manufacturer collusion.  If we thought about it at all, we accepted region encoding as a natural restriction like the NTSC/PAL video tape incompatability.  This is just one example of DRM.


DRM is increasingly present in digital devices and media, yet for the most part, people don’t even know about it. Manufacturers don’t tell us they’ve degraded the technology they sell us. There are no warning labels. Governments fail to protect us from this.  The newsmedia doesn’t even tell us about it (no doubt because the news media is owned by the same giant congomerates that are responsible for DRM).

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international community where Member organizations, a full-time staff, and the public work together to develop Web standards. Led by Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and CEO Jeffrey Jaffe, W3C’s mission is to lead the Web to its full potential.”

About W3C

The reason for defining a web standard is to ensure interoperability: to make sure that everything works together.

The reason for DRM is to prevent media and devices from working properly.

Right now, the W3C is considering including Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) ~ the road to DRM ~ into the Web Standard.  This is an incredibly bad idea.

The Free Software Foundation warns that a DRMed Internet 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.”   It could also be used to lock down public domain works, and exclude independent creators from distributing their work online.

More than 27,000 people signed the Defective By Design digital petition to opposing DRM in the new HTML5 standard.  Although I care very much about maintaing a free and open web, I had no idea that ordinary people could have a direct say in this until yesterday, when I read Dr Harry Halpin’s Guardian article DRM and HTML5: it’s now or never for the Open Web.

It is great to know that Intert users can speak directly to the W3C.  Still, Dr. Halpin’s suggestion users should make our wishes known at the 11th hour is hardly equivalent to the say accorded the large corporate entities that have been lobbying hard for DRM inclusion in the W3C standard. These powerful corporate stakeholders want W3C to include DRM, not because it will facilitate a free and open Internet, but for their own financial gain.  More notice would have been nice.

The reality is that Internet users have *not* been properly informed nor consulted on this very important issue. Although W3C can easily discount the 27,000 names on a petition, it is an incredible response that ought to be accorded a great deal of weight, as it comes from the public, an important stakeholder yet rarely consulted.  The only legitimate counterbalance to these 27,000 Internet users opposed to the inclusion of DRM would be a submission in support of DRM from an equivalent number of Internet users unaffiliated with corporate special interests. Absent other representation from ordinary Internet users, it is only reasonable to accept the submitted petition as speaking on behalf of all unaffiliated Internet users.

no DRM on the internetIf W3C does away with EME, and denies DRM the toehold being sought by self interested media companies, corporate special interests will not be prevented from choosing to implement DRM.

On the other hand, if W3C does allow HTML5 to start down the path into DRM, it will disadvantage Internet users. Once DRM becomes an acceptable part of the standard, Internet users will no longer have the ability to vote with our feet, because the Internet will be locked down where ever we go.

You can sign up for an account and get involved with any of the W3C groups working on the HTML5 standard.

Or you can Tell the W3C to keep DRM away from HTML5.

Really, all you need to do to contribute a comment to W3C’s public list is to send an email public-html-comments@w3.org. It doesn’t have to be an essay, just tell Sir Tim Berners-Lee and the World Wide Web Consortium to keep DRM out of the Standard.  For all our sakes.

Before Monday.

Further Reading:

DRM and HTML5: it’s now or never for the Open Web

The Internet Is Mine

Map of the Internet – photo by the Opte Project released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 1.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 1.0) License
used in the No DRM symbol incorporating the Opte Project Internet Map, are released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) License