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Tim Berners-Lee Approves EME Specification

July 10, 2017

Tim Berners-Lee, the chief arbiter of Web standards, approved the controversial proposed Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) standard for the Web, Encrypted Media Extensions (EME).

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) and its campaign Defective by Design have opposed EME since its inception because it infringes on Web users' control of their own computers, and weakens their security and privacy. A UN official, a group of human rights defenders, and a litany of noted security researchers and Internet scholars, have also objected to EME's approval without additional protections for vulnerable activities and groups. EME is supported by Netflix, Google, Microsoft, and Apple, as well as the Motion Picture Association of America, all of whom made financial contributions to the W3C. 1

Opponents' last opportunity to stop EME is an appeal by the Advisory Committee of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the body which Tim Berners-Lee heads. Requiring 5% of the Committee's 475 members (corporate, nonprofit, and educational institutions) to sign on within a two-week period, the appeal would then trigger a vote from the whole Committee to make a final decision to ratify or reject EME.

"W3C member organizations must take responsibility for the digital rights of Web users and appeal Tim Berners-Lee's disastrous decision," said FSF campaigns manager Zak Rogoff. "Standards-setters' top priorities should be user freedom, privacy, security, interoperability and accessibility, not helping Hollywood and streaming companies make their anti-user DRM more efficient. If you have any personal connection to a W3C member organization, we encourage you to contact them immediately about appealing."

If EME is ratified by the W3C, the FSF expects it to cause a long-term increase in the amount of DRM on the Web, by simplifying the DRM implementation process for streaming services. That would invite more abuses of users like the Digital Editions DRM, which was found to be exposing user information to snoopers, and more digital handcuffs preventing legal uses of media, like accessibility modifications, translation, commentary, and archiving.

"We're mourning the Web today, as the W3C sells everyone out. This is still not the end; it can be appealed. Don't let giant corporate publishers control the Web." said John Sullivan, executive director of the Free Software Foundation.

W3C member organizations wishing to join the campaign against EME are invited to contact Defective by Design at info@defectivebydesign.org. Concerned individuals can take action on defectivebydesign.org.

1: Specific amounts are not available, but the listed organizations are W3C members paying significant dues.

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