Human rights coalition from the global south to W3C: don't put DRM in web standards!

The Just Net Coalition -- whose membership roll includes leading human rights organisations from across the global south -- have written urgently to the World Wide Web Coalition and its founder, Tim Berners-Lee, calling on him to intervene to stop the Consortium from publishing its first-ever DRM standard, a system for restricting video streams called Encrypted Media Extensions.

The Coalition calls EME a form of "digital colonialism" that will impose "US law on the entire world through the agency of an ostensibly neutral standards-making organization purporting to act in the broad global public interest."

They endorse EFF's proposal to permit DRM without compromising fundamental rights, including free speech rights (a concern raised by UNESCO), security research, adaptation for disabled people, and innovation.

Members are currently voting on whether to publish EME as a W3C standard. The vote closes tomorrow.

The Just Net Coalition has long supported your positions on the Open Web, as well as the W3C and Web Foundation's efforts to keep the Web open and accessible for all. Due to financial constraints, most people in the Just Net Coalition and in the larger civil society cannot afford to attend standards meetings or pay W3C’s fees to allow us to participate in the W3C gatherings. We have no choice but to ask you Sir Tim, (and the W3C) directly and personally, to listen to this input from civil society and to reject the transition of EME to a W3C Recommendation. Given that, as Director of the W3C it is within your power to veto further work or standardization on EME and so halt the spread of DRM, it is, in our view, your moral responsibility to reject EME. You must take action on DRM, or significant damage will be done to your legacy of defending an Open Web. At a minimum, you should demand that the W3C recommend that browsers provide adequate “opt-in” user control and work to establish the protection for users given by the EFF covenant.

The Internet pioneer Louis Pouzin put it very aptly, “Institutional standards should not contain elements pushed in by lobbies, since they are detrimental to public interests. Of course lobbies have financial and political means to ignore or distort standards in their products, but they want more. They need the guarantee of a reputable standard institution or outstanding individuals to boost the legalization of their marketing strategy. Resisting lobbies pressure is the name of the game for keeping a respected reputation.”

The web stands at a crossroad. We sincerely hope that you are willing and able to exercise your global leadership role and responsibility on the topic of DRM. Please note that the Just Net Coalition and associated sympathetic groups around the world will help you in any way possible in this effort if you take a stand by vetoing EME's progress at the W3C.

Open letter from Just Net Coalition to Sir Tim Berners-Lee seeking his urgent intervention to stop acceptance of Encrypted Media Extensions as a W3C standard [Just Net Coalition]