The world's libraries tell the W3C that DRM is bad for the web

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions is the respected global body representing libraries all over the world; in an open letter to the World Wide Web Consortium, the organization says the recent decision to standardize DRM for the web has undermined the web's openness and the ability of libraries and other public institutions to fulfill their important social role.

IFLA identifies the laws that protect DRM (like Europe's EUCD and the US's DMCA) as barriers to these activities and notes that the W3C refused to enact a widely supported proposal to extend its existing rules that ban members from invoking the law to shut down legitimate activity, giving the web the worst of both worlds: an easier road for people to want to use DRM, and no protections for those whom DRM harms.

IFLA joins a host of other global and international bodies who think the W3C is getting this wrong: from UNESCO to the Internet Archive -- not to mention the dozens of W3C members who voted against it, including national libraries.

EFF will formally appeal the W3C's decision this week. This process has never been invoked and the CEO of the W3C and one of the DRM working-group chairs have publicly advocated for rules that make the appeal less effective, and harder to invoke successfully, overruling the veteran cyberlawyer who is their head of strategy.

In all of these cases, incorporating EME into HTML without a similar effort to protecting the rights of libraries and their users creates a risk of unbalancing the Internet. IFLA therefore calls on the World Wide Web Consortium to:

• Reaffirm support for freedom of expression, as demanded by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

• Reconsider the integration of EME into the HTML standard, delaying this until adequate protections for user rights are in place.

• Restart the earlier, productive multistakeholder talks on amending the W3C's membership agreement to require members to respect limitations and exceptions to copyright by refraining from invoking DRM laws enacted following the WIPO

• Copyright Treaty over activity that is lawful save for the circumvention of DRM. Explore means of providing such protections, both through advocating for laws that allow for straightforward circumvention10 or non-application11 of DRM when this is preventing legitimate uses, and for less invasive forms of DRM.

IFLA Statement on Technological Protection Measures, and the Proposed Integration of Encrypted Media Extensions into the HTML Standard (16 July 2017) [IFLA]