Save Netflix!

Not this Netflix, but the next one, the one that'll make Netflix look like Blockbuster -- because if the World Wide Web Consortium goes along with its plan to make it illegal to innovate in ways that the movie studios and record labels disapprove of, there will be no more companies like Netflix.

The World Wide Web Consortium built its reputation by making open Web standards that benefited all Web users, not just special corporate interests. The organization listens seriously to Internet users and your sharing this post could help shift the debate there.

Imagine you wanted to start a business where you bought copies of movies, fair and square, and then sold the right to people to watch them from their homes, painlessly sending them right to their doors. Every copy you bought might be viewed by hundreds of people and you could charge each one of them for the right to look at the movies you transmitted to their homes, and you wouldn't have to give anything back—after all, you bought the movie, you own it, and you can do what you want with it.

Sounds crazy? Illegal?

It's Netflix, from its founding in 1997, the company mailed DVDs around America and then the world, right up to 2007, when it switched to streaming. Right from the start, major movie studios hated Netflix (and its competitors, like Redbox). They even tried to get their retailers to refuse to sell discs to Netflix (though indies and documentary makers loved having a powerhouse who'd put their wares on equal footing with products from the big five studios). Netflix plowed on, and on the way, became the studios' best friend, and now it's a studio in its own right, making some of the most innovative programming on any of our screens.

It's a path no company will be able to take again, unless something changes.

That's because the World Wide Web Consortium—the organization that's made the Web's most important, open standards—is working on a standard for digital locks that new businesses can't legally remove, even to do something legal. The next Netflix-like business will run right up against those W3C-defined locks, and be stymied.

Save Netflix!