Open letter to from EFF to members of the W3C Advisory Committee

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has made a sea-change: now, in addition to making open web standards that anyone can implement, they're creating a video DRM standard designed to prevent people from implementing it unless they have permission from the big movie and TV companies, by invoking the notorious Digital Millennium Copyright Act and its international equivalents.

The committee that's designing this standard is called the Media Extensions Working Group, and its charter from the W3C runs out in September. When that happens, all W3C members will have a say in whether to renew that charter, and so I'm writing to those organizations and companies on behalf of the Electronic Frontier Foundation to get them to pledge to block the charter, unless the W3C takes steps to safeguard web users, security researchers and browser implementers from the DMCA.

If your employer is a W3C member, please share this with your colleagues. Together we can save the web from this disastrous project at the W3C.

We've proposed a simple solution, patterned after the existing W3C patent policy. The patent policy doesn't take a position on whether patents are good or bad, but it does hold that standards are more open if you don't have to license a patent to implement them, so W3C members are required to promise not to sue others for practicing their patents when implementing W3C recommendations.

Our proposal does the same thing, except for anti-circumvention rights (rather than patents). Members who participate in the Media Extensions Working Group will have to make a legally binding promise not to use anti-circumvention laws to aggress against security researchers or implementers.

All other rights and causes of action — trade secrecy, copyright, tortious interference, breach of contract — are intact. We did a survey of US case-law on anti-circumvention and all the cases in our survey could have proceeded even if the private plaintiff was a party to our covenant — so we're not proposing to take away any of the legal rights businesses are depending on for legitimate business, only for threats and chilling effects.

An Open Letter to Members of the W3C Advisory Committee