W3C and DRM

Yes, DRM technologies are defective by design. They make problems to legal customers, preventing them to use the content they paid for in normal ways like viewing or playing it on any device they own or using their favorite and trusted software. They are also exposed to privacy issues. On the other hand those who use illegal copies probably don’t care much about DRM, they can find ways how to break it or how to get a DRM-free copy and using it in any way they like. That encourages usage of illegal copies.

The only way I could use DRM content on my devices, if it is possible at all, is to install and run untrusted proprietary code on the devices. I usually refuse to do such things so I don’t buy anything with DRM. Still, there is sometimes DRM content I’d like to buy and use if I could.

So the purpose of DRM is questionable and DRM makes problems to fair users (unlike unfair users). Still some circles insist on using it and other ones profit from it by delivering DRM technologies. There is an argument that those circles need to handle DRM content on the Web anyway and thus it is better to do it in a standardized way. W3C encourages such a standardization by working on the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) proposal.

The problem is that by mandating a defective and harmful technology as a Web standard the technology gets officially promoted and encouraged. That shouldn’t happen. If someone wants to push a defective technology which can’t be run universally on Web enabled devices, let he promotes it on his own, without an official mandate from W3C. W3C should propose universal standards accessible to all Web users instead of inviting the use of defective and harmful technologies.

Things seem becoming worse now. Despite the opposition to the EME proposal, its first public draft has been published recently and the work on it continues. Technical work on the standard and discussions about its sanity are kept separate which makes some sense but on the other hand I suspect the DRM proponents are simply not going to get disturbed by the opposition. They could maintain their pace and make the proposal ready for approval.

If you haven’t already done so, please consider taking some action about the issue. The FSF‘s campaign Defective by Design may be a good starting point, including signing the petition. You can also look at W3C EME specification and restricted media mailing lists. By ignoring the problem we will continue to face all the problems with viewing and playing crippled content on the Web, but this time mandated by an official policy.

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