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Encrypted Media Extensions: Copyright, DRM and the end of the open Web

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The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which sets standards for the Web, has released what it calls a “disposition of comments“, designed to address objections to the controversial Encrypted Media Extensions (EME). EME is officially “a common API that may be used to discover, select and interact with content encryption systems”. In practice, for the first time it builds DRM officially into the very fabric of the Web, a move that will destroy an openness that has underpinned it since its public release in 1991.

The “disposition of comments” is the formal version of an earlier blog spost by the inventor of the Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, which he published back in February. There he explains in more detail why he wants to allow DRM to become part of HTML. It’s clear from both documents that the central argument is that the W3C is simply standardizing an existing situation where many DRM schemes are used, and that by providing a rigorous framework it is making life easier and better for the user. In fact, the W3C even went so far as to insist on Twitter that “There’s no DRM baked in the EME spec.” But as Florian Rivoal pointed out in reply, this is like claiming “Guns are not dangerous if you don’t put bullets in them. We’re just working on guns not bullets, so we’re not doing anything dangerous.”

Some people objected to the comparison, saying that DRM should not be compared to bullets, because DRM can’t kill. But it can, thanks to one of the biggest policy defeats ever suffered by civil society: the WIPO Copyright Treaty, agreed in 1996. Article 11 says:

“Contracting Parties shall provide adequate legal protection and effective legal remedies against the circumvention of effective technological measures that are used by authors in

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