Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Traditionally the web has been open. Anyone can publish content. Anyone can use a browser to access that content and see how it works. But the W3C is planning to approve a web standard that would put technical controls on the media that we access online. The technical controls are called Digital Rights Management or DRM for short.
Email Tim Berners-Lee and the W3C to ask them to rethink plans to make DRM a web standard. They should either drop the plans or make sure people who circumvent DRM for security research or to make content accessible won't be sued.
Large media companies have lobbied hard for DRM to be made a web standard. DRM will likely help the largest companies stay large and make it more difficult for new companies to innovate. This is bad for the long-term future of the open web.
When media is without DRM, people with disabilities have options to make that media easier for them to access. Adding DRM's technical restrictions to media risks making the web less accessible for people with disabilities. DRM would restrict our ability to improve subtitles for deaf people, transform colours for color blind viewers, and easily check video for flashing imagery that can harm people with epilepsy.
The security of the web is also put at risk by making DRM a web standard. DRM hides the code that is running in the browser making it difficult for security researchers to look for flaws that could put users at risk. Finding flaws in DRM could help people bypass DRM. And because bypassing DRM is illegal in many countries, researchers risk having legal action taken against them if these plans go ahead.
EFF have proposed a compromise at the W3C where W3C members wouldn't sue people who circumvent DRM for security research or to make content accessible. This is a good way forward.