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Decision by Tim Berners-Lee might have stopped DRM from creeping into web standards

Tim Berners-Lee is widely credited as the "inventor of the world wide web" and is currently the director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). In the last week, Berners-Lee decided against extending the development timeline for the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) Web technology standard. EME is designed to make it cheaper and more efficient for corporations and others to impose Digital Rights Management (DRM) on users consuming content online. Some proponents of EME include Netflix and Google.

According to the Free Software Foundation, representatives of proponents of EME were unable to finish EME within the time allotted by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Consequently, they asked Berners-Lee for an extension through next year. Rather than agree to extend the timeframe, he has delegated the decision to the W3C’s Advisory Committee which is tasked with making decisions.

The Advisory Committee is divided over whether EME should be made part of Web standards and a very possible outcome could involve their rejection of the extension and subsequently killing off EME development. The Free Software Foundation has the following to say about EME:

“EME is a proposed technological standard for Web-based DRM, digital handcuffs that video-streaming services use to micromanage users’ access to legitimately obtained media...DRM is coercive, disempowering and insulting to users. It also causes broad collateral damage to the health of our digital society. DRM’s dark history – from the Sony rootkit malware to draconian anti-circumvention laws – demonstrates that integrating it into Web standards would be nothing but bad for Web users. EME is predicted to stymie security research, curtail privacy, freedom, and accessibility, and set back the interoperability that is necessary for innovation on the Web.”

Tim Berners-Lee has given the team working on EME an extension previously and gave them his stamp of approval every time the W3C process required it. Proponents of EME argue that it is a better alternative rather than relying on third-party technologies such as Adobe Flash or Microsoft Silverlight to provide DRM.

Source: Defective by Design (Free Software Foundation)

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