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[liberationtech] WC3 and DRM

Jonathan Wilkes jancsika at yahoo.com
Sat Jul 13 20:13:15 PDT 2013


Hi List,
      Looking at the enormous list of members in the WC3 along with the 
fact that application membership is subject to final arbitrary approval 
by the current WC3, I'm concerned about the lack of democratic checks on 
their decision making.

Example with Encrypted Media Extensions draft:

Here's a Free Software Foundation page briefly describing the problem 
and stating that 28,000 people signed on that they want to reject 
Encrypted Media Extensions as a web standard:
http://www.defectivebydesign.org/no-drm-in-html5

Here's the Electronic Frontier Foundation's formal objection to the HTML 
Working Group Charter that explains the problem in detail:
https://www.eff.org/pages/drm/w3c-formal-objection-html-wg

And, perhaps most revealingly, here's a blog entry about "perspectives" 
on the issue from Jeffrey Jaffe, former CTO of Novell and current CEO of 
the WC3:
http://www.w3.org/QA/2013/05/perspectives_on_encrypted_medi.html

The comments to that blog are instructive, not just because they 
overwhelmingly make articulate arguments against the inclusion of EME 
into WC3 standards, but because every single reply by Jaffe is 
predicated upon the premise that the Working Group Charter refered to by 
the EFF has already been decided and is clearly not part of the debate.  
(Notice for example how many of his responses simply turn the question 
back to the commenter asking them what their proposal is to support 
playback of "protected content" over the web.)

Whether you agree with me (and 28,000 who signed the FSF's petition) or 
not, there is clearly a problem of public accountability with a public 
standards body here.  Unlike the anti-SOPA/PIPA campaign, there are no 
politicians worried about reelection who can be called and emailed.  
It's a small staff supported by member companies who obviously want to 
see DRM standardized into the browser-- otherwise that wording wouldn't 
have found its way into the charter.

Are there actions planned further than what the EFF and FSF have already 
taken?  I know this is a "tech" list, but the problem of how standards 
get formed isn't going to go away any time soon, and there should be a 
sustainable way to ensure that the WC3 is responsive to the users and 
not just its funders.

-Jonathan



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