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My op-ed in today’s issue of The Tech, MIT’s leading newspaper, describes how browser vendors and the W3C, a standards body that’s housed at MIT, are collaborating to make DRM part of the core standards for future browsers, and how their unwillingness to take even the most minimal steps to protect academics and innovators from the DMCA will put the MIT community in the crosshairs of corporate lawyers and government prosecutors.

If you’re a researcher or security/privacy expert and want to send a message to the W3C that it has a duty to protect the open web from DRM laws, you can sign this open letter to the organization.

The W3C’s strategy for “saving the web” from the corporate-controlled silos of apps is to replicate the systems of control that make apps off-limits to innovation and disruption. It’s a poor trade-off, one that sets a time-bomb ticking in the web’s foundations, making the lives of monopolists easier, and the lives of security researchers and entrepreneurs much, much more perilous.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a W3C member, has proposed a compromise that will protect the rights of academics, entrepreneurs, and security researchers to make new browser technologies and report the defects in the old ones: we asked the W3C to extend its patent policy to the DMCA, so that members who participated in making DRM would have to promise not to use the DMCA to attack implementers or security researchers.

But although this was supported by a diverse group of W3C members, the W3C executive did not adopt the proposal. Now, EME has gone to Candidate Recommendation stage, dangerously close to completion. The purpose of HTML5 is to provide the rich interactivity that made apps popular, and to replace apps as the nexus of control for embedded systems, including the actuating, sensing world of “internet of things” devices.

We can’t afford to have these devices controlled by a system that is a no-go zone for academic work, security research, and innovative disruption. Although some of the biggest tech corporations in the world today support EME, very few of them could have come into being if EME-style rules had been in place at their inception. A growing coalition of leading international privacy and security researchers have asked the W3C to reconsider and protect the open web from DRM, a proposal supported by many W3C staffers, including Danny Weitzner (CSAIL/W3C), who wrote the W3C’s patent policy.

Browsers’ bid for relevance is turning them into time-bombs
[Cory Doctorow/The Tech]

(Image: Wfm stata center, Raul654, CC-BY-SA)

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