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19th September 2017 — Adrian Cochrane

EME now a W3C Recommendation

The W3C has just announced that the appeals process has failed and EME is now a W3C recommendation without any covenant against anti-circumvention laws. Needless to say I am deeply dissapointed by this.

In short what happened (as I understand it from afar) is that politics came to an organization which didn’t want politics. I and many others wanted Tim Berners-Lee to use his powers to veto the EME “standard”. I by no means represent everyone who were asking this, but I reckon most of us understood that this would have no real effect and DRM would be implemented in browsers anyways. It already has. However it would have help progressed our cause if someone highly influential like Tim BL took a stand like this. It could have made an even bigger impact if he could have insisted on a broad covenant during the appeal, which would have made me happy to accept the cost of EME.

The veto would have been symbolic, but as V knows1 political movements are built on symbolic actions. These actions don’t change the laws themselves, but they help to:

  1. Get our message out and grow our movement.
  2. If we stick to it long enough, they eventually bring about the opportunity to change the laws.

So the real debate at the W3C (from what I read online) was not between people who liked DRM and those who disliked it2, but between those who valued symbolic political actions from the W3C and those who didn’t. Heck much of the outrage at the W3C was probably symbolic rather than, as has been suggested, naivity.

And if you need any evidence of the power of symbols you need to look no further than where the value of EME lays. By taking the symbolic action of attempting to create impossible security (and interfacing that through the EME APIs) a company can obtain unjust freedom-of-speech restricting powers, effectively pretending they succeeded in implementing said security3. Ofcourse you can also look at Ghandi or Martin Luther King.

As for what to do now, we should view this as a success at the W3C. Even if we’re viewed as naive about how the W3C works, we have managed to communicate how contraversial DRM is. At the same time it we should probably pressure Mozilla to make their EME implementation look scary and difficult to setup4. Then we can wait for the next opportunity to express our displeasure at DRM.

P.S. Will you EME promoters please stop suggesting in the language you use that DRM is necessary for viewing quality entertainment. Are Louis CK and Jim Gaffigan not excellent comedians? Have you seen any of Blender’s animations? Aren’t Kirby Ferguson and Cullen Hoback not the best documentarians on the planet? These top quality artists offer DRM-free downloads of all their work, whether for purchase or gratis.

It’s only necessary to run DRM to access the best advertised media, and that’s because of the money, fame, and political power Hollywood has accumulated over the years.

  1. V, like the Founding Fathers of the US, however didn’t seem to know that violent actions are more harmful than helpful for a movement.
  2. Though there’s certainly some of that with the RIAA/MPAA being W3C members
  3. This brings us back to the start, EME/DRM is politics rather than a technology.
  4. But then the fact they initially pretend not to support it may be enough

@ 2017-09-20 09:08:18 +1200

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