May 20, 2022

Standards: W3C Gives Go Ahead to DRM for the Web

UPDATE July 17, 2017…International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) Posts Comment About Recent W3C DRM Decision…

In Copyright, Everyone’s Rights Must be Protected: IFLA Calls for Reconsideration of W3C Decision on Extended Media Extensions

1. Direct to Full Text of Position From W3C

2. From EFF: Amid Unprecedented Controversy, W3C Greenlights DRM for the Web

Early today, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards body publicly announced its intention to publish Encrypted Media Extensions (EME)—a DRM standard for web video—with no safeguards whatsoever for accessibility, security research or competition, despite an unprecedented internal controversy among its staff and members over this issue.

EME is a standardized way for web video platforms to control users’ browsers, so that we can only watch the videos under rules they set. This kind of technology, commonly called Digital Rights Management (DRM), is backed up by laws like the United States DMCA Section 1201 (most other countries also have laws like this).


EFF objects to DRM: it’s a bad idea to make technology that treats the owner of a computer as an adversary to be controlled, and DRM wrecks the fairness of the copyright bargain by preventing you from exercising the rights the law gives you when you lawfully acquire a copyrighted work (like the rights to make fair uses like remix or repair, or to resell or lend your copy).

But EFF understood that the W3C had members who wanted to make DRM, so we suggested a compromise: a covenant, modeled on the existing W3C member-agreement, that would require members to make a binding promise only to use the law to attack people who infringed copyright, and to leave people alone if they bypassed DRM for legal reasons, like making W3C-standardized video more accessible for people with disabilities.

Direct to Complete EFF Statement

UPDATE: A DRM Standard Has Been Approved for the Web, and Security Researchers are Worried (via The Verge)

t’s also not entirely clear how much of a change we’re in for now that EME is approved. Even though it’s only been finalized as a standard this week, major browsers have supported a working version of EME for years now — by the end of 2015, it was in Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, and Edge. And websites like Netflix have been using it to securely deliver HTML5 video.


About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.