Image for Big Media trying to Program Copyright into the Web

Big Media trying to Program Copyright into the Web

Big Media groups are trying to for push digital restrictions to be built into the new version of HTML, limiting our ability to innovate.

Over the last few months, the tech industry has been abuzz with debates over whether a set of copyright-related rules called ‘digital rights management’ (DRM) should be forced into the latest version of the code language that’s used to make web function HTML5. DRM is a type of digital lock that limits what you can do with your device or content after you buy it, while HTML is the language used to make web pages.
Tim Berners-Lee designed the World Wide Web in a way that’s open and accessible to everyone. It’s because of this open architecture that the web has been able to grow and evolve into the amazing creative communications platform that it is today. But these digital restrictions would put an end to that.
The pro-Internet community has been arguing that these digital restrictions will only serve to lock down the creative potential of the Internet at the demand of Big Media companies. Things heated up recently as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) actually filed a formal objection with the World Wide Web consortium (W3C), the standards-setting body for HTML5.
What’s the W3C?
The W3C, founded by Tim Berners-Lee, was designed to establish standards for HTML to ensure consistency and compatibility in the way webpages are displayed on different devices and platforms. As Techdirt points out, this means that the W3C “has an enormous role in keeping the web free and open – and imposing DRM is abusing the trust it has built up”.
The W3C has been a leader in insisting that its standards are not restricted by patents, but as digital rights activist Cory Doctorow has pointed out, “DRM requires patents or other licensable elements, for the sole purpose of adding burdensome conditions to browsers.” These conditions effectively ban open source software, and restrict the creative potential of the Internet.
HTML5 and Big Media
It has been suggested that without building DRM restrictions into HTML, Big Media will be unwilling to put its content on the web. But as Doctorow points out, we’ve heard this argument before: “the big studios promised to boycott US digital TV unless it got mandatory DRM. The US courts denied them this boon, and yet, digital TV continues”.
In addition, Doctorow argues, DRM isn’t even particularly effective at enforcing copyright by limiting the ability to copy content, but it is very effective at preventing innovation.
Innovation and Openness
Big Media has been trying to turn the web into a closed platform more along the lines of TV for years. But that hasn’t worked because media content is only one reason people go online. Big Media providers will go where the people are, because as Doctorow argues, “the presence of open platforms where innovation requires no permission is the best way to entice the world to your door.”
As Berners-Lee explains, an open and neutral Internet was essential to his inventing the web because he didn’t have to worry about getting permission from anyone; he was free to create and innovate. With DRM, that freedom is called into question. What amazing new creations will we miss out on if this ability to innovate is restricted, limited at the level of the coding language on which the web functions?
We believe that to bring about more creativity, more innovation and more open societies, we have to keep the Internet free and open. Show your support by adding your name to the Declaration of Internet Freedom.

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