The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is considering to standardize a highly controversial proposal on Encrypted Media Extensions for the use of DRM technology (copyright restrictions) in modern web browsers.

Together with my colleague Lucy Anderson, I wrote the following letter to Vice-President Andrus Ansip and Commissioners Elżbieta Bieńkowska and Margrethe Vestager with a set of questions concerning the European Commission’s position and involvement into this work:

Dear Vice-President Ansip,
Dear Commissioner Bienkowska,
Dear Commissioner Vestager,from its inception at the CERN laboratories over 25 years ago, the effect of the World Wide Web has been nothing short of a revolution for society as well as all branches of business. Design principles and decisions made by the various governance institutions of the World Wide Web and the underlying technologies and standards can have a tremendous effect on the ability of citizens to participate and businesses to thrive.

We are concerned about the ongoing effort to promote the usage of DRM technologies by means of standardization, without a thorough assessment on all of its implications and we believe that this concern matches your interests with regards to the European digital agenda and the Commission’s efforts in the field of achieving a Digital Single market.

As of today, the W3C is working on a standardization process for Encrypted Media Extensions which enables web browser manufacturers to deploy and use DRM systems for displaying content. A number of objections have been raised both as part of the standardization process as well as in the public debate on EME. We consider these objections to be significant and share the assessment that the introduction of DRM technology into the set of WWW standards would pose a number of challenges. These range from the users’ ability to utilize exceptions in EU copyright law and in particular to the ability of users with visual disabilities to access the content altogether. We are equally concerned about the security risks associated with the deployment of software that is harder to audit.

In light of this development, we would ask you:

  1.  What is the Commission’s assessment of the effects of the EME standardization is to the rights of users under the existing copyright rules in the EU and how does the Commission intend to secure these rights?
  2. Does the Commission currently conduct any investigation or monitoring of this standardization effort with respect to existing EU antitrust legislation? Does the Commission have an assessment yet whether these efforts will pose a barrier for market entry for European companies now or in the future?
  3. How does the Commission assess the security risks of the EME approach with respect to the overall threat analysis, both for EU institutions as well as for citizens and businesses in the EU?
  4. In what way is the Commission currently engaging in the standardization effort in order to secure the interests of EU citizens and business and what does the Commission intend to do?

We appreciate your response.

Julia Reda
Lucy Anderson
Members of the European Parliament

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