Ethereum Foundation Recommends Against EME Measures

On August 21, 2017, the Ethereum Foundation issued a statement in opposition to the publication of Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) as a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Recommendation.

The Ethereum Foundation is a member of the W3C, and according to the statement, it objects to EME and Digital Rights Management (DRM) in general, as many of its developers conduct security research and build web technology. EME is a specification which puts DRM software in charge of communication of content to a web browser. DRM is designed to restrict the use of copyrighted content, but the Ethereum Foundation believes it is a flawed concept and can impose obstacles that restrict users and slow or halt development. The Foundation further posits that EME's success to date stems from the fact that "potentially insecure DRM technology" is already installed by browser developers and the major browsers lack an option to disable DRM.

The statement further reads:

"As developers, researchers and community members, we have already been subjected to objectionable DRM implementations and we believe efforts should be made to stem further adoption. In other words, we feel the recommendation of EME as a standard is a move in the wrong direction as it inhibits the Open Web, and is inconsistent with the core values, mission and design principles of W3C. The statement published below sets out the reasons for Ethereum Foundation’s objections and why we feel the W3C should not continue with a recommendation of EME as a W3C standard."

The Ethereum Foundation also republished its original statement to the W3C, submitted on April 13, 2017, wherein it said that while it is working to build a more accessible, trustworthy internet, it cannot do so without objecting to EME. The Foundation said implementation of EME will result in reduced accessibility, less freedom, dampened security research, and erode trust among users. "If recommended, EME will also violate many important aspects of W3C’s own mission statement and design principles."

The Ethereum Foundation also notes another issue – the impediment to legitimate use; the benefits to media owners pale in comparison to the detrimental effect the DRM would have on users. According to the Foundation, the DRM will hinder commenting and modification of videos, whether for artistic purposes or to make them accessible to disabled individuals. "All of these uses, normally held in high regard in the W3C Recommendation process, are blocked by DRM."

The Ethereum Foundation also believes that EME undermines security:

"In order to maintain a secure Open Web, security researchers must be able to perform their work in both a technical and a legal sense. By officially making a Recommendation, W3C compels security researchers to perform security analyses of all major implementations of that Recommendation. In recommending EME, the W3C is therefore exposing legitimate security researchers in the community to potential legal liability and even prosecution in the United States."

The Ethereum Foundation also mentions other problems, that EME does not stimulate growth of the web, and that it constrains interactions to predetermined business models, rather than enabling new forms of interaction. Specifically, "EME would inhibit potential models of a future decentralized web where blockchains and decentralized technologies could enable new business models and property rights management."

The Ethereum Foundation holds that the W3C "must be guided by its mission, design principles, and values." It recommends that the W3C refrain from providing specifications or guidelines for technologies that "do not conform to the W3C's core values as expressed in its mission and design principles, especially when the technology in question undermines security, limits legitimate use, and offers little potential for expanding the web."