Principles of DRM Nonaggression for Open Standards

An "open standard" must not prohibit conforming implementations in open source software. (See Open Standards Requirement for Software).

When an open standard involves content restriction technology commonly known as Digital Rights Management (DRM)—either directly specifying an implementation of DRM or indirectly consuming or serving as a component within DRM technology—the laws in some jurisdictions against circumvention of DRM may hinder efforts to develop open source implementations of the standard. In order to make open source implementations possible, an open standard that involves DRM needs an agreement from the standards body and the authors of the standard not to pursue legal action for circumvention of DRM. Such an agreement should grant permission to:

  • circumvent DRM in implementations of the open standard
  • distribute implementations of the open standard, even if the implementation modifies some details of the open standard
  • perform security research on the open standard or implementations of the open standard, and publish or disclose vulnerabilities discovered

Reference Example

The W3C is currently reviewing the following DRM nonaggression covenant for their open standards working groups. This draft document embodies the principles of DRM nonaggression for open standards, and may serve as a valuable resource for other groups drafting similar policies.

1. Scope of Obligations

The following covenant applies to all participants (W3C Members, W3C Team members, invited experts, and members of the public) in a Working Group for the development of a specification that provides a content protection or Digital Rights Management system or a substantial component of such a system, or that requires or recommends such a system.

2. The DRM Circumvention Nonaggression Covenant proposed by EFF for W3C Consideration

Each participant irrevocably covenants that it will not bring or join suit against any person under 17 U.S.C. § 1203, or under any other law, of any jurisdiction, that regulates the circumvention of technological measures that effectively control access to a work protected by copyright, where the act complained of is one of the following, or relates to one of the following under a theory of secondary liability:

(a) the circumvention of any implementation of the specification;

(b) the publication of any non-compliant implementation of the specification; or

(c) the publication or disclosure of any vulnerability in the specification or in any implementation of the specification.

To promote and protect open source software and communities...

For over 20 years the Open Source Initiative (OSI) has worked to raise awareness and adoption of open source software, and build bridges between open source communities of practice. As a global non-profit, the OSI champions software freedom in society through education, collaboration, and infrastructure, stewarding the Open Source Definition (OSD), and preventing abuse of the ideals and ethos inherent to the open source movement.

Open source software is made by many people and distributed under an OSD-compliant license which grants all the rights to use, study, change, and share the software in modified and unmodified form. Software freedom is essential to enabling community development of open source software.