May 30, 2013

Electronic Frontier Foundation to W3C: ‘No DRM in HTML5’

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an Internet freedom advocacy group, filed a formal objection to the inclusion of digital rights management (DRM) in HTML5 yesterday, May 29th, in its first act as a full member of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C (NewsAlert)). This objection comes in response to a recent draft proposal released by the W3C, which asserts the need for an Encrypted Media Extension (EME) specification in HTML5 for “content protection.” 

The proposed W3C specification “defines a common API that may be used to discover, select and interact with [content protection or Digital Rights Management] systems as well as with simpler content encryption systems” to “to control playback of protected content.”  This Encrypted Media Extension is currently being discussed as part of the emerging technical standard for HTML5, the latest revision of the dominant web markup language for structuring and presenting content on the World Wide Web. 

"This proposal stands apart from all other aspects of HTML standardization,” said EFF International Director Danny O’Brien. “It defines a new ‘black box’ for the entertainment industry, fenced off from control by the browser and end-user."

The EFF believes that the specification, as outlined in the draft, could “stymie Web innovation and block access to content for people across the globe.” The organization asserts that instead of protecting media, DRM standards will restrict the speech of technologists, dissuade innovation, lock down technology, and provide unprecedented legal mandates that will likely lead to undue enforcement measures .

Moreover, DRM capabilities in HTML5, the EFF fears, will encourage other industries besides Hollywood to demand content access control, completely restricting the user experience on the Web. It paints a picture of world without the ability to search Web pages, save images, or block ads. 

“Content could be made unlinkable, unviewable, uneditable or unbrowseable, based on a nest of permissions and negotiations. The Web would turn from being an open environment for all, to a nest of incompatible pages, relying on a battery of proprietary plug-ins,” the complaint reads.

The largest content owners will be able to dictate precisely how the Web operates, putting browsers, Web developers, and technologists at their mercy.

In its full formal objection, the EFF argues that “content protection” is an ill-defined term with slippery legal, technical, and social implications.  

"The W3C needs to develop a policy regarding DRM and similar proposals, or risk having its own work and the future of the Web become buried in the demands of businesses that would rather it never existed in the first place," said EFF Senior Staff Technologist Seth Schoen. "The EME proposal needs to be seen for what it is: a creation that will shut out open source developers and competition, throw away interoperability, and lock in legacy business models. This is the opposite of the fair use model that gave birth to the Web."

Edited by Jamie Epstein


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