October 07, 2013

Video Content Control Extension to be Part of HTML5

The Internet was intended to be free; not only financially but also of the rules and regulations designed to hinder the free flow of information to anyone who has access. The adoption of the next evolution of hypertext markup language (HTML) has been embroiled with one controversy after another, with proponents and opponents of the regulations the W3C (NewsAlert) is going to implement in HTML5, the fifth version of HTML. This time, the W3C and Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with creating the World Wide Web, have angered the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and others because of the organization’s decision to include video content-control extensions as part of the HTML5 spec proposed by Google (News Alert), Microsoft and Netflix.

The W3C made the decision to continue Encrypted Media Extension (EME) in the W3C’s proposed HTML 5.1 standard, which is a way to deliver encrypted video content across the Web. The application was designed by engineers from Google, Microsoft (News Alert) and Netflix, which has many individuals and organizations asking how much influence did these companies have regarding the continuation of the inclusion of EME. The authority of the W3C also has been questioned to determine if it is within the scope of the organizations to make such decisions.

However, the organization insists it is within their scope and it remains mindful of the issues that have been raised regarding digital rights management (DRM) and usage control.

The draft for the EME lays the ground for providing a wrapper for content protection systems and not a content protection method, and at the end of the day video providers don’t have to use it.

On his blog titled, "Perspectives on encrypted media extension reaching first public working draft" the CEO of W3C, Jeff Jaffe said, "Here is our understanding of why EME is a contentious specification, despite broad agreement that some form of content protection is needed for the Web. The EME specification defines Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that would provide access to content decryption modules (CDMs), part of Digital Rights Management (DRM) systems. W3C is not standardizing CDM technology, but there is a concern that standardizing APIs could encourage CDM usage – which some view as being in opposition to open Web principles."

Because the W3C is supposed to abide by the open Web principal many of its ardent critics say the organization should only support open Web principles, which is understandable considering it is part of its founding credo.

According to the Encrypted Media Extensions W3C First Public Working Draft of 10 May 2013, some of the goals are:

  • Support simple decryption without the need for DRM servers, etc.
  • Support a wide range of media containers and codecs.
  • Support a range of content security models, including software and hardware-based models
  • Stream reusability – the actual encrypted content stream/file for a given container/codec should be identical regardless of the user agent and content decryption and protection mechanism.
  • Support a wide range of use cases.
  • Defer all information and algorithms about the content decryption and protection solution to the application/server and client content decryption module. The user agent should just pass information.

Whether you are a content creator trying to protect your intellectual assets or someone who is trying to watch it for free, the solution lies in finding a platform that can be accessed by everyone while protecting copyrighted material — easier said than done.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey


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