September 09, 2014

Adobe’s Primetime DRM Platform to Support HTML5-Sign of Industry Shift away from Plugins

Adobe (NewsAlert) recently announced its Primetime digital rights management (DRM) platform would support HTML5. The decision comes as welcome news to many video content providers and is part of a larger movement away from video plugins.

By their nature, video plugins created several challenges that made DRM difficult in a browsing environment. They came from different vendors, which meant that a DRM solution had to support each separate vendor’s plugin. HTML5 on the other hand, supports video content natively and thus, there is no need for external DRM apps. Instead, DRM will be built-in to the browser as part of its executable code.

So far, Mozilla (NewsAlert) is the only major browser vendor supporting Primetime. Earlier this year, the organization decided to team up with Adobe to provide DRM support for Firefox. Web developers would be able to protect video content on a page by invoking functionality in the browser’s API. Application whitelisting can limit where protected content can run, while device filtering prevents displaying video on an incompatible display. 

One of the key components of Primetime is a license server that controls access to the content. This server can be on-premises or in the cloud. The former gives the content provider more control over server operations and tends to work better with smaller audiences. In an environment where audience size can grow rapidly, cloud architecture provides better scalability.

Adobe claims that the usual tactics used to undermine copy protection or DRM won’t succeed with Primetime. It controls output channels to prevent basic recording. The platform is also designed to prevent jailbreaking and break-once, run-everywhere techniques. Content that is available for a limited time period is protected by keys that expire after time is up.

In one sense, the alliance between Adobe and Firefox would seem to defy history. Adobe has promoted its Flash plugin forever while Firefox tends to support open source instead of closed source systems like Primetime. The reality of the marketplace with users wanting the ability to play video on any device meant that providers that wanted to protect content needed a better architecture than the browser-plugin setup.  HTML5’s native support for video and new, improved browsers should take care of past DRM issues.

While Adobe and Mozilla seem to have ironed out the technical issues, both need to deal with getting more companies and organizations to join them. Otherwise, Primetime may become the Betamax of browser-based DRM. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle


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