Berners-Lee and W3C approve HTML5 video DRM additions

EFF and others are irked by the decision to include video content-control extensions as part of the HTML5 spec proposed by Google, Microsoft, and Netflix

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and others, including the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and blogger Cory Doctorow, have protested the W3C's decision to continue including the Encrypted Media Extension (EME) in the W3C's proposed HTML 5.1 standard.

EME was devised by engineers from Google, Microsoft, and Netflix as a standardized way to deliver encrypted video content across the Web. The EME proposal was met with great resistance in many circles and was widely questioned as to whether it was even within the scope of the W3C's work.

But W3C director Tim Berners-Lee decided that the EME proposal was indeed within the scope of the W3C, as described in an email post to the public W3C list.

"While we remain sensitive to the issues raised related to DRM and usage control," read the email, "the Director reconfirmed his earlier decision that the ongoing work is in scope. For more discussion of the topic, see Jeff Jaffe's blog post."

According to the working draft, EME "does not define a content protection or Digital Rights Management system. Rather, it defines a common API that may be used to discover, select and interact with such systems."

The draft goes on to state, "Implementation of Digital Rights Management is not required for compliance with this specification: only the simple clear key system is required to be implemented as a common baseline."

In short, EME is more about providing a wrapper for content protection systems than it is about implementing any particular content protection method. Video providers are not obliged to use it.

Jeff Jaffe's blog post, entitled "Perspectives on Encrypted Media Extension Reaching First Public Working Draft," affirms the point is not to standardize any kind of content decryption technology or to "encourage CDM usage -- which some view as being in opposition to open Web principles.

"While the actual DRM schemes are clearly not open," Jaffe writes, "the Open Web must accommodate them as best possible, as long as we don’t cross the boundary of standards with patent encumbrances; or standards that cannot be implemented in open source."

The EFF's objections, summarized in a post entitled "Lowering Your Standards: DRM and the Future of the W3C," are not just about the presence of copy-protection technology. The post says this is "less about the damage that sanctioning restricted media does to users, and more about the damage it will do to the W3C."

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