World wide web creator rules DRM support should be baked into web tech

World wide web creator rules DRM support should be baked into web tech

Summary: Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the world wide web and director of the web standards body W3C, has rejected calls not to bake support for DRM into the web mark-up language HTML.

TOPICS: Web development

The creator of the world wide web and director of the web standards body W3C, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has backed measures to embed support for copy protected media in HTML5.

Proposals to add Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) to the next specification for HTML — the mark-up language used to create web pages — have prompted letters of protest from multiple digital rights groups and activists.

EME would provide a hook for DRM-protected audio, video and other content within HTML but notable free software advocates such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Free Software Foundation, have called the proposals "disastrous".

They argue it is an attempt to elevate the business interests of movie studios and tech giants — employees of Microsoft, Google and Netflix drafted the specification — over the greater good of an open web where information can be shared freely, and would place unacceptable restrictions on how individuals use computers.

In a letter to the W3C earlier this year a consortium of 27 groups opposing EME wrote the specification would "harm interoperability, enshrine non-free software in W3C standards and perpetuate oppressive business models".

This week opponents of EME suffered a further setback, as it was revealed Berners-Lee had rejected calls for W3C to renounce its support for embedding "playback of protected content" in HTML, a goal set out in the proposed W3C HTML Working Group Charter.

"While we remain sensitive to the issues raised related to DRM and usage control, the director reconfirmed his earlier decision that the ongoing work is in scope," a W3C posting said earlier this week.

Speaking to ZDNet earlier this year, W3C CEO Dr Jeff Jaffe said that it is necessary to provide support for DRM within HTML to avoid scenarios where the movie studios remove films from the web to stop them being pirated.

"We're not going to standardise proprietary DRM systems, but on the other hand we don't want it to be excluded from the web platform. The compromise is a set of open APIs that give a standard framework to bring in this content via plug-in, but where we don't standardise the plug-in," he said at the time

The EME specification defines an API that would interact with a DRM or simple encryption system when the media was played, and has been published by the HTML working group as an editor's draft but that is yet to be endorsed by the W3C.

Reacting to Berners-Lee's latest decision, the EFF said it was "deeply disappointed".

"That breaks a — perhaps until now unspoken — assurance about who has the final say in your web experience, and indeed who has ultimate control over your computing device," it wrote.

Further reading about Encrypted Media Extensions

Topic: Web development


Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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  • When are these idiots going to learn that not everything is free?

    The vast majority of people and companies expect payment for their efforts. If someone wants to make content available for free, nothing in the specs will stop that. But why should companies whose efforts provide the livelihood for their families have the efforts of their WORK stolen by freeloaders?

    Certainly, these same folks who advocate "all content free" wouldn't think of going to a car dealership and just driving off with a car or going to a grocery store and walking out with a cart full of groceries without paying for them. Why do they think there is something "evil" or "wrong" about expecting payment for work--just because it happens to be available in digital format?
    • you might not be very informed about

      all the pertinent problems one faces with DRM? Say how many times did people on Windows and Mac OS X got withheld from playing legitimate media on their systems when it was labeled as "protected content" by a mistake?
      The other thing is that those who enforce DRM are most of the time not the original authors of the content.
      If I listen to this great Bach's cantata sung by a marvelous choir and soloists, accompanied by a great chamber orchestra, who is protected by the drm? J. S. Bach's descendants, talented musicians? No, only some stupid, fat, never satisfied rich bastards that barely do anything at all.
      • I've never had a problem with DRM

        for any of my media. Also who says whoever distributes and/or owns the content being delivered has to be the original authors? If you work for a company or are an author that sells your work to a company they do and should own the rights to do whatever they want with it, sell it, give it away, perhaps even do nothing with it.
        Sam Wagner
      • That's why we need standards around DRM

        So that it's baked into internet applications. That way DRM is handled in a consistent, open way and little guys can protect their creations right along side the big guys.
    • this is nonsense

      No DRM can stop anyone from copying digital information. Therefore, with DRM or without DRM, that "work" will continue to be "stolen". No technology will change that -- it is purely a market issue.

      DRM is actually not used to prevent "stealing", but for other purposes.
  • Let them take the content away...

    "Dr Jeff Jaffe said that it is necessary to provide support for DRM within HTML to avoid scenarios where the movie studios remove films from the web to stop them being pirated."

    The Internet was not created to further business ventures, it was created to share information. Information that new standards are trying to monetize, ISP like Verison are trying to control and manipulate, and OS manufacturer Microsoft is trying to isolate and make proprietary to only Microsoft products. This isn't about artists getting paid, it's about keeping the Internet free and usable for everyone.
    • The internet was created

      initially for military use.
      Michael Alan Goff
      • Military use

        Of course, this is not true.
        • My mistake

          It was just created by a commission paid for by the military.
          Michael Alan Goff
      • No, no, no

        ARPANET isn't the internet. It was just one of the components that led to the birth of the internet.
  • So

    get rid of him, or refuse to use the "standard".
  • Don't use the standard?

    I guess it is up to each developer to choose to include the code for the standard. There my not be a choice if that developer wishes to submit an app to Apple, Google or Microsoft if that app accesses the Web.