Thursday, May 30, 2013

HTML5 To Be Put Under DRM?

Many see the emerging HTML5 web standard as the way forward to address many of today’s challenges. Irrespective of device, as long as you have access to the web HTML5 and a browser you are connected. But then we have the vested interest of Hollywood and others who are fixated on control and locking up access.

Today the body responsible for developing HTML5 standards, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), is locked in an ideological battle with bodies such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Should we care –Yes. Will the outcome impact us – Yes.

The EFF have stated publicly their case online, ‘Why the HTML5 Standard Fight Matters’

The battle is over the proposed Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) to HTML5, which may sound little but threaten to lock up media content under all browsers and effectively port the cumbersome and consumer un-centric world of DRM onto the World Wide Web, or as we all know it, the Internet. The EFF are far from alone in the battle and some 27 rights groups and others have written directly to Sir Berners-Lee stating their opposition.

Some have argued that far from an open interoperable web we could have images and pages that cannot be saved or searched, a situation where ads cannot be blocked, browsers become restricted and much of we enjoy today is effectively controlled under the big content companies. It would be like have DRM applied by many over all the internet.

In response, W3C chief executive Jeffrey Jaffe writing on the subject clearly recognises that  EME is contentious but says that the proposed EME specification ‘only defines Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that would provide access to content decryption modules (CDMs), part of Digital Rights Management (DRM) systems.’ In other words they are merely creating the hooks into HTML5 and not the CDM /DRM technology that could be used by others to create their ‘walled gardens.’

It is clearly a battle between those who value interoperability, access and the principles under which the W3C have worked and the vested and of the major media companies who want to lock up access to material within the Internet.

We may not be able to influence the outcome but ultimately it is the consumer who will either enjoy the interoperable and openly available fruits of HTML5, or find they are inaccessible, or hidden, behind many walled gardens.

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