DRM Integration Into HTML5 Concerns Open Web Advocates

While many are in favor of DRM being integrated into HTML5, some open Web advocates are concerned that the integration will eventually lead to third parties controlling too much of our online browsing. Tim Berners-Lee suggests that allowing content protection may be needed for standards to combat the rise of proprietary platforms. Meanwhile, mobile operating systems such as Firefox OS will be DRM-free. Also, some TV networks and performers are selling their content without digital restrictions.

Content protection mechanisms should be allowed into the HTML5 standard, as it may be necessary to help standards prevent the rise of proprietary platforms, says Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the Web and director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the organization that sets new Web standards.

“The problem here is the digital rights management (DRM) capabilities that are are likely to be baked into HTML5 and subsequent versions of the Web language,” reports GigaOM. “The first move in this direction would allow encrypted video to run in a browser without the need for a DRM-friendly plugin such as Silverlight or Flash — Netflix has already come up with ways to do this with HTML5, but its techniques are not yet part of the overall standard, which will be finalized in a year’s time.”

The integration of DRM into HTML5 would eliminate the need for playback plugins. However, this would allow third parties, such as Netflix, to control in part what a user’s browser can or cannot do, suggests the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group.

“The W3C community is currently exploring Web technology that will strike a balance between the rights of creators and the rights of consumers,” notes Berners-Lee. “In this space in particular, W3C seeks to lower the overall proprietary footprint and increase overall interoperability, currently lacking in this area.”

The shift to mobile complicates matters, such as with the Mozilla mobile operating system, Firefox OS. While it remains in development, it will be completely based on HTML5, including all Web apps, but an issue is how content providers who favor DRM and those who do not will work with Firefox OS devices.

As DRM integrates into HTML5, some entertainers and networks are offering their content DRM-free. Comedy Central offers several specials on its website for $5, as well as comedian Aziz Ansari’s upcoming “Buried Alive,” which will appear on Netflix first, then for sale on his site for $5 as well.

Fans can purchase Louis C.K.’s latest HBO special “Louis C.K. Oh My God” from his site for $5 without DRM, reports GigaOM in a related post.

“I was told that it would be easier to torrent the way I made it, but I chose to do it this way anyway, because I want it to be easy for people to watch and enjoy this video in any way they want without ‘corporate’ restrictions,” explained Louis C.K.

Berners-Lee’s full statement can be read at Telefonica.