DRM Tech Could Be Built into Next-Gen Core Web Standards

Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies may be built into the next generation of core Web standards. A proposal called Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) is currently before the World Wide Web Consortium’s HTML5 Working Group. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is fighting to keep DRM out of W3C standards, suggests: “Its adoption would be a calamitous development, and must be stopped.”

The Foundation writes that, whether “by design or by accident,” the actual effect of DRM is “to interfere with innovation, fair use, competition, interoperability, and our right to own things.”

While this article clearly represents a single view to defend the open Web, it notes that “in the past two decades, there has been an ongoing struggle between two views of how Internet technology should work. One philosophy has been that the Web needs to be a universal ecosystem that is based on open standards and fully implementable on equal terms by anyone, anywhere, without permission or negotiation.”

“The other view has been represented by corporations that have tried to seize control of the Web with their own proprietary extensions. It has been represented by technologies like Adobe’s Flash, Microsoft’s Silverlight, and pushes by Apple, phone companies, and others toward highly restrictive new platforms. These technologies are intended to be available from a single source or to require permission for new implementations.”

And when those gain in popularity, they damage existing open ecosystems, suggests EFF. For example, “websites that depend on Flash or Silverlight typically can’t be linked to properly, can’t be indexed, can’t be translated by machine, can’t be accessed by users with disabilities, don’t work on all devices, and pose security and privacy risks to their users. Platforms and devices that restrict their users inevitably prevent important innovations and hamper marketplace competition.”

The EME proposal is problematic, according to the article, because it alleviates responsibility on compatibility issues, allowing websites to require specific software or hardware and/or particular operating systems in order to access content.

“Perversely, this is exactly the reverse of the reason that the World Wide Web Consortium exists in the first place,” writes EFF. “W3C is there to create comprehensible, publicly-implementable standards that will guarantee interoperability, not to facilitate an explosion of new mutually-incompatible software and of sites and services that can only be accessed by particular devices or applications.”