Proposed encrypted media support in HTML5 sparks DRM debate on W3C mailing list

A proposed extension to HTML5's media handling interface resparked a debate about digital rights management support in browsers

A proposal drafted by Microsoft, Google and Netflix to add support for encrypted media playback in HTML5, has sparked a debate on the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) HTML public mailing list.

The document is entitled "Encrypted Media Extensions v0.1" and was submitted to W3C's HTML Working Group for review on Tuesday. Its authors propose an extension to the HTMLMediaElement interface that would facilitate the decryption of protected content.

"Many content providers and application developers have said they can't use <audio> and <video> because HTML lacks robust content protection," said Adrian Bateman, one of the people who drafted the new proposal, on the mailing list. "Without this functionality, they cannot move their apps to the web platform."

Companies like Netflix need to protect the content they are licensed to distribute. Because of this, their current platforms are built around plugin-based technologies like Flash or Silverlight, which support DRM (digital rights management).

The Encrypted Media Extensions proposal doesn't aim to implement a comprehensive DRM system in HTML5, but to provide a simple mechanism for exchanging content decryption keys, its authors said.

However, some people don't think the standard should include such a feature. "I believe this proposal is unethical and that we should not pursue it," said Ian Hickson, the maintainer of the WHATWG (Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group) HTML5 specification, in response to Bateman's argument. The WHATWG HTML 5 specification serves as basis for W3C's HTML5 standardization efforts.

Hickson didn't elaborate on why he considers the proposal unethical but said that it wouldn't provide robust content protection, so it wouldn't solve the problem content distributors have anyway.

Even though the proposal doesn't provide a complete DRM solution, some people feel that it is designed to allow such systems to be built into browsers at a later time. However, implementing something like this would be very problematic for open source vendors like Mozilla.

"A browser like Mozilla is *legally prevented* from actually implementing DRM, because they have to reveal all their code, including the decryption code that contains the secrets you use to decrypt," said Google Chrome team member Tab Atkins Jr., in a reply to the mailing list discussion. "We should not be attempting to put anything in HTML which won't be implemented by one of the major browsers."

At the moment, the proposal has an unofficial draft status which means that it is a work in progress and is open for comments from the public.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Lucian Constantin

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?