The Electronic Frontier
Foundation has issued an angry formal response to a proposed set of
HTML5 standards from the World Wide Web Consortium.
The group says that stringent digital rights management technology
will be harmful to online freedom and prevent many users from getting
access to important content.
The EFF is most concerned about the W3C HTML working group’s
acceptance of a draft standard that “includes discussion” of a
technology called encrypted media extensions. Essentially, says EFF
international director Danny O’Brien, this builds DRM into the fabric of
what was supposed to be the underpinning for the open Web.
“This proposal stands apart from all other aspects of HTML
standardization: it defines a new ‘black box’ for the entertainment
industry, fenced off from control by the browser and end-user,” he said
in a statement.
The group’s formal complaint
focuses both on what it says is the unusual nature of the EME proposal
and the danger that setting this precedent would entail. Depriving users
of their full freedom of choice has follow-on effects that undermine
the HTML5 standard’s stated goal of becoming an open fabric for the Web.
“Content producers will choose to prefer some clients over others,
influencing the future development of the Web along narrower lines, via
standards that were originally intended to provide flexibility to all
participants in the Web environment,” the complaint said.
What’s more, according to the EFF, “the mechanisms proposed here are
likely to be a floor, not a ceiling,” meaning that content providers are
likely to feel free to impose further restrictions over time. And the
group contends that existing authentication mechanisms — like
certificates and TLS, among others — already solve many of the problems
EME is supposed to address.
W3C chief executive Jeff Jaffe said at the time the draft was
published that the inclusion of EME is meant to protect the ability of
content creators to be compensated for their work.
“Without content protection, owners of premium video content —
driven by both their economic goals and their responsibilities to others
— will simply deprive the Open Web of key content. Therefore, while
the actual DRM schemes are clearly not open, the Open Web must
accommodate them as best possible, as long as we don’t cross the
boundary of standards with patent encumbrances; or standards that cannot
be implemented in open source,” he wrote.