DRM framework for HTML5 may restrict playback of copyrighted web content

Internet users beware: copyrighted web content could soon be out of reach.

HTML is the main markup language for creating web pages and other information that can be displayed in a web browser, and the World Wide Consortium (W3C) meets meets regularly to update the language for the growing challenges of the web.

Their newest project focuses on protecting copyrighted content from being copied from one virtual place to another.A framework for digital rights management, also known as DRM, is currently under development for HTML5 web browsing by the impartial W3C’s HTML working group.

“It’s inevitable,” SHSU Director of Digital Forensics Andy Bennett said. “If we’re lucky, it will be a well thought out standard that is easily applied and used.”

The W3C is the main international standards organization for the World Wide Web. Founded and currently headed by Tim Berners-Lee at MIT, the consortium is made up of member organizations that maintain full-time staff for the purpose of working together in the development of standards for the World Wide Web.

The DRM framework is currently known as the Encrypted Media Extensions proposal, which is backed by Google, Microsoft, Netflix and other media giants.

According to the W3C’s Editor’s Draft, “This proposal extends TMLMediaElement providing API’s to control playback of protected content.”

An Application Programming Interface, commonly known as API, is a protocol intended to be used as an interface by software components to communicate with each other. This, along with the proposal, means that HTML coding will provide an interface for different websites to communicate with each other whenever copyrighted material is used without permission on a website.As a result, any copyrighted content that is not properly used will not work on that given website.

The proposal is controversial because many find that DRM opposes the open nature of HTML.

“Let’s say you have Firefox for example. It’s an open source program. That means they publish the entire source code for the entire software. So [anybody] can customize their browser, change the code up, recompile it and it’s theirs. However, that would be impossible if they were not allowed access to the code in the standard for the encryption.”

Bennett also related the problem to displaying media content, such as YouTube.

According to Scott Gilbertson from Webmonkey.com, there are numerous problems with the current draft of the proposal. He says that currently it might be impossible for open source web browsers to implement without relying on closed source components.Bennett also related the problem to displaying media content, such as YouTube.”Let’s say DRM was embedded in YouTube videos via HTML5. That denies open source developers, which means no money is involved, the access to pay for the module because they cannot afford it. This means that if they don’t provide the encryption engine for free, browsers like Firefox wouldn’t be able to play YouTube videos.”Despite opposition claiming that the Encrypted Media Extensions proposal is essentially DRM, HTML Working Group member Manu Sporny says otherwise. Sporny claims that the proposal in its current form does not actually define a DRM system.

Sporny’s said:

“The [proposal] does not specify a DRM scheme in the specification; rather it explains the architecture for a DRM plug-in mechanism. This will lead to plug-in proliferation on the Web. Plugins . . . are detrimental to inter-operability because it is inevitable that the DRM plugin vendors will not be able to support all platforms at all times. So, some people will be able to view content, others will not.”

The biggest question is whether the W3C should continue to work on a specification that defines some kind of DRM system, or should interested companies go off and do their own work. Bennett said that it is better to have impartial companies working on the proposal then individual companies.

“If large companies worked on DRM frameworks instead, they would have total control,” he said.

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