EFF growls at DRM in HTML 5

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) watchdog has formally growled at the inclusion of digital rights management (DRM) in HTML5.

The activist group argued that a draft proposal from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) could stymie web innovation and block access to content for people across the globe.

The W3C’s HTML working group is creating a technical standard for HTML5, an upcoming revision to the computer language that creates web pages and otherwise displays content online.

The working group has accepted a draft that includes discussion of Encrypted Media Extensions (EME), which will hard-wire the requirements of DRM vendors into the HTML standard.

EFF international director Danny O’Brien said that the proposal stands apart from all other aspects of HTML standardisation because it defines a new ‘black box’ for the entertainment industry. This black box is fenced off from control by the browser and end-user.

“While this plan might soothe Hollywood content providers who are scared of technological evolution, it could also create serious impediments to interoperability and access for all,” O’Brien said.

DRM always fails to protect media while dragging in legal mandates that throttle free speech. It also ends up locking down technology, and violating property rights by seizing control of personal computers from their owners.

Accepting EME could lead to other rights holders demanding the same privileges as Hollywood, leading to a web where images and pages cannot be saved or searched and ads cannot be blocked, O’Brien said.

EFF filed this objection as its first act as a full member of W3C. EFF’s goal is to broaden the discussion of the consequences of accepting DRM-based proposals like EME for the future of the web.

O’Brien said that the W3C needs to develop a policy regarding DRM and similar proposals, or risk having its own work and the future of the web become buried in the demands of businesses that would rather it never existed in the first place.