Mozilla CTO: The W3C Is Permitting DRM Tech in HTML5 Spec

Mozilla CTO Brendan Eich is no stranger to stirring up controversy, which is what he has done with a new online post focused on "The Bridge of Khazad-DRM." Eich is a staunch defender of open web standards, and his post takes the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to task for letting digital rights management (DRM) plugins into the specifications for HTML5. "We see DRM in general as profoundly hostile to all three of: users, open source software, and browser vendors who aren’t also DRM vendors," he writes.

As The Register notes:

"Last year Microsoft, Google and Netflix submitted a proposal to web standards overlord W3C to allow the use of Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) that would allow companies to build plugins for watching DRMed content in browsers."

According to Eich:

"People are rightly concerned about what is going on in the W3C with DRM, as couched in the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) proposal. Please read Henri Sivonen’s explanation of EME if you haven’t yet…Currently, users can play content that is subject to DRM restrictions using Firefox if they install NPAPI plugins, really Flash and Silverlight at this point. While we are not in favor of DRM, we do hear from many users who want to watch streaming movies to which they rent access rather than “buy to own”. The conspicuous example is Netflix, which currently uses Silverlight, but plans to use EME in HTML5."

"What the W3C is entertaining, due to Netflix, Google, and Microsoft’s efforts, is the EME API, which introduces new plugins that are neither Silverlight nor Flash, called Content Decryption Modules (CDM for short), into HTML5. We see serious problems with this approach."

The W3C could possibly come back with a compromise by specifying an exact type of DRM that it deems allowable, but it hasn’t done so yet. We could end up with many types of DRM components floating around in different browsers, creating a lot of confusion.

Eich’s post is worth reading. He doesn’t predict that the W3C is going to come around. 


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