Microsoft, Google and Netflix are trying to bring DRM to HTML5

Did you ask for DRM “improvements” in HTML5, the seemingly all-capable “standard of the future” for everything is (cloud) computing, entertainment and networking? No? Well, you will get that, eventually: engineers from Microsoft, Google and Netflix have just proposed a new API extension for the aforementioned web standard, with the intent of fostering the rise of protected contents delivered via simple HTML code.

David Dorwin (Google), Adrian Bateman (Microsoft) and Mark Watson (Netflix) have submitted the Encrypted Media Extensions v0.1 draft proposal to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), seeking to “extend HTMLMediaElement to enable playback of protected content”.

The three engineers explain that the proposal isn’t a new “DRM scheme for HTML5” at all, just the base code for a generic contents decryption system that will work with additional “modules” to implement the proper decryption mechanisms.

The new draft supporters would like to gain interest within the W3C and make their project flourish, but the initial reactions from the people involved in web standard development are all but promising in that regard. “I believe this proposal is unethical and that we should not pursue it”, said Ian Hickson of Google, highlighting how the draft “does not provide robust content protection, so it would not address this use case even if it wasn’t unethical”.

Even among Google people, as it seems, a “DRM for the web” proposal made (among the others) by a Google engineer isn’t that popular. Criticism on the EME draft comes also from Mozilla’s Robert O’Callahan, who asked how such a “standard” copy protection system could be implemented effectively within an open source browser like Mozilla Firefox.

How do you guard against an open source web browser simply being patched to write the frames/samples to disk to enable (presumably illegal) redistribution of the protected content?”, O’Callahan asked. The answer came from Mark Watson (Netflix) and involved using hardware-based copy protection systems: in this way, maybe using some Palladium-baked obscure voodoo magic, even an open source browser could “benefit” from the new HTML5 copy protection scheme.

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