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Web Daddy Berners-Lee DRMs HTML5 into 2016

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Digital Rights Management isn’t just coming to HTML5 but also HTML 5.1 in 2016 – despite objections from critics.

World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) director Tim Berners-Lee has signed off on a new charter for the HTML5 Working Group that puts DRM as one of its goals.

Support for “the playback of protected content” – W3C speak for DRM-ed material – is included in the scope of the new charter of the web group working on the standard.

HTML5 is pencilled in for a year from now, in the fourth quarter of 2014, with successor 5.1 coming two years later, in Q4 2016. The end date for the actual charter is 30 June 2015.

The announcement is a slap-down to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which had raised a formal objection to the inclusion of Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) – which would enable DRM playback – in the HTML5 spec.

The EFF, with others, had resisted the idea of encrypted playback as a web standard, saying it was against the principle of an open web and would take control of their browsers out of the hands of users.

W3C interaction domain lead Philippe Le Hégaret broadcast the latest words from Berners-Lee here.

“While we remain sensitive to the issues raised related to DRM and usage control, the director re-confirmed his earlier decision that the on-going work is in scope,” Le Hégaret said. “The director will continue to look at community feedback regarding drafts published by the HTML Working Group.”

The DRM debate

Critics of the decision were referred back to a blog from W3C chief executive Jeff Jaffe post from earlier in May that more-or-less said that having considered the opposition to EME in HTML 5, the W3C was going ahead.

He said the organisation "recognize[d] that to have far-reaching standards that support interoperability, it is essential to include connections to such proprietary elements, some of which may be replaced in time with open standards."

The EFF lodged its formal objection right after Jaffe published his post.

Jaffe's post was in response to an open letter to Tim Berners-Lee from the EFF, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and others that opposed EME. In the letter, the groups called it “disastrous” and said EME was being added purely to suit the interests of media companies.

The EFF has now responded to the W3C's new charter, in a blog post titled "Lowering your standards". Director Danny O'Brien wrote that EFF was “deeply disappointed” that encryption would now be included in the HTML 5 and 5.1 standards.

The group warned the move puts control of the "user agent" (the browser) in the hands of media companies and content owners and distributors and takes it from users.

The “EFF believes that's a dangerous step for an organization that is seen by many as the guardian of the open Web to take,” the group said.

“If EME goes through to become part of a W3C recommendation, you can expect to hear DRM vendors, DRM-locked content providers like Netflix, and browser makers like Microsoft, Opera, and Google stating that they can now offer W3C standards compliant 'content protection' for Web video," the group said.

“The EFF is still a W3C member, and we'll do our best to work with other organizations within and without the consortium to help it fight off the worse consequences of accepting DRM. But it's not easy to defend a king who has already invited its attackers across his moat." ®

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