The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has issued an angry formal response to a proposed set of HTML5 standards from the World Wide Web Consortium, saying that stringent digital rights management technology will be harmful to online freedom and prevent many users from getting access to important content.
The EFF is most concerned about the W3C HTML working group's acceptance of a draft standard that "includes discussion" of a technology called encrypted media extensions. Essentially, says EFF international director Danny O'Brien, this builds DRM into the fabric of what was supposed to be the underpinning for the open Web.
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"This proposal stands apart from all other aspects of HTML standardization: it defines a new 'black box' for the entertainment industry, fenced off from control by the browser and end-user," he said in a statement.
The group's formal complaint focuses both on what it says is the unusual nature of the EME proposal and the danger that setting this precedent would entail. Depriving users of their full freedom of choice has follow-on effects that undermine the HTML5 standard's stated goal of becoming an open fabric for the Web.
"Content producers will choose to prefer some clients over others, influencing the future development of the Web along narrower lines, via standards that were originally intended to provide flexibility to all participants in the Web environment," the complaint said.
What's more, according to the EFF, "the mechanisms proposed here are likely to be a floor, not a ceiling," meaning that content providers are likely to feel free to impose further restrictions over time. And the group contends that existing authentication mechanisms -- like certificates and TLS, among others -- already solve many of the problems EME is supposed to address.
W3C chief executive Jeff Jaffe said at the time the draft was published that the inclusion of EME is meant to protect the ability of content creators to be compensated for their work.
"Without content protection, owners of premium video content -- driven by both their economic goals and their responsibilities to others -- will simply deprive the Open Web of key content. Therefore, while the actual DRM schemes are clearly not open, the Open Web must accommodate them as best possible, as long as we don't cross the boundary of standards with patent encumbrances; or standards that cannot be implemented in open source," he wrote.