Critics slam World Wide Web Consortium over inclusion of DRM in HTML5

New charter for HTML Working Group leaves controversial Encrypted Media Extension proposal in play

The latest version of the World Wide Web Consortium's HTML Working Group charter includes provisions for ongoing work on restrictive content protection systems – a decision that has angered groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Free Software Foundation.

The main opposition centers on the controversial Encrypted Media Extension proposal, which would build robust digital rights management capabilities directly into future HTML standards. While EME is still some distance from being officially accepted, its inclusion in the latest draft charter makes that outcome more likely.

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DRM, which is used to control access to online media content like streaming video, is a contentious topic, particularly among free and open-source software advocates.

EME, the FSF wrote in a form letter earlier this year, would expose users to a wide array of restrictions on their web experience.

“[EME] would fly in the face of the W3C's principle of keeping the Web royalty-free — this is simply a back door for media companies to require proprietary player software. It is willful ignorance to pretend otherwise just because the proposal does not mention particular technologies or DRM schemes by name,” the group said.

The EFF echoes the thrust of those remarks in a statement responding to the news that EME would be retained, saying on Wednesday that the group is “deeply disappointed” by the decision.

“By approving this idea, the W3C has ceded control of the “user agent” (the term for a Web browser in W3C parlance) to a third-party, the content distributor. That breaks a – perhaps until now unspoken – assurance about who has the final say in your Web experience, and indeed who has ultimate control over your computing device,” the EFF stated.

The current draft of the charter runs through June 2015, and also included provisions for work on a dual-licensing

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

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