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24 February 2012, 16:45

Proposal to add DRM to HTML5 meets resistence

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HTML5 icon A proposal at the W3C by Microsoft, Google and Netflix to add encrypted media support to HTML5 has already become controversial. The proposal has been called "unethical" by HTML5 editor and Google employee Ian Hickson who added that the proposal does not provide robust content protection. Hickson has yet to elaborate on his response to Microsoft's Adrian Bateman who raised the issue in response to a change request to add parameters to pass values to audio and video elements. In follow up comments, Intel's representative said they "strongly support the effort".

The encrypted media proposal details extending the HTMLMediaElement to allow anything from a simple key to a complex web-based licence transaction. It attempts to avoid the issue of adding DRM to HTML5 by pushing the key handling to a Content Decryption Module (CDM) which would be an add-on to HTML5 applications. If a key were needed, the application would ask the CDM, via the media stack, to request a key, and then the CDM would then ask the application, through the media stack again, to request the key through the key server. The key would be returned and set in the CDM and the media stack would then request that the CDM decrypt frames of content.

Some on the mailing list asked how the proposal could be implemented in an open source browser and retain its robustness. Netflix's Mark Watson admitted that it would require content protection hardware "baked into their firmware/hardware" which would have an API exposed to the browser. He then added that, to protect the decoded frames, "then obviously these frames cannot participate in open source software compositing in main memory". It would be unlikely that this is possible in a system where the operating system, graphics drivers and other components were open source.

The proposal is still a draft and will need broader support to progress through the W3C to become a standard. But there is a desire from a number of companies to see the creation of a streaming video DRM standard. Given that two of the proposers control over sixty per cent of the desktop browser market share, if no W3C standard is created, they could still go their own way.


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