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What's Actually Wrong With DRM In HTML5? 447

Posted by Soulskill
from the same-thing-that's-wrong-with-mayonnaise-on-a-hamburger dept.
kxra writes "The Free Culture Foundation has posted a thorough response to the most common and misinformed defenses of the W3C's Extended Media Extensions (EME) proposal to inject DRM into HTML5. They join the EFF and FSF in a call to send a strong message to the W3C that DRM in HTML5 undermines the W3C's self-stated mission to make the benefits of the Web 'available to all people, whatever their hardware, software, network infrastructure, native language, culture, geographical location, or physical or mental ability.' The FCF counters the three most common myths by unpacking some quotes which explain that 1.) DRM is not about protecting copyright. That is a straw man. DRM is about limiting the functionality of devices and selling features back in the form of services. 2.) DRM in HTML5 doesn't obsolete proprietary, platform-specific browser plug-ins; it encourages them. 3.) the Web doesn't need big media; big media needs the Web." Also: the FSF has announced that a coalition of 27 web freedom organizations have sent a joint letter to the W3C opposing DRM support in HTML5.
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What's Actually Wrong With DRM In HTML5?

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  • by fustakrakich (1673220) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @04:16PM (#43539941) Journal

    It exists...

  • Bias (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bradgoodman (964302) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @04:21PM (#43539987) Homepage
    As much as like the concept of "open and free", blah blah blah - I'm not really buying the argument. I don't want to swallow "big media's" load of tripe on the issue - things aren't all black-and-white. I don't necessarily swallow the arguments made by the OP about wanting to "sell back services" and "limiting functionality of devices". "Big Media" doesn't care about your device or what it does - it *does* care about piracy, though. So let's call a spade a spade, and admit that it *is* about copy protection (whether you like/agree with it or not).

    This is like the old DIVX argument from years ago. Just because your device is *capable* of playing protected content - it doesn't mean you *have* to play (or pay for) protected content. It would be nice to be able to offer the functionality for services like Netflix, Amazon, or whoever else you want to watch, in a standardized, cross-platform manner, without every media provider having to build some hokey Java or Flash player into every browser, TV, DVD player, Game console, etc etc etc - and still have wonky support for only half the devices, and no support for "new" services on "legacy" devices.

    But I digress - I'm not trying to sway anyone's opinion on the matter - let's just call a spade a spade - it *is* about copy-protection.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @04:22PM (#43540001)

    DRM in HTML5 doesn't obsolete proprietary, platform-specific browser plug-ins; it encourages them.

    The only reason any thinking human ever made a conscious informed decision to install Silverlight was to watch Netflix.

  • by rubypossum (693765) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @04:24PM (#43540037)
    We don't need to hobble our technologies to make certain people money.
  • by bradgoodman (964302) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @04:26PM (#43540061) Homepage
    ...is that when I went back to the original Slashdot post on "Ian Hickson (author of HTML5 spec.) on the real purpose of DRM" - the enclosed link to the original article made me go through a sign-on to Google Plus" :-O
  • Re:And who cares? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 0123456 (636235) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @04:27PM (#43540063)

    how could "DRM in HTML5" NOT obsolete proprietary, browser-specific plug ins?

    Because, uh, "DRM in HTML5" is merely a framework to allow sites to require specific proprietary, browser-specific plugins to display their content?

    I could care less about DRM in HTML5.

    Probably because you don't understand it.

  • Re:Bias (Score:5, Insightful)

    by denis-The-menace (471988) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @04:27PM (#43540067)

    For DVDs, at least, it's about forcing makers of DVD players to respect the "can't skip commercials" features of commercial DVD discs.

    That way the commercials are force-ably watched. (at least on hardware players)

    As copy protection goes, it's as good as ROT-13 for encrypting text.

  • by lgw (121541) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @04:27PM (#43540071) Journal

    The only reason any thinking human ever made a conscious informed decision to install Silverlight was to watch Netflix.

    I've always assumed the name "Silverlight" was chosen precisely because it was a platform designed primarily to allow you to watch movies.

    DRM means I get to watch Netflix, so I'm all for DRM in HTML5. If it's not embraced in some way by the standard, it will happen anyway, and be platform specific and even more annoying.

    There is no "movies without DRM" option available to the standards committee, sorry.

  • by bradgoodman (964302) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @04:33PM (#43540151) Homepage
    How is it "hobbling" the technology. If you don't like the DRM aspect of it - don't watch protected content with it. It's not going to have any affect on you.
  • by fustakrakich (1673220) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @04:36PM (#43540185) Journal

    If it's not embraced in some way by the standard, it will happen anyway, and be platform specific and even more annoying.

    And this is why circumvention is important and necessary.

  • Re:Bias (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lorenlal (164133) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @04:39PM (#43540209)

    "If they provided me with good cheap DRM'd service, they'd have my dollars."

    And I guess that's where this is really irritating. Because, as of yet, there hasn't been a "good" nor "cheap," let alone "good and cheap" DRM service. Really, DRM has been about making sure you have to fit a very specific set of conditions to view content that you probably paid for. Usually those conditions involve "viewing from Device P, running Operating System Q, with Browser R," even though it has nothing to do with the content you're viewing.

    So, we look at Netflix as the opening case. To watch a movie in Netflix on my laptop that is running Linux, I have to jump through a large number of hoops... Or, I can fire up my Xbox 360, or my PS3, or another machine running Windows. Why is that? Certainly it's not about stopping piracy... Because I can still jump through those hoops and get there.

    DVD regions... Why did they exist? It was certainly not to prevent piracy, because you could easily copy the bejeezus out of them. Rather, it's to prevent you from buying a copy cheaply in one region, and bringing it home... Because their content is overpriced here. BlueRay? Same deal right? Again, not about piracy.

    Really, DRM has always been about soaking legal users as much as possible, or it's been about shady corporate deals to force users onto particular platforms to make them have to pay their partners. That is all it accomplishes, and that's perfectly fine with them.

  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @04:41PM (#43540243)
    DRM, by definition, hobbles technology. This is not about "choice" -- if all the major media outlets use this technology, it will be enabled by default on everyone's computer, and everyone's computer will be programmed (by default) to fight against the user.
  • Re:Bias (Score:4, Insightful)

    by blackiner (2787381) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @04:45PM (#43540289)
    How about you guys actually think about it for more than five minutes?

    If making sure the video stream was encrypted was the big deal, it can just as easily be down with javascript. AES is not some mystical impossible to implement technology. The purpose of DRM in HTML5 serves only one purpose, to add a "black box" to websites. So how is this DRM actually implemented by the browsers? Who the hell knows. If it relies on software, then it will simply be cracked instantaneously. There will be no point to it. Firefox is open source, you can just recompile it to direct DRM streams into a file or something. If it instead redirects the DRM stream to hardware, well, then you are basically fucked. It will only work with certain computers/devices. You end up in a situation similar to websites requiring flash currently, where some sites simply don't work with your tablet or such.

    The implementation they seem to want is to have the browser redirect the DRM stream to a software blob that will decrypt it and do "something". God knows what. But it will work on most devices, provided they cross compile plugins. This is the same crappy situation as activeX, where you will are forced to install plugins where you have no idea or control over what they do. If you don't install them, entire pieces of websites will not work. And they will pop up EVERYWHERE.

    This is the worst possible outcome, there is a good reason people are fighting this.
  • Re:Bias (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MozeeToby (1163751) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @04:52PM (#43540369)

    Here's the thing. It takes one guy, anywhere in the world, to break DRM and post it somewhere. Does your DRM eventually decode to a format that a human being can see and hear? Then it will be broken. Someone will use audio/video capture devices if nothing else and all you've done is piss a bunch of people off. DRM for movies and music is fundamentally broken because at some point you've got to end up outputting all the information to the user (at least with SW it is theoretically possible to prevent unauthorized access).

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @04:56PM (#43540403)

    Nope. It will not work everywhere, it cannot.
    If the plugin was universal then there is nothing stopping us linux users from writing the output to a file instead of the display. That means the DRM would be useless. Instead it will need a CDM for windows to use protected path, one for whatever OSX uses and that will be that. Nothing else will get support.

  • Re:Bias (Score:5, Insightful)

    by silas_moeckel (234313) <[silas] [at] [dsminc-corp.com]> on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @05:02PM (#43540493) Homepage

    Big media cares about a lot more than copy protection. They care about reselling you the same content in multiple formats. They care about restricting where, when, and how long you can access content. They want to limit sharing of content. They want more rights than what copyright gives them for longer than the already insanely long copyright term They want to force there content to check in so they have an idea who and where somebody is accessing it. They want control over what operating system and what hardware you access the content on.

    DRM is not just copy protection it's a slew of rights the content owners that they never had before. Copy protection can be as simple as watermarking each copy sold, that gives them about what they had in the dead tree age. It's flawed sure but keeps the status quo.

    You have to realize that you can keep adding more and more security along the path but it just hampers lawful users. Today's best consumer DRM is still vulnerable to "simple" attacks like emulating a LCD display since that's after the HDCP decoder. Watermarking only gives you a good idea of who to sue not all the rest of the bits.

    As to HTML5 it should include a robust media streaming framework. That frameworks must be open. All the DRM systems I know of can not exist without some sort of secret that's obfuscated from the end system but still accessible, that's the antithesis of open.
     

  • This is easy... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gQuigs (913879) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @05:02PM (#43540495) Homepage

    DRM is bad.[1]
    HTML5 is good.
    If a bad thing is included in something good, that thing is still bad.
    Therefore, DRM in HTML5 is bad.

    [1] It should be obvious DRM is bad, but: https://www.eff.org/issues/drm [eff.org]

    In fact, Consumer oriented DRM should be illegal. It's an anti-competive anti-consumer dangerous practice. (I'm totally fine with the military using DRM to protect confidential information, etc).

  • by the_B0fh (208483) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @05:09PM (#43540555) Homepage

    Just so you can watch netflix, we ought to fuck over HTML5?

    No, fuck you and your overly endowed sense of entitlement.

  • Re:Bias (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kwerle (39371) <kurt@CircleW.org> on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @05:27PM (#43540707) Homepage Journal

    No, they don't. Web has been a major thorn in their side for many years. Big Media wants 100% control or they want it to die.

    That may or may not be, but netflix, amazon, hulu, apple, microsoft, google, etc disagree with you. I think all of 'em would love to ship you copyrighted data over a standard DRM'd channel supported by many browsers.

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @05:27PM (#43540709) Homepage

    The problem with that snark is that web based video streaming on a PC still sucks. It's a variation on the "Flash sucks" meme. Silverlight isn't much better. You're still going to be going about the task in the least efficient manner possible. You will need more machine than what's really necessary.

    This is why a $60 speciality appliance can manage the task better.

  • by AlphaWolf_HK (692722) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @05:46PM (#43540859)

    Eventually the content providers will just provide DRM free media anyways. Do you know why? For the same reason why they still allow content to be broadcast over the air DRM free:

    In spite of making threats that they wouldn't permit broadcasts of their media without a broadcast flag, none was ever implemented so they permitted it anyways because it was too lucrative to not do so.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @06:29PM (#43541255)

    There is no "movies without DRM" option available to the standards committee, sorry.

    You're mistaken and there's a standard which is over 20 years old. It works extremely well, better than HTML5 or Flash. It's called a "href" attribute of the "a" tag. I challenge you to put forth any movies-on-the-web solution which works half as well as that does.

    The reason we didn't just settle on that solution and move on, is that various parties decided they hated the standard, because the standard is too pro-user. It works too well. But don't pretend it doesn't work and isn't available. It's Netflix's fault they didn't use the right tool for he job, not the standard body's fault. You can make excuses and rationalize it if you want to, but at least lay this blame where it truly belongs.

    Actually, though it's rare, some people do use the standard. Louis CK's website uses the standard. And as a result, Amazon and iTunes ("technology" giants!) are relative usability nightmares, trivially one-upped in the tech game by a comedian. Louis CK is hilarious, but effortlessly beating the tech giants at delivering a bullet-proof web for-pay video site is especially hilarious.

    Seriously, go to the web site, pay the $5, and tell me Netflix isn't a totally anachronistic embarrassment next to that.

    The reason "DRM means I can watch Netflix" is that you didn't say "no" when you were supposed to. If you had abstained from Netflix, you might have modern tech today, and be wathcing your movies using that. Instead, you've got some bastardized proprietary software that nothing else can talk to, doesn't integrate with any other components, and whose feature list is made up of the dreams of the whole inter-- oops I mean -- the dreams of one single marketing department. Not even techies. Not movie-lovers. Just some group who makes decisions about what you're allowed to do.

    You can begin today, though. Just say no. Pirate until they open for real business, and throw your money at the few who actually deal in good faith and deliver the very best video products. LCK showed it can be done. Who else wants some money? Nobody? Ok, we'll keep our money for now. It's here and waiting for whoever uses the video standard: the "a" tag.

  • by LordLucless (582312) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @06:52PM (#43541457)

    Which is fine, because it mirrors the use to which it's being put. People used to display information on websites, now they run applications on them.

  • by lgw (121541) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @07:04PM (#43541525) Journal

    The legitimate technical goal of any standards committee is to describe what will happen in the field in such a way that anyone can interoperate. You have the power to be descriptive, but you lack the power to be proscriptive. The vendors will act in in their self interest, and if the common result is something that doesn't match the standard, you've written a bad standard. The W3C has a bad track record for doing exactly that, when compared to your typical ISO/ANSI technical standards committee.

    Here's an example of a good standard. In the early days of PCs, Shugart Associates had a nifty interconnect protocol: SASI. INCITS formed T10 to standardize it, and insisted the name be changed, and so it became SCSI. That change worked, because it conformed to the vendor preference not to use a standard named for a competitor (plus it's a basic rule of ANSI). Then Apple came along and did their own thing, making their own flavor of SCSI that wouldn't work with a standard device. Apple proceeded to dominate that market. The standards committee, lacking the arrogance of the W3C, and having the blessing of Apple revised the standard to conform with reality. They knew they couldn't force Apple to change, nor should they, so "SCSI 1b" was born. They changed to standard to conform to the preference of the dominant vendor, and SCSI went on to be one of the most successful technical standards in computing history.

    For the portion of HTML5 that relates to streaming video - DRM will be common. Netflix and company don't have a choice here. Ignoring that reality because you don't like it is just childish, and inappropriate for a standards committee.

  • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @07:44PM (#43541769) Journal

    Remember ICANN ?

    Remember ICANN's statement of interest when it first started ?

    Remember what ICANN told us back then, that is was for all the netizens ?

    It even opened its application to individuals --- I applied, and I even got a membership card mailed to me

    What has happened to ICANN is happening to W3C --- they have been co-opted because of BIG MONEY

    It's the BIG MONEY that they have sold their soul to --- to hell with the users, to hell with the netizens, to hell with the world

  • by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@NospAm.hotmail.com> on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @10:51PM (#43542853) Journal

    HTML is supposed to be platform agnostic. This is explicitly balkanizing it.

  • by Elixon (832904) on Thursday April 25, 2013 @10:46AM (#43546075) Homepage

    I can understand that gold has a real price. I can understand that a house has a real price... because they are scarce. That is why there will be real-world poor a rich people.

    Internet and the whole intellectual world was never meant to be driven by scarcity. The Internet was build to mitigate the real-world problems with duplicating resources. The Internet allows the main commodity - information - to be transferred, duplicated, created, shared... at virtually no cost. Internet is the attempt to create a world where there are no poor (speaking of knowledge) people but everybody share everything as much as possible for the good of mankind.

    The scarcity complex is artificially introduced to this unlimited e-world by companies who simply failed so far to find a new business model in a world where everybody is already rich with information - everybody are already fed with information. Where there is no hunger/demand there is no traditional business model. So lets make those information rich people become poor so they will hunger for information and then we can feed them for a price.

    Let's deny access to information using a copyrights, laws, DRMs... Let's artificially create once again information-rich and information-poor people because the existing real-world model proved to work so well.

"If that makes any sense to you, you have a big problem." -- C. Durance, Computer Science 234

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