Debunking the HTML5 DRM myths

Kyre sez, "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. There is also a new coalition of 27 internet freedom companies and groups standing up to the W3C."

Don’t let the myths fool you: the W3C’s plan for DRM in HTML5 is a betrayal to all Web users.


  1. Too many acronyms.  How is someone who is actually TRYING to follow theses issues and has a basic understanding, supposed to know what’s going on? Much less the average congress-critter? 

    1. When the intertron as you know it has become a thing of old you use to prove to the kids that there really were good old days that you lived in, maybe you’ll spare a thought for wading through acronyms then.

      As for the congress-critters, I’m stumped… what can you hope for with such a recalcitrant pack of sell-out motherfuckers?

      1.  I know, I know… I’m wading as fast as I can.  I need an acronym blender.  Do you have an Interrossiter I can borrow?

    2. Simply put, the “internet(s)” are merely the hardware, whether run through phone, cable or radio, that allow routers to talk to each other. The World Wide Web is the system of interlocking standards, legacy and updated, that allow those routers to understand each other. To deploy a imperfect analogy, the net is the vocal chords and the web is language. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is a standards organization that has as it’s mandate to make certain the web remains an open platform everyone can use by speaking the language. Injecting DRM into that is a complete and utter betrayal of the trust we the users have placed in them. It would be like the US government granting exclusive access rights to its courts.

      This is an attempt by the media elite (those who have the ears of the powerful) to do an end run around their consistently unpopular legislative attempts to break the web for anyone not using or paying for DRM, and instead corrupt the very framework on which the internet runs.

      In regards to Datavist’s suggestion that we all just move to a new standard…if only it were so easy. Darknets are called darknets for a reason. Part of the misunderstanding I’m sensing from Datavist and others is conflating the web with the net (and understandable misconception). The net is what Big Media is trying to grab corporate control over through Congress, specifically the part of it made up of US telecommunications systems.

      Alternatives are limited by geography and bandwidth.

      Wired internets rely on existing infrastructure that was so expensive to build that the regional telecom monopolies were given US tax dollars by Federal and State government to finance their construction, then were allowed to operate them as private businesses with little regulatory oversight. Local municipalities granted those same monopolies rights of way through existing earthworks such as water and phone lines, including rights of way that cross private property. A good analogy is the privately operated toll roads in my home city of Austin, which were partially financed by the same taxpayers who now must pay the owners to use them.

      Wireless internets are necessarily slower because they must share the same airspace regardless of signal direction, whereas wired internets are confined to the wires along their path. Wireless mesh networks are the closest thing to what Datavist asked about, but they are far less reliable and efficient than the wired counterparts run by large corporations with sweetheart government contracts. And even mesh nets have come under fire from the corporate oligarchs and their legislative lapdogs, because they’re the one medium of free mass communication they cannot shut down by fiat, and everyone knows free speech leads to massive copyright theft (#irony).

      Satellites, in addition to being hard to launch and even harder to get a permit for so they won’t get shot down and their operator’s locked up, are just a wee bit expensive themselves and subject to the bandwidth limitation, but more so.

      Big Media’s tireless attempts to subvert the internet and take control of it to satisfy their sense of kleptomaniac entitlement over what other people created and paid for is bad enough. And it has succeeded in varying degrees across Europe. But this back-door assault on the web is actually a lot more dangerous because it effects the whole world (hence the World Wide Web) and taking back control of the underlying technology will be a lot more difficult than the not easy task of repealing foolish laws written by lobbyists and passed by technically illiterate legislators.

      This is no joke, folks. Your freedom of speech is for sale. Stop the auction. The W3C ismember-governed by hundreds of organizations. Tell the W3C they must NOT hand special privileges over to Big Media. Tell the W3C that if they forsake the public they serve, they will betray the trust placed in them.

  2. I admit I know nothing about the underlying architecture of the net, but the beauty of said net is that doesn’t seem to stop anyone from opining on a topic.

    Here’s my opine. We discus the internet as if it is a single monolithic entity. I don’t know if it actually is anymore, but wouldn’t it be better if there were a number of different networks? It seems to me that we are going to be fighting an impossible battle against the corporate behemoths that rule our world. 

    That said, why not simply create another net that underlies their gated and controlled network? I’ve already done this in a poorly written novel of mine, so what is stopping the cybernerds from making it real? Again, I know nothing about how it all works. 

    The idea would be to let the neoliberal dickwads have their ironically ultra regulated internet where they can sell crap to morons (including myself), but that there are also other nets that coexist, that scratch other less conformist itches. 

    In my crappy book people belong to many different networks depending on affiliation, some are hard to access, others are open, some deal in niche interests and others simply facilitate local communication and integration.

    So again, my question is why not let these losers ruin one of humanity’s greatest creations, and then just keep making newer and better versions of it, keeping one step ahead of the reactive corporates?  

    1.  Exactly what I was thinking.

      I mean, we can do so many things for ourselves already, like grow our own food, make our own clothes, (some) electronics, there’s even bitcoin now – to replace banks.

      What’s the feasability? Would we have to put a satellite in orbit if we weren’t able to use the existing hardwire infrastructure?

      1. And then when the capitalist jizzbuckets discover our underground droneweb we can sell it to them for squillions and go and make another one, making sure to donate all the money so we don’t become our enemy. 

    2. I would love to have a techie answer this because I don’t know much about this either. But from what you said, if it’s possible, it makes too much damn sense. Corporations want ALL the internets!

      *insert pic of that ALL THE rage face since I’m too lazy to grab one*  

      1. If it makes that much sense, I am copywriting my idea and selling it to the highest bidder!

        In my non-tech imagination the web is biggerer and badderer than any crappy corporation and can’t be controlled by these uber-scrotes. 

        I thought the whole point was that it could survive nuclear armageddon because it was all distributed so how come we are letting a bunch of narrow minded douche factories are able to control it. 

        Let’s leave them with this old crappy version and head off onto a brave new server. 

  3. “device limitations, platform incompatibility, and non-transparency that were created by platforms like Flash” what a load of bollocks. Adobe made Flash open (read about the Open Screen Project) and actually developing with Flash was quite nice in that it worked much the same across platforms and did not require the additional debugging time that html5/js apps take tackling bugs across the multitude of platforms and browsers. There has been so much hype about html5 being the savior from Flash, yet Flash has always been more nimble and advanced than a standard decided by a consortium implementing new features at a glacial pace could ever hope to be. Much of the ‘cool’ javascript sites that only work in Chrome do things that were done with Flash years ago.
    I don’t develop for Flash anymore, there’s no longer a market. I am fluent in object oriented javascript as well as a number of other open source languages. But I still bristle every time I hear how awesome html5 is compared to Flash. It’s not. Flash was used in a lot of bad ways, but that doesn’t make the tool bad, just the application.

    Rant over – the rest of the post holds true. DRM has no place in HTML5. It’s a terrible idea.

    1. Those problems come from the fact that HTML5 isn’t yet a fully implimented standard yet. Some browsers have adopted some parts of it, some haven’t. But that doesn’t make HTML5 bad, it makes it unfinished.

      When browsers catch up and it truly is a standard you can do all the fancy things and have an easy time developing things as your ideas works across all browsers without the need to have the user download special plugins.
      Sure, now we’re stuck having to do everything twice, create fall backs, bug test across different browsers. But that will only get less and less as browser technology advances.
      Ofcourse when it all does just work, HTML6 will be around the corner and the cycle starts again. That’s just part of the job.

  4. Together with the plans of the German Telekom to throttle the DSL Speed for private power users after using 75GB traffic per month to 384 kbps, THIS makes the internet obsolete.

    1. Deutsche Tekekom is not the internet.  What they do has no effect on most of the world, nor does it affect the internet any more than my cell phone provider’s 2.5 GB monthly limit affects you.

      1. That’s probably true, because law proposals like SOPA would not affect me either.
        What I meant to say is that there are always forces who try to break the idea of the internet.
        I had not so much illusion that the future of the internet is for the public good. But it was a nice dream :).

  5. A typical W3C EME discussion goes like this:

    Paul Cotton ( Yay DRM Blah blah blah

    DRM Opposition: I don’t agree that this is valid, I express my distrust in the W3C process, I believe members are acting in bad faith.

    David Singer ( “you bring no credit on yourself and damage your cause when you accuse people who have been very patient and tried very hard to make sure you are heard and your concerns considered, as acting in bad faith.”

    Maciej Stachowiak ( “Please note that further violations of the guidelines may result in a time out from HTML WG mailing lists or even removal from the Working Group.”

    Etc. Etc.

    There’s dozens of these threads where W3C members like Fred Andrews, Ian Hickson and so forth are censured from expressing their non consent to EME. They are always censured by members from Apple, Microsoft, Netflix and Google. Which are the only members aruging Pro HTML DRM.

    The W3C HTML-MEDIA-WG is entirely controlled by corporates. It is no longer a valid WG and should not speak for the W3C.

  6. There’s not really much in the way of actual arguments, so it’s less of a debunking and more of a restatement of faith.

    From the FCF: “it’s already stunted the growth of the Web enough”.  Is this claim supposed to be self-evident?

    Generally the entire first clause is just unsupported assertions.  Supported by a quote of Hickson saying the same thing.  Turtles all of the way down.

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