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Google, Microsoft, Netflix want encrypted HTML5 media spec

updated 04:20 pm EST, Thu February 23, 2012

HTML5 may get pseudo DRM with proposal

Google, Microsoft, and Netflix have put forward a proposal that could add a level of copy protection to HTML5 audio and video. Encrypted Media Extensions would let apps on the web and elsewhere use keys to control who has access to a given media stream. It would allow any format that would work in HTML5 as long as the format itself can support some kind of key or bit.

If implemented, it could eliminate objections raised by Adobe as well as content providers regarding HTML5's limits. Paid movie services and others that want a secure stream have either limited HTML5 to native mobile apps, where users can't easily rip the feed, or avoided it altogether. Netflix would have the option of dropping Microsoft's Silverlight plugin when on the web, while Google could skip Flash for its YouTube-based movie service in Android Market. Microsoft has been deprecating Silverlight and could use HTML5 even on the Xbox 360.

Concerns exist both on technical and philosophical levels. It may not necessarily provide the promised experience in at least the initial spec and could require revision. Despite promising to keep digital rights management out of HTML5, the trio have also raised alerts from Mozilla and others concerned it would break standards and force a less than ideal concern that might hurt some HTML5 supporters.

The World Wide Web Consortium, which has to consider the proposal, hasn't said when it might decide. As an unofficial draft, it could spend some time being completed before the question of approval and possible implementation comes up.

By Electronista Staff


  1. Flying Meat

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Jan 2007


    That's just dumb.

    The presumption is that you need to present copy protected media in a browser window?
    I don't get it. Turn the task over to the local media player. Put whatever craptacular requirements there, not on html.

  1. iphonerulez

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Nov 2008


    Wouldn't it be relatively

    easy to strip the copy protection part out of a stand-alone player, but a lot harder to break the HTML5 protection layer. I honestly don't want to see HTML5 get messed up but I know for certain that there has to be some sort of secure way to transport media content streams from being stolen. Flash did offer media content providers that protection so HTML5 should be able to provide an alternative solution.

  1. jwdsail

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jun 2000


    do not want

    'nuf said

  1. Makosuke

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001


    Bad But Advantageous

    I don't like the idea of a copy protection bit built into HTML5 any more than the next cyber-libertarian/hippie, but the fact is that it's either this or Flash. Given that choice, I'll take this.

    Thing is, for better or worse, the companies that have the fancy media aren't going to let it get streamed without some sort of feel-good copy protection layer. Whether it's useful or not is irrelevant--it's a psychological hurdle for the people at or near the top that would only have a chance at being removed when today's 20-somethings are running Universal or Sony Pictures or NBC. That's going to be for a while.

    In the mean time, I'm willing to exchange an encryption bit--which, who knows, could actually be spun into a layer of security on top of https for some less-oligarchic use--for getting rid of plugins (Flash in particular) once and for all.

    The alternative, of course, is to just build a native player. Heck, Adobe could even modify their Air framework to just be for downloadable apps that take the place of what Flash is doing now. Which I'd probably accept, but there's some real marketing leverage behind having the video stream right in the browser.

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001



    If apple was proposing it, we'd all find reasons why it was important, I'm sure.

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