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HTML5 Copyright Protection Proposals Branded “Unethical”

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Google, Microsoft and Netflix lend their support to DRM for HTML5

A number of companies have thrown their weight behind a move to bring digital rights management (DRM) to HTML5. provoking criticism from the developers of the standard who brand the idea “unethical”.

Google, Microsoft and Netflix are among the supporters of the Encrypted Media Extensions draft, which would add copyright protection to videos embedded in HTML5 pages. They hope this will encourage copyright owners to support the wider adoption of HTML5, and move on from the current practice of using plug-ins such as Adobe Flash, which support copyright enforcement.

Unethical proposal

The draft defines the framework for bringing DRM, or “protected media content” to HTML5. The absence of DRM is one reason for continued support of Adobe Flash despite widespread agreement that HTML5 will be superior. So far, content providers who want to switch to HTML5 have been unable to do so due to contractual agreements that require them to use a platform with DRM.

The proposals would not define any DRM schemes itself, but would add a set of API extensions for HTMLMediaElement, which would provide the necessary components. In short, it provides the possibility of DRM without necessarily implementing it.

While copyright holders will be pleased by the move, it has been branded “unethical” by the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG)’s HTML spec editor Ian Hickson. Mozilla is also hostile to the proposals, meaning that some revisions are going to be likely if it is ever to graduate from the draft stage.

A recent survey found that 75 percent of developers are using or plan to use HTML5 for app development, while Google has done its bit by releasing Swiffy, a tool which enables the conversion of Flash videos to HTML5.

Apple has long been a vocal critic of Flash and has disabled Flash support in its iOS devices. Adobe abandoned Mobile Flash last November, however many observers still feel there is still plenty of life in the platform, as evidenced by the desire of Apple users to view Flash content on their iPhones and iPads.

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