The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the organization that oversees most Web-based standards and specifications, has moved one step closer to voting on a proposal that would help companies implement anti-piracy digital rights management (DRM) in web browsers.
The proposal for Encrypted Media Extensions (EME), which would allow HTML5 video providers to enable DRM on their media being played within a browser, will head to the final review stage from the W3C's Advisory Committee. If approved, it will be granted a W3C Recommendation and likely become a new web standard.
Debate around the topic has been heated, as advocates have argued the new standard would simplify and integrate DRM material into the web experience while opponents fear it will encourage more protected content and may pose a security risk.
Tim Berners-Lee, the director of the W3C and the inventor of many of the standards that make the web run, has voiced his support for the measure. The legendary computer scientist has argued that DRM is already a part of web content, especially video, and it is better to make it easier for that content to be handled than to try to convince companies to put their content online without protections.
Those who get most of their content through their web browser are already dealing with forms of DRM, likely without recognizing it. When a site like Netflix or Hulu asks a user to update Microsoft Silverlight or Adobe Flash, it’s using those platforms to implement DRM.
The EME proposal, which has been backed by companies like Netflix and Microsoft, would make that process much more seamless. Instead of requiring standalone applications and third-party DRM, everything would be built directly into the browser itself.
While EME would make navigating DRM more convenient for the end user, it does come with its fair share of trade offs. Principally among them is the fact that many oppose the very concept of DRM as a means of restricting access to content, even for legitimate purposes like fair use and backups.
Some—including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which signed on to a letter opposing the proposal —fear the standardization of DRM will encourage further steps toward locking down content so it can only be used in a manner dictated by the content provider.
The W3C Advisory Committee will have until April 13 to review the proposal for EME, at which point it will decide if it will provide a full recommendation or send the concept back to the drawing board for further improvement.