The open web's guardians are acting like it's already dead

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Isn’t this a bit hysterical? I mean, maybe if you view the future of the web as

  • all videos


  • all copyrighted, DRM encumbered videos only

… am I missing something here? People can still post all the video they want in open formats to the web.

It seems this is about Netflix and other companies that can’t license video content unless they can prove to the copyright holders that they used protection to prevent that content from being freely copied…?


Up until the 1980s, the Bell system had an absolute monopoly, and look how much innovation we had. When the cost of copper threatened to actually bankrupt them, they invented multiplexing. And… um… there was the Princess phone.

The transistor was invented in the 1920s. Bell sat on it until the cost of electromechanical relays threatened to actually bankrupt them, but computers were still locked in data centers until the court broke their monopoly.

Are we setting ourselves up for another slow century?


I’m not particularly worried about DRM on videos. There are more videos without DRM online than I can possibly watch.

I’m annoyed by the degradation of the standards process as a whole, though. HTML5 is a moving target, but you still can’t consistently style an input[type=file] button without doing stupid nonstandard browser specific crap, so what good was it to not freeze the standard at some level and call it a version?


Thank you! This is just the latest in a series of posts that are written as if:

And realistically, the DRM we have today has not stopped hardly anyone from anything. Just made it somewhat more annoying, occasionally.


Well we all love to add more black boxes to our open source browsers right?

Oh yes, don’t examine that code too closely as that would be against the DMCA.

It should be good and secure as we are getting people like Adobe to write it.


green light to go forward with no safeguards whatsoever.

A little excitement in an otherwise dull day.

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And if you don’t want it in Firefox, just set media.eme.enabled to false in about:config. Not sure what to do in other browsers, since it already is in the major ones.

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Fair point, but as long as there is a kill switch in the browser to disable that black box completely – so the code cannot execute – I am actually OK with that.


Cory states:
“When you ask them why they’re doing this, they say that the companies are going to build technology that locks out new entrants no matter what they do, and by capitulating to them, at least there’s a chance of softening the control the giants will inevitably get.”

Speaking as someone from W3C, this is not actually what we say. We are a bit more nuanced and have a lot more hope for the future of the Web. We do not argue whether DRM is good or bad (most of us don’t like it at all) but rather ask: if DRM is going to exist on the Web (and it does exist and has for decades, e.g. Flash etc) isn’t it better to work in the open and help to mitigate the threats to the Web?

In a Factsheet we developed a few months ago we stated:
“We want a Web which is rich in content. We want a Web which is universal in that it can contain anything. If, in order to be able to access media like video on the Web, we are required to have some form of content protection we feel it is better for it to be discussed in the open at W3C. We feel it would be better for the technology to be in a browser and better for everyone to use an interoperable open standard.”

That factsheet has more background including some frequently asked questions like whether EME is putting DRM on the Web and why W3C got involved:

We love the Web, we don’t think it’s already dead, in fact, it’s more alive than ever and we’re working to make it as open and as full as we can.


Seems to me a likely scenario is that one way or another any such standard, even properly constructed with the best of intentions, will simply prove to be unwieldy or otherwise unworkable, much like so many other standards across history. And we’ll be back to crappy plugins.


Given the reality of where we are, this seems like a realistic and mature way to deal with DRM. Cory takes for granted that any DRM is an existential threat to the open web, but realistically it’s not going away, better to accept that fact and try to mitigate risks.


Yes. The post is about the change of priorities in the W3C. Not in the who it is helping or why, this first time.

Slippery slope, etc… is the point of the article as I see it. Hysterical is the leap to black and white responses to someone pointing out a problem they see.


To be fair there’s hyperbole and hysteria in Cory’s summary:

“Lock up the Web” is at best really confused, though it more looks flat out dishonest. EME is a media extension for a small set of media types, the Web is a vast amount more than that. “Betrays a belief” is conspiratorial paranoia.


If it’s good enough for Buzzfeed, it’s good enough for the Guardian I guess.

Standardized media extensions? That’s what you are worried about? How is establishing standards around media extensions going to make life worse for me?

He also said:

If other W3C standards worked like EME, there would have been no Mozilla.

I’d love to which standards he is talking about.

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we’ll be Huxleyed into the full Orwell

That is straight from @doctorow’s post from two years ago. I feel compelled to post the response I had made at the time: Please Bring Me More Of That Yummy DRM Discussion — Austening ourselves to the full Brontë.


let it go @nemomen it’s BoingBoingtown.


i’m against DRM and actively protest it, but if it is going to exist then i’d rather see it implemented in a standardized interoperable way and headed by the W3C. I’d even argue that this has the opposite effect of the one described in the article, it allows anyone to interact with protected content, even the new small players, instead of them being locked out by the big giants creating their own proprietary systems.

i think this is picking the wrong fight and alienating the wrong people.


It’s worse than Cory reports here. What is text, but a series of static video screens ?

Once EME becomes entrenched, I expect the use of widely readable plain text pages to start to be replaced with “protected” text content.

The newspaper industry will see this as the saviour they’ve been waiting for, the holy grail to make the users pay-to-read.

Mark my words, this isn’t just about video.

Variants of this argument have been around in some form for ten years now. I’ll believe it when I see it.