HTML Usage Controls Draw Group’s Objection

     (CN) – A digital rights group has formally objected to the addition of usage controls in HTML5, claiming the move may stymie innovation and make web content inaccessible.
     The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed the objection Wednesday to a drafted charter from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). EFF is a member of the the consortium, which represents organizations, full-time staff and public working to develop Web standards.
     Including digital rights management, specifically encrypted media extensions, in the upcoming computer language would “hard-wire” the requirements of digital rights management vendors into the HTML standard, EFF claims.
     HTML, or hypertext markup language, is used to create webpages and display content online. A “stable recommendation” of HTML5, the fifth revision to the language, is slated for release in 2014.
     Usage controls limit how users can access a preset group of operations, including audio and video content.
     EFF claims that entertainment companies and digital rights management (DRM) vendors are embracing the addition to restrict users’ access to commercial content. At the root of the move, EFF says, is “Hollywood’s desire to suppress innovation and quash other wishes of individual computer owners.”
     “This is part of EFF’s long-running involvement in standards processes, fighting the entertainment companies and DRM vendors that want permanent control over disruptive technologies,” the foundation said in a statement.
     “DRM standards look like normal technical standards but turn out to have quite different qualities,” it added. “They fail to implement their stated intention – protecting media – while dragging in legal mandates that chill the speech of technologists, lock down technology, and violate property rights by seizing control of personal computers from their owners. Accepting EME [encrypted media extensions] could lead to other rightsholders demanding the same privileges as Hollywood, leading to a Web where images and pages cannot be saved or searched, ads cannot be blocked, and innovative new browsers cannot compete without explicit permission from big content companies.”
     EFF technologist Seth Schoen called the move “opposite of the fair use model that gave birth to the Web.”
     “The W3C needs to develop a policy regarding DRM and similar proposals, or risk having its own work and the future of the Web become buried in the demands of businesses that would rather it never existed in the first place,” Schoen said in a statement. “The EME proposal needs to be seen for what it is: a creation that will shut out open source developers and competition, throw away interoperability, and lock in legacy business models. This is the opposite of the fair use model that gave birth to the Web.”
     EFF says its objection represents its first act as a full member of WC3.
     It joined the consortium “to broaden the discussion of the consequences of accepting DRM-based proposals like EME for the future of the Web.”
     “This proposal stands apart from all other aspects of HTML standardization: it defines a new ‘black box’ for the entertainment industry, fenced off from control by the browser and end-user,” EFF International Director Danny O’Brien said in a statement. “While this plan might soothe Hollywood content providers who are scared of technological evolution, it could also create serious impediments to interoperability and access for all.”
     EFF suggested that W3C postpone work on usage controls until resolution of its objection.

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