BBC Supports Attempt to Sneak DRM into HTML5

February 18, 2013

By Duncan Geere via Wired UK

The BBC has been accused of ignoring its charter by supporting proposals to add digital rights management (DRM) technology into HTML.

The broadcaster, which has a requirement to serve the public interest and has long pledged a commitment to open standards, has supported the publication of the first draft of a method to limit what users are able to do in their web browser.

The Encrypted Media Extensions Proposal is a proposal to the W3C (the body responsible for web standards) written by Google, Microsoft and Netflix which would allow your browser to interact with “content encryption systems”. While it states at the top that “implementation of Digital Rights Management is not required for compliance with this specification”, it’s widely been read as a way for companies to lock down content — to stop your browser delivering a stream if it thinks you don’t have the right to view it.

In the BBC’s response, written by Andrew Livingston, the corporation says: “The BBC does not feel that the requirement for content protection on online streaming video will reduce in the foreseeable future. Therefore it supports efforts to standardise as many of the mechanisms as possible.”

It adds: “We will need to be able to enable or disable availability of some content based on the type of platform”, and “the BBC is unlikely to be able to use any such mechanism unless we feel that it is sufficiently secure that there would be the possibility of legal action in the event of bypassing it”.

In a blog post on Computer World, open source activist Glynn Moody wrote: “The BBC wants the power to order your computer to ignore your commands.” He asked: “How does the BBC justify using the money paid as a non-optional tax by me and my fellow licence-payers to lock us out from content that we have paid for?”

Cory Doctorow on BoingBoing added: “Naturally, this also requires a ban on free/open source software, because if your browser is open, you could just disable the “I can’t let you do that, Dave” program.”

You can read the full text of the proposal on the W3C website, and the BBC’s supporting statement in the W3C mailing list archives.

Photo: Zopeuse