Standardized Evil is no less Evil

Maybe you’ve heard about the proposal to include „Encrypted Media Extensions“ (EME) into the HTML5 standard. In short, EME would provide a standardized way to require an unspecified decryption module to play media streams on an HTML5 page, mainly for the purpose of DRM.

Those who want to sell it say DRM is short for Digital Rights Management, but a more appropriate translation is Digital Restrictions Management, because that’s what it is all about: Restricting things users can do with their devices. Imagine you’d buy a hammer, and the manufacturer could control which kinds of nails you can hit with it. If you wanted to use it as a doorstop, you’d have to buy an upgrade first, and if you should get funny ideas and try to lend it to a friend, the manufacturer could make the hammer stop working altogether and all nails would fall out of the wall (sounds stupid, yes, but the electronic equivalents have happened).

The point is: DRM is evil, and will only work if the user is not in control of their device. And this is where the idea of integrating support for DRM into an open standard is obviously stupid, because DRM is the opposite of open in any imaginable way. Most arguments in favor of EME go along the lines of “If we don’t integrate this, websites are going to keep using Flash!” I’m not going to argue in favor of Flash, which is both proprietary and about as bad of a security disaster as possible. But: What good is replacing one proprietary plugin (Flash) with another (some EME decryption module) going to do? That’s right, none!

If anyone were to benefit, that would be the DRM vendors, because they could use some of the HTML5 features to build their media players, which would probably be easier than doing it in Flash. And they’re the last I’d want to benefit, and if the W3C really wants an open web, they shouldn’t want that either. This is why the EME draft must be rejected without any replacement.

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