The doublespeak is flying fast and furious in a ZDNet blog post in which Dr. Jeff Jaffe, CEO of web standards body W3C, explains that it is important to build support for DRM into HTML5. ZDNet paraphrases him as saying that “Web technologies need to support DRM-protected media to reduce the risk of parts of the web being walled off”.

The discussion is in regard to a proposal for “Encrypted Media Extensions” to build hooks for DRM right into HTML without needing plugins such as Flash or Silverlight. (We also brought this up last month.)

So, DRM, used by Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and others to build their own little walled gardens of locked-in content, is going to reduce the risk of “parts of the web being walled off”?

Yeah, right. Also, war is peace, weakness is strength…

What he means is that movie studios could remove their films from the web rather than risk them being pirated. This would be more believable if the current lack of HTML support for DRM had prevented Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Crunchyroll, and other streaming suppliers from doing a land office business. But guess what? It hasn’t.

As ZDNet admits:

The editors who drafted the initial EME spec are employees of Microsoft, Google and Netflix, and critics argue it is an attempt to elevate their business interests over the greater good of an open web where information can be shared freely.

So, no. No. Just no. No no no.

Remember back in the early 2000s when Hollywood wanted to lock out early adopters by forcing high-definition content to require HDCP DRM, which was only available over HDMI connections that the first super-expensive HDTVs didn’t have? One of the things they promised if it happened was that having the DRM in place would give them the freedom to try out all sorts of new pie-in-the-sky experimental HD bennies, like perhaps streaming movies in the home while they were still running in theaters, stuff like that. Well, they won, locking out early adopters from HD. But did any of those fancy bennies for consumers ever materialize? Nope. But they sure did kill the VCR dead.

If they want to play with DRM, let them do it the way they do now. We’ve got plenty of movies without HTML having DRM support built-in, and I don’t think any of those companies is going to remove them in a huff if EME fails. They like the money they’re already making too well to cut off their noses to spite their faces.

So, don’t let that camel poke his nose into our tent. I can’t see this benefiting anyone except the media-industry fatcats with deep pockets.


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