20th July 2017 — Adrian Cochrane

Encrypted Media Extensions

The elephant in the room around web standards at the moment is EME (Encrypted Media Extensions), sold by Apple as “Premium HTML5 Video”. However “premium” implies the best artists will always demand DRM, which is outright false. It also refers to EME as a (W3C) standard, which I am not onboard with as it has a gaping hole in the specification - a hole they call CDMs (Content Decryption Modules). As such the only thing I agree with Apple’s branding on here is that it’s about online video.

Needless to say I do not agree this should have never been endorsed by TimBL (who essentially functions as the monarch of web standards) and I fully agree with the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s notice of appeal. I recommend you read it as it thoroughly takes down the arguments as to why this is a benefit to users.

However I can add a few more counter-arguments against those made with TimBL’s endorsement:

  1. It is incorrect to suggest CDMs can be implemented as Free Software, and is in fact one of the few programs which can’t. This is because Free Software is software fully controlled by the end-user, whereas CDMs (as a form of DRM) are software publishers can trust are controlled by them against the potential wishes of the end-user. Free Software is fundamentally opposed to CDMs and DRM (Digital Restriction Mechanisms), and it’s definition is carefully crafted to prevent these and similar threats to our freedom.
  2. The Web doesn’t need Hollywood films (particularly if they push this sort of nonsense). It’s perfectly acceptable to push DRM services like Netflix and Spotify to proprietary apps, because as argued by the EFF the cited benefits will not occur.
  3. It’s hard to see how integrating CDMs is any easier than integrating browser plugins like Flash and Silverlight.
  4. Hollywood should be embracing the future rather than fighting it with DRM, because there’s a good reason why Free Software is fundamentally opposed to DRM.

What should I do about it?

If Odysseus was built on my own browser engine, I would simply not implement it. However Odysseus is built on Apple’s WebKit which does implement EME.

The easiest way to disable EME would be simply to not ship any CDMs. Thankfully Debian is pretty strict about not letting any non-free software into their main operating system, so I can leave it to them to strip the CDMs out of WebKit. Ubuntu loosens this slightly by adding a “install proprietary software” checkbox to their installer (which elementary shares). I’m not sure what’ll happen when elementary ships their own installer.

What all this means for you is that if you don’t check that “install proprietary software” checkbox during installation, and maybe even if you do check it, sites using EME like Netflix will not work without non-straightforward setup. Furthermore I won’t make that setup any easier because I think it’s wrong of Netflix to ask this of you.

Furthermore the elementary HIG specifies that I should show you ways to populate the app with content when there’s nothing yet in it. For Odysseus this means I will make some sugestions of sites you should visit, and I will take that opportunity to introduce you to sites which do embrace the future.

@ 2017-07-20 01:52:37 +0000

Talk Page for EME — Odysseus Development Blog