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Get that DRM off HMTL5

by on03 May 2013

Richard Stallman issues fatwa

Open Sauce guru Richard Stallman has issued a fatwa on the installation of DRM on the forthcoming HTML5 web standard. Writing in his bog, Stallman said that the World Wide Web consortium is considering a proposal to specify standards for HTML extensions to implement Digital Restrictions Management (DRM).

The idea is backed by Netflix, Microsoft, Google and the BBC, who Stallman is not exactly friendly with. He said that HTML was initially designed to describe the semantics of text and give control to the browser over how to present it. Since it became common for companies to have web sites, they have steered the development of HTML towards precise control over what the user sees and the behaviour of the page, he said.

While this has been arguably going in the wrong direction, but not an injustice until now, Stallman said. While the W3C cannot prevent companies from grafting DRM onto HTML, they do this through nonfree plug-ins such as Flash, and with nonfree Javascript code, thus showing that we need control over the Javascript code we run and over the C code we run.

But standardizing DRM would make it more convenient, in a very shallow sense. This could influence people who think only of short-term convenience to think of DRM as acceptable, which could in turn encourage more sites to use DRM. Stallman said that the arguments for standardizing DRM aim to avoid hypothetical minor inconveniences.

He once the world accepts the digital handcuffs of DRM, there is no reason to suppose they won't have back doors and spyware as well. "The W3C is now considering a proposal that would, for the first time, standardize a feature intended solely and explicitly for mistreatment of users," Stallman said.

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