DRM now on the Web

If you watch television or videos streamed on the web then the chances are that the content that you watch has been protected by some form of Digital Rights Management. Next time you’re watching something on iPlayer or LoveFilm try this:

Right click on the video playing in the browser window (on a Mac you can use a two-finger click on the track pad) and look to see what’s being used to play the video.

Here’s an example. I’m watching the new BBC series of The Apprentice and you can see below that Adobe Flash is being used to play the video.


Using Flash to play DRM protected video in Google Chrome on an Apple Mac

Using Flash to play DRM protected video in Google Chrome on an Apple Mac

Try the same thing with Amazon’s LoveFilm and you’ll notice that Microsoft Silverlight is being used.

Now, since we know that HTML 5 supports video, and we know that the Google Chrome browser I’m using also supports video, why is the page using Flash to play it?

The answer comes from what we were looking at in class last week. Many publishers protect the content they make available to us using different forms of copy protection. In this case, they are using the DRM capabilities in Adobe’s Flash (or Microsoft Silverlight) to protect the video content and to make sure that it can’t be copied or used for other purposes.

HTML5 doesn’t support DRM and so, even though modern web browsers are capable of supporting video without using plug-ins like Flash or Silverlight, publishers continued to use plug-ins to protect their content.

However, the organisation that sets the standards that are used on the web (known as W3C) just published ideas for how DRM could be used in browsers. Ars Technica has the details in an article on their web site.

Having DRM built into the web could make it easier for publishers to publish video and for consumers to watch. But some people are very unhappy about what they see as something that could prevent anyone building products that support all of the web standards in the future.

Read the article and you decide.


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