On July 6, 2017, Tim Berners-Lee, the di- rector of the World Wide Web Consor- tium (W3C), moved the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) to recommended sta- tus. Although this move was later ap- pealed and the final decision is on hold,
this felt like a good time to review the status of
EME as a replacement for plugin-based DRM.
Let’s Review: What Is EME?
Briefly, EME is an API that lets browsers and
other applications communicate directly with
digital rights management (DRM) systems, replacing the functionality that plugins like Flash
and Silverlight previously performed. While few
mourned the loss of plugins, this immediately
complicated the lives of publishers that distribute content to browsers.
That’s because in a plugin-based DRM world,
publishers could work with one DRM provider
to stream to all browser-based targets. Pub-
lishers that used Adobe Flash used Access (now
Primetime) DRM; those that chose Silverlight
However, once plugins were out of the picture, browser vendors had to incorporate one
or more DRM technologies directly into their
browsers. Predictably, Apple chose FairPlay,
Google chose Widevine, and Microsoft chose
PlayReady. Mozilla originally chose Primetime,
then also integrated Widevine into Firefox.
So with plugins, you could support all browsers with a single DRM. With EME, to distribute
protected content to Chrome, IE/Edge, and
Safari, you’d need to support three DRMs, not
only from a licensing perspective, but also from
an encoding and playback perspective. The licensing aspect is simple; the EME specification
easily supports multiple DRMS in the same
by Jan Ozer