n s play the videos. The EFF is asking member com-
panies to agree not to sue potential competitors
under the DMCA for any attempt to circumvent
their DRM schemes. I asked W3C’s Le Hégaret
whether he thought such an agreement likely,
and he pointed out that “Several past attempts
in agreeing on a covenant within the W3C Mem-
At the end of the day, the EFF’s objections
feel like attacks on DRM itself, which they char-
acterize as follows ( go2sm.com/effdrm):
Corporations claim that DRM is neces-
sary to fight copyright infringement on-
line and keep consumers safe from virus-
es. But there’s no evidence that DRM helps
fight either of those. Instead DRM helps big
business stifle innovation and competition
by making it easy to quash ‘unauthorized’
uses of media and technology.
The EFF has fought DRM and EME from the
start, despite widespread industry acceptance.
Judging from Netflix’s 54% penetration rate
into U.S. households ( go2sm.com/varietynet
flix), most end users either don’t know about
DRM or don’t care. This doesn’t mean that the
EFF’s concerns are unfounded, it just means
that the commercial market, both supplier and
customer, has chosen to ignore them.
What Does the Appeal Mean?
The meaning of the appeal is unknown, but
it’s clear that the browser and publishing in-
dustries and W3C are on roughly parallel paths
that may or may not intersect. The W3C is in a
tricky position; if it makes EME too onerous, the
industry might simply ignore it. As Berners-
Lee stated in his “On EME in HTML5” post:
If the [W3C] made a Decree that there
would be No More DRM in fact nothing
would change. Because W3C does not have
any power to forbid anything. W3C is not
the US Congress, or WIPO [World Intellec-
tual Property Organization], or a court. It
would perhaps have shortened the debate.
But we would have been distracted from
important things which need thought and
action on other issues.
Berners-Lee is taking the practical position
that it’s better to find a reasonable consensus
position than to push for provisions that ma-
jor players are likely to find offensive—that a
spec considered flawed by some, but actually
followed by the industry, is better than a pure
spec that the industry ignores.
So, that’s the tempest in a teapot raging within the standards body. What’s particularly frustrating for actual users is that none of these
issues are resolving the significant implementation challenges imposed by EME.
What Major Challenges Does EME Create?
I spoke with Christopher Levy, CEO of DRM
provider BuyDRM, regarding how EME impacted content providers using DRM. He described two areas—technical complexity and
Regarding technical complexity—Before EME,
some customers could use a single DRM technology and set of encrypted files to serve the
bulk of their target users. For example, Smooth
Streaming content encrypted with PlayReady
could play on the Mac and Windows computers via the Silverlight plugin, and on iOS and
Android via apps. Smooth Streaming with PlayReady was also widely supported on OTT devices (excepting Apple TV, of course), smart TVs,
and gaming platforms.
According to Levy, today, many BuyDRM
customers have to produce three sets of files:
one in HLS format protected with FairPlay,
one in Smooth Streaming format with PlayReady for legacy devices, and a set of DASH
encoded files with EME and PlayReady and
Widevine DRM for browsers, OTT boxes, and
From a complexity perspective, content providers now need encoders than can package
and encrypt into three formats/DRMs rather
than one, and a player, players, or apps capable
of decrypting and playing these formats. From
a storage perspective, content publishers now
need to store three times the number of files at
the edge, which triples their storage costs.
What’s Available to
Minimize These Issues?
In the short term, Levy reports that many customers are packaging and encrypting on-the-fly
via servers like the Wowza Streaming Engine,
Nimble Streamer, or via BuyDRM’s own recently
announced KeyOS MultiPack Server (see Figure
2 on the next page). Multiple content delivery