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Netflix Wants To Go HTML5, But Not Without DRM 394

Posted by timothy
from the nicht-ohne-meine-ketten dept.
FuzzNugget writes "In a recent blog post, Netflix details their plans to transition from Silverlight to HTML5, but with one caveat: HTML5 needs to include a built-in DRM scheme. With the W3C's proposed Encrypted Media Extensions, this may come to fruition. But what would we sacrificing in openness and the web as we know it? How will developers of open source browsers like Firefox respond to this?"
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Netflix Wants To Go HTML5, But Not Without DRM

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  • by squiggleslash (241428) on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @07:52AM (#43460213) Homepage Journal

    Netflix probably wants DRM too, FWIW. Remember their model is based upon people getting unlimited access to their library but paying by the month. If it were easy for their customers to simply download and save all the movies they're interested in over the space of a month, and then unsubscribe for a few months until the next time they see movies they're interested in, then the entire model would break down - less revenues received, and more money spent on bandwidth per month.

    I'm wondering, actually, if the long term solution is in things like Cinavia [wikipedia.org], which, in theory, implements enough of the "checking the license in hardware" that the system (or one evolved from it) could conceivably be built into PCs and tablets without preventing the transportation and decoding part of the process being open source.

    Of course, that wouldn't work today, it'd require the majority of monitors and tablets support the system to the point people find it difficult to get a device that doesn't have this built in, so it's not really going to work for Netflix today.

  • by shemyazaz (1494359) on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @08:08AM (#43460405)

    If it were easy for their customers to simply download and save all the movies they're interested in over the space of a month, and then unsubscribe for a few months until the next time they see movies they're interested in, then the entire model would break down - less revenues received, and more money spent on bandwidth per month.

    That theory is already debunked. If it were true, Netflix and all the other streaming services would have already failed. Since it is tremendously simple to just hop on over to TPB and grab whatever you want in whatever quality you want it in. People want to pay a reasonable price to have this stuff available legally.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @08:17AM (#43460511) Journal

    Netflix probably wants DRM too, FWIW. Remember their model is based upon people getting unlimited access to their library but paying by the month. If it were easy for their customers to simply download and save all the movies they're interested in over the space of a month, and then unsubscribe for a few months until the next time they see movies they're interested in, then the entire model would break down - less revenues received, and more money spent on bandwidth per month.

    The problem with that argument is that it's bullshit. If you look at the most popular lists on services like Netflix, they're full of new releases. I don't subscribe to a rental service just because they have a big catalogue, I subscribe to them because they have a big and growing catalogue. At any given time, my DVD rental list has a number of unreleased things, which are added to the main list as they are released. If I had infinite local storage and bandwidth, I could download everything that they had that I might want to watch today, and their service next month would still be valuable to me next month. On the other hand, the fact that I can't download 20 hours of their content today and watch it on a transatlantic flight or a long train journey means that it is less valuable than a DRM-free service would be.

  • by TWiTfan (2887093) on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @08:20AM (#43460525)

    Netflix also has a great UI, especially for TV episodes. It's a lot easier to deal with than trying to piecemeal together a bunch of pirated stuff. Well worth the $8 a month.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @08:20AM (#43460529) Journal

    You can, however, make it enough of a pain in the ass that most people won't bother.

    The problem is, it only takes one person to bother and release a nice GUI application that you point at the URL and then everyone can do it.

  • by AwaxSlashdot (600672) on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @08:20AM (#43460547) Homepage Journal

    "But what would we sacrificing in openness and the web as we know it?"

    Let's recap. The proposal for opened and standardized DRM method in HTML is just a bunch of callback and methods so a media content can say it has a protection and then the web browser can look up in its plugin repository if a DRM plugin can decrypt the content. The HTML part is 100% open and standardized. The actual DRM encryption and keys are not. Which is the point of any DRM scheme.

    So adding DRM support into HTML, as media play/pause/method already did, won't make the Web more closed or more proprietary. The opposite is true.
    Currently, media owner that choose to use protection for their content must rely on proprietary technologies. With a standard DRM framework (ie for distributing and handling protected content, not the part of decrypting it), at least, we could have much more openness on this kind of content.

    Now, adding DRM to HTML does NOT change the web. Should an actor decide to use those DRMs features, you are totally free to NOT use their services. But the thing for sure is that we will have much more actors ready to use standard and open functionality to distribute their content in a protected way.

  • Re:not much better (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ZephyrXero (750822) <zephyrxero@nOsPam.yahoo.com> on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @08:21AM (#43460557) Homepage Journal
    The point of DRM is not to give you absolutely no way to capture the content, but simply to make it difficult enough that the average person doesn't just right click and say save file to disk. It's like the lock on my front door. Do people know how to pick it? With enough effort can it be knocked down by brute force, sure. But most people will not attempt to open a locked door, so it serves it's purpose.
  • by SJHillman (1966756) on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @08:29AM (#43460653)

    I had to install the Netflix app to watch it on my phone or tablet. It won't stream to the web browser. Installing an app is little different from installing Silverlight... it's still one more thing to install.

  • Big deal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gravis777 (123605) on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @08:32AM (#43460685)

    I know that people are generally opposed to DRM - shoot, I am one of them, because half the time, it doesn't work right, but if the system works.... I bought an eInk reader a few months back, and actually tried buying books through them, but the books would only stay authorized for a few days - to get them to work again, I had to delete both the book and the sql database off the tablett and resync. CD checks on games are always a bitch, and internet-verification games - shoot, I almost always download cracks for them, even though I legally own them.

    But when DRM works fine - IE, I stick a DVD in my player and it plays, or I stick a Blu-Ray in and it plays, I am fine. Oh, upconverting only works over HDMI? No problem, I haven't run component in years (well, except for the XBox as I have one of the early models). What does annoy me is when you get a Blu-Ray that won't play on certain players (ie non-PS3s) until you apply some firmware update (actually, may have the issues with non-patched PS3s as well, but I normally keep it updated to stream Netflix).

    I have considered jailbreaking the PS3, though, to play region-locked discs. Luckily, many Blu-Rays are region-free, or are available in the US, but I have come across a few region B locked discs that don't have US releases.

    Had to replace an HDMI cable a few months ago because it was having handshake issues. Granted, HDMI cables are only a couple of bucks, but the only issue I had with this cable was that it would loose sync for about half-a-second every 30 minutes or so, didn't really even notice, until I moved and plugged that cable up to my Blu-Ray player instead of to the cable-box, and in my new area, then realizing that my new cable company DRMed everything, even free OTA channels.

    Netflix is currently the only streaming video app that seems to work on my rooted Android tablet (Time Warner Cable, Hulu, and Ultraviolet in Flixster won't work on rooted devices), not sure what streaming methodology they are using on Android, but willing to bet its not silverlight. As long as I can still use it on my tablett, I am fine.

    Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, so I am fine with DRM IF IT WORKS and is WELL IMPLEMENTED. I understand protecting your stuff, and I am a collector, so like to have Physical media in my hands anyways. But if I have authorization errors, handshake issues, and my legal media just doesn't work, I will break your DRM or pirate the product. I tried playing your game, but if you don't play nice....

    So, as long as the HTML5 DRM works, I am fine with it.

  • by progician (2451300) on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @08:37AM (#43460793) Homepage

    Inviting DRM in to standard browser tech is a sort of thing, that directly turn the internet to be more closed information system. For the moment, the reason that not all media provider goes with DRM is that DRM still loomes over the user and exclude a portion of the population, because it can't be done without user interaction. If user interaction won't be required any more we'll soon will see large migration to DRM scheme.

    The problem is that if content providers move en mass to DRM schemes, your choice is not simply not discard DRMed providers, but not to consume entertainment at all or install god-knows-what binary blobs on your system, forced to use software which you wouldn't normally buy or even trust, and so on. DRM scheme, along with many "invention" of the tech/entertainment industry is a fraudulent scheme, nothing else.

  • Re:NO (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SJHillman (1966756) on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @08:38AM (#43460805)

    I don't see DRM as "all or nothing". Lightweight, non-intrusive DRM isn't bad. Currently, Netflix's DRM only affects me by requiring me to have Silverlight installed... a minor nuisance for a majority of people that is usually forgotten once it's installed. Sure, there will also be some fringe cases where it prevents them from doing what they want, but the vast majority isn't bothered by it in the least. I also don't mind games that want to phone home once a month or so to verify the product key. I can accept the little stuff like this as protecting their business model... if someone wants to get around it, it's not difficult but it will keep most customers paying because it's not worth the hassle to them.

    However, super tight DRM, like the "always on" shit we're seeing with Diablo III and SimCity 5 is a major nuisance and will keep my dollars in my wallet.

  • Re:Not Netflix (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DragonWriter (970822) on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @08:38AM (#43460811)

    No you didn't fix it, you made it wrong. Netflix (not the studios) wants to go to HTML5 (the studios couldn't care less about HTML5 vs. Silverlight outside of DRM.) The studios won't licenses content to Netflix without Netflix using DRM, so Netflix also wants to continue to use DRM. (The studios are happy enough not selling to Netflix, since there are plenty of other streaming rental outlets that do use DRM, so if Netflix chooses not to, it hurts Netflix -- who loses content and, shortly afterward, customers -- but not so much the studios.)

  • by Uninvited Guest (237316) on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @08:43AM (#43460885)
    Netflix is facing some hard choices. With Microsoft abandoning Silverlight on its own sites, the writing is on the wall. I say, let Netflix demand anything it pleases, and ignore all such demands. Eventually, Netflix will have to switch from Silverlight to something, and HTML5 is the obvious choice. If Netflix can't get DRM in the standard, they'll still have to find a way to keep streaming using existing standards.
  • Re:Big deal (Score:3, Insightful)

    by progician (2451300) on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @09:00AM (#43461095) Homepage

    DRM doesn't work. It doesn't work because there's an already working technology, that is, downloading media files over the internet. DRM doesn't add anything to that. Media players, browsers, your display connector, etc. is in your possession, and is yours to use them in a way you like. DRM is a bunch of method to deprive you from that basic right. DRM doesn't add up to your service quality, at best(!) you don't notice. But even then, you need to have an equipment that is able to decode the DRM encryption, which would require better hardware, and more electricity spent. There's no harmless DRM in the world.

  • Re:If only (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `dnaltropnidad'> on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @09:29AM (#43461427) Homepage Journal

    Except managing data is a pain. most people would rather bot to a distributed like netflix, and just have what they want. no downloading, no managing, no worrying about format size depending on the player.

    Its a service.
    I could download everyone there is. I've been able to do that for well over a 2 decades. Since about 2008 it's been trivial to do.

    Yet iTunes sells billions of songs.

    The best solution turns out to be, surprise surprise, convenience.

    Making content HARD to find and view drives mainstream to piracy.
    People want to watch what they want to watch NOW.

  • No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by martin-boundary (547041) on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @09:41AM (#43461573)
    Yet again we discuss a short signted blog post pushing a corporate agenda. Repeat after me: DRM does not belong in HTML.

    HTML is a markup language that attempts to be cross platform and presentation agnostic, whereas DRM is all about controlling the user experience.

    1) DRM is not an actual type of media content, it's just a way of regulating access in time and space: It's like the bad old days when HTML designers were forcing us to browse their websites EXACTLY in 800x600 on a particular browser. Here you're supposed to have EXACTLY the right credentials from EXACTLY the right secure enviromnent. This is just as stupid. Today most people browse the web from a phone where even desktop style drop down menus from 5 years ago are a pain.

    2) DRM in HTML kills web pages: Documents and web pages are timeless. Any web page that exists today, if it is archived, can be displayed 10 years from now. But in 10 years, the DRM content will be impossible to read because either the authentication servers are gone, or your credentials no longer work, or the product has been discontinued, etc. Either way, a web page becomes corrupted for reading. Documents are archivable. Digital rights are not.

    3) DRM makes the Internet brittle: If you have DRM on lots of web pages, when it goes stale it's going to be like 404's without Google's page cache. Is that the web we want?

    4) DRM support has no business being part of HTML: The HTML standard is already a very complex language. Anyone who wants to implement a web browser or HTML parser has to support a lot of things. There's no reason why DRM should be supported as well, just to have a standards compliant HTML parsing system.

    5) The end result of 4) is that programmers and companies who must support HTML documents, as it gets more complex, won't implement the full standard, just the tiny bits they actually need. Then we'll be back in the 90s with incompatible browsers and parsers everywhere.

    6) DRM breaks transparency. For example, think about what it takes to implement a spam filter that parses HTML pages as in 4). With DRM content locking away parts of an HTML document, this breaks the security model. A random spam filter is obviously not going to have account access to view/scan whatever the content is, so either it lets it through (hello spammers/phishers) or it blocks it without trying (hello user complaints).

    7) If companies like Netflix want DRM, they should put it where it already belongs, at the server in the authentication part of the HTTP protocol. HTML is a document format for content, digital rights aren't content.

    8) Alternatively, Netflix can build a DRM plugin and require its users to use it. Oh but wait, with all the different browsers we're now using, that would be painful to support everywhere, right? Much better to ask the WHOLE WORLD to support DRM and keep it up to date, so that Netflix doesn't need to do anything! Wrong. DRM is sufficiently niche that those companies that want to use it should implement it themselves, and support it themselves. It's common sense.

    9) DRM is a business model, not a content markup. And as business models go, it's quite expensive to implement, since a single breach in the chain invalidates it and we all know that some hackers crack those chains just for fun. So it's natural that Netflix doesn't want to pay for it, and prefers to externalise the cost to the Internet at large. We shouldn't let it.

    10) I'm starting to repeat myself, so I'll stop now. Just say no to DRM in HTML.

  • by devent (1627873) on Tuesday April 16, 2013 @11:54AM (#43463389) Homepage

    Ah really? EME is not limited to video. [w3.org]
    I would argue that once EME is in place and is adopted by enough UA implementations then a new group will be formed: EME Extended. Also the same groups will push for it: Google, Microsoft, BBC, Netflix, and I guess many more, like Wall Street Journal, New York Times, etc.

    Then the W3C will declare it "in scope" and for the future of the open web. And all they done is replaced Flash and Silverlight with a new binary blob inside your browser, or worse, inside your property (i.e. your computer).

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