HTML5 and Video: Will there be a standard DRM?

Jan 24, 2014
Dario Mora

Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a technology that enables digital content creators to control how and who has access to their products. Ideally the DRM is completely transparent to the user.

DRM typically has three objectives: to establish copyright for a particular content, to manage the distribution of that content, and to control what the consumer does with that content once it has been distributed.

One of the deficiencies that HTML5 has is a lack of a standard DRM system. Google, Microsoft, Netflix haves made a proposal to include DRM in HTML5.1.

W3C published a draft1 for Encrypted Media Extensions (EME), a platform that would allow the use of DRM directly into HTML5. The standard does not make a DRM itself to decide who can view or copy a video, but provides a standard mechanism that allows the browser to call a plug-in (developed by others) that will handle the job. EME allows using the sites without the additional plug-ins for DRM video playback, which is a benefit for the users.

For Example:

Netflix is a popular on-demand video streaming with DRM, however, Linux is not supported because Netflix2 use Silverlight to deliver a video streaming, and Silverlight is only officially available in Windows and OS X.

W3C’s Encrypted Media Extensions draft says:
“HTML5 doesn't provide direct support, nor any barrier, to using DRM in video. It currently expects this to be handled by the particular codec/implementation. There are implementations which allow for DRM in HTML5 video.” 4

DRM Browser Support

BrowserDRM Support

Firefox 26No

Chrome 31No (Will have in the future)

Internet Explorer 11Yes

Source: http://html5test.com/

Current DRM Solutions

Adobe Access (Adobe)

Supports delivery using dynamic adaptive HTTP streaming (HDS) to Flash and Air based players as well as to IOS & Android apps.3

Microsoft PlayReady (Microsoft)

Microsoft’s PlayReady DRM is a robust DRM solution providing cross platform and device capabilities to desktop, mobile and connected devices.3

Widevine DRM (Google)

A number of third party integrators including Encoding.com do offer custom Widevine implementations to customers and Limelight have a Widevine solution as part of their broader CDN offering.3


In conclusion, there is a lot of discussion about if DRM should be included or not in HTML5, the proposal is still in the stage of "draft", but has a strong support to be included. However any agreement will take time to be reached, and if a consensus is not reached, it is likely that each browser will implement its own separate system. This may mean, that each solution will not be available on all platforms, leaving a significant number of devices without access to video content.

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References:

  1. https://dvcs.w3.org/hg/html-media/raw-file/tip/encrypted-media/encrypted-media.html
  2. https://support.netflix.com/en/node/6597
  3. http://www.stylefoundry.co.uk/blog/2013/11/06/the-state-of-drm-and-online-video.html
  4. http://www.w3.org/html/wiki/FAQs

Image courtesy of popturfdotcom via Flickr Creative Commons (some cropping applied)