back to article Sir Tim Berners-Lee refuses to be King Canute, approves DRM as Web standard

Sir Tim Berners-Lee has controversially decided to back the introduction of digital rights management – aka anti-piracy and anti-copying mechanisms – as a Web standard. Writing in a blog post last week, the director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) argued that to stand in the way of the new Encrypted Media Extensions ( …

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Another evil

While the arguments about the need for interoperable DRM will run and run, one outstanding issue with a more universal DRM is the opportunity for advertisers to track your browser use via the DRM serial number/reporting mechanism. All they need is one little DRM-enabled bit on a page and there is a method to find out uniquely who visited.

Google being involved makes me fear the worst...

Sir Tim has a point, but the reality is DRM ought to have certain standards of interoperability and ethics about what is revealed before it comes in to use. For now you would need a plug-in for Firefox, but if it comes with Chrome/(IE|Edge) who is going to bet on always-on and always-reporting?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Another evil

Cnut.

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Re: Another evil

well, after ad blocking, cookie blocking and script blocking addon, we will simply have drm blocking addon

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Re: Another evil

fearing the worst that you will get caught infringing copyright? Errm, then pay for your content??..

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Alien

Re: Another evil

Just the eb and flow of control. Remember when Satellite signals were "free"? Control of content and owners copyright income raises its head and opens your pocket book with every new communications system. My 900 videos on YouTube are by using the service owned by alphabet and eventually I'll need to pay to see them. If control can happen, it will happen. Gotta keep theses dividends flowing, eh!

PHYSICAL OWNERSHIP WINS.

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Any Restriction Placed on the Internet

Is censorship that WILL be abused.

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Re: Any Restriction Placed on the Internet

It's also, as Sir Berners-Lee notes, inevitable due to simple realities. The content providers can withhold and stick to the classic models; people still pay bookoo bucks to sit down at cinemas, and so on. People come to them, not the other way around. So unless you want to abandon the Internet, you better hunker down. If it isn't EME, it'll be something else completely proprietary but, because it's the only show in town, accepted.

PS. Thumbing down that simple fact isn't going to make it any less true. Their content, their rules. Take it or leave it.

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Re: Any Restriction Placed on the Internet

"If it isn't EME, it'll be something else..."

Exactly. So it's better for it to be an open standard than something produced by a closed club or a single monopolist. Sad but true, so TimBL was right.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Any Restriction Placed on the Internet

I'd prefer it if we kicked "content providers" off the web.

They can all F off to some app store ghetto.

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Re: Any Restriction Placed on the Internet

Charles 9: "Their content, their rules. Take it or leave it.

My browser, my PC, my money. So... leave it. Definitely. Obviously. Content distributors need us a lot more than we need them. We need the open Internet, and control over our own PCs, WAY more than we need their paid content.

DRM intrinsically needs to be closed and proprietary, and that sucks. There's no logic in weakening open standards just to make DRM suck less. DRM is - by definition - a way of making your device, your software, work against you. That's always going to suck.

The right way to distribute DRM content (if you must) is through a proprietary app, and preferably a dedicated, airgapped device that can only do that one thing. Not in a generic Web browser that wants to be an integral part of my system.

The chief impact of EME will be to force people like me, who have zero interest in watching paid 4K video content in our Web browser, and who never install Flash, to run a Web browser that's capable of watching paid 4K video content - by virtue of incorporating malware-like DRM hooks. A secondary effect will be to help sanitize and validate the concept of DRM, and encourage every Web site on Earth to start encrypting its HTML content.

Where do we see any upside to this? Nobody has even suggested any way EME will make anything simpler, easier or cheaper for users. The pitch just boils down to: we have to do this, because otherwise those mean old movie makers will get mad with us. Well, screw 'em. If they want to get mad with their own customers, they can go ahead. Whoever replaces them will know better.

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@ Charles 9

*cough*

"Beaucoup"

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Re: Any Restriction Placed on the Internet

> The content providers can withhold and stick to the classic models; people still pay bookoo bucks to sit down at cinemas, and so on. People come to them, not the other way around.

Not that I necessarily disagree with you, but would this be the same set of content providers who've been screaming bloody murder that people aren't coming to them, and instead pirating content?

It's true that people go to the content providers, but if they're to be believed, fewer and fewer people are actually doing so. In fact, it seems like the more they push down DRM sort of routes, the more they manage to piss people off enough for them to sit down and work out how to bypass it.

> Their content, their rules. Take it or leave it.

As with others, I'll leave it thanks. I'm more than happy to pay for content, but DRM isn't something that should be supported, so I'll withhold my contribution to their funding and will hold out on the hope that it continues to be possible to disable EME in the browser's settings.

I've ostensibly failed to watch legal content in the past because the provider has stuck something broken or incompatible in the way to "protect" the content I've just paid for.

The long-term effect is that I don't go back there, but the short-term effect is often that I'll sit and look hard at their mechanism to work out how to bypass it and get the content I've just paid to watch. I'm pretty bloody-minded when I'm pissed off, and 9/10 times, once I've figured out their protection I could quite easily watch their content for free thereafter (though don't).

Ultimately, it may well prove to be just the same with EME, they'll piss someone off enough, and the "standardised" DRM will be broken and off no more protection than they have now. We'll effectively be back to where we are now, but with an additional nasty binary lump in the browsers for no good reason.

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Re: Any Restriction Placed on the Internet

I'm with Tim on this one. If DRM isn't a web standard, content providers will simply continue to use Flash or Silverlight.

"This application requires Silverlight"

Installs

Two days later

"Your version of Silverlight is out of date"

Updates

"Your version of Silverlight is out of date"

Uninstalls the entire plugin and reinstalls from scratch

"Silverlight not detected. Please install Silverlight"

*Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu*

I would much rather simply know that Firefox (for instance) doesn't have EME built in at all (and use that for day-to-day browsing in the knowledge that Paul Crawford's feared bits of embedded DRM can't be used for user tracking), and then have Chrome on the side for watching whatever (which is what I do anyway, because I'm not installed Flash or Silverlight into my day-to-day Firefox install).

I would contend it's better as an open standard that can be nixed with a uBlock equivalent where necessary than a closed blob of Flash or Silverlight.

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Re: Any Restriction Placed on the Internet

Several things come to mind

a) Tracking, this to me is really about tracking who is watching what and being able to find you

b) I get really fed up with office these days and its continual 'this excel is locked so you can't print it' , 'this word is locked from editing click here to edit it' bull. This drm is going to make that stuff even worse

c) Ultimately signals come out to a screen, the screen at some point inside converts the signal to dots on a screen, I refuse to believe that it is truly impossible to rig up some hardware to listen to that signal and turn it into a format you could share for free. EVEN if drm content is not allowed out on the vga port or similar. d) What about all of us who still have cranky old machines without the restrictive hardware / hardware identifiers or whatever it is they decide to use, are they really looking to block us from watching content? I suspect so in which case the idea gets even worse.

If I am honest the film/music industry have spent decades trying to stop people copying their stuff (remember back in the 70's they put extra noise on records and tapes to stop you copying them and people invented filters for that to carry on...) , this is just another gasp at that. Perhaps what is really needed is a different thought process... how can we make our stuff cheap enough and desired enough, the delivery system simple enough that people just come to us instead of elsewhere? Rather than trying to pull content off youtube set up a rival system that makes it easier to find what you need, doesnt add adverts all over the film etc.? I buy DVDs from time to time so I have the content when I want it, but I get really really really fed up with the half an hour of out of date adverts for other films I dont want and the anti piracy bullshit I can't skip over... if I bought your damned dvd there is no need to tell me not to buy a pirate copy is there????

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Re: Any Restriction Placed on the Internet

"c) Ultimately signals come out to a screen, the screen at some point inside converts the signal to dots on a screen, I refuse to believe that it is truly impossible to rig up some hardware to listen to that signal and turn it into a format you could share for free"

Have you never heard of a video camera? There's nothing they can do about it. The analogue hole is still as wide open now as it ever was and until they can figure out a way of beaming content directly into our brains bypassing our eyes and ears its not going anywhere. Sure, you won't get HD quality output when videoing a screen but it'll be good enough and with with modern high refresh rate LCD screens you don't need to worry about the flicker and tearing you got when videoing a CRT.

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Re: Any Restriction Placed on the Internet

They said the same thing about photocopying bank notes. Guess what? They found a way through watermarking and then mandating detectors into the printing (or in the video case, encoder chip) logic.

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Devil

Re: Any Restriction Placed on the Internet

DRM has many problems:

1) It adds extra cost to consumer (HDCP on HDMI)

2) It can fail where a authentication server is needed (Adobe ePub extensions or Plays for Sure etc)

3) It ultimately is contrary to properly implemented copyright laws based on Berne convention

4) Usually it doesn't stop professional pirates and makes life awkward to users.

5) It blocks innovation, entry of new hardware, software, operating systems etc. Benefits largest suppliers of end user SW/HW

There are other problems too. Basically unlike copyright or patents which can be implemented properly, DRM is simply coercive and evil. It's often misused to achieve other ends than copyright enforcement.

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Re: you won't get HD quality output when videoing a screen

Actually you can. It's not hard at all.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Any Restriction Placed on the Internet

Problem is, so much piracy means honest users are paying more than they should for legally obtained content..

Yes, I pay for content, and I hate freetards stealing stuff, it no doubt costs me money. If DRM means every has to pay, than it content gets cheaper for everyone, and the wheel starts spinning the right way again, not the wrong way.

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Re: Any Restriction Placed on the Internet

I think TBL's view is that we can all share the one Web - that's why he called it *The* World Wide Web. He has often appealed to people not to fork or partition the Web. If some people want to watch paid-for material, and submit to the necessary DRM, fine - as long as they don't screw up the Web for the rest of us.

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Re: Any Restriction Placed on the Internet

"They said the same thing about photocopying bank notes. Guess what? They found a way through watermarking and then mandating detectors into the printing (or in the video case, encoder chip) logic."

Sure, if you're going to try and sell the videos then that'll be an issue. But if they're simply to keep for home consumption then there's no problem.

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And will this DRM realise its been run in a VM and is a chocolate teapot?

Closing the barn door after the horse has been teleported direct from its stall.

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Re: And will this DRM realise its been run in a VM and is a chocolate teapot?

Yes, actually. Malware can tell using timing attacks and so on. DRM systems can do the same, and there's really no way to prevent them, say, doing time trials and using external time servers (which you can't block) to figure out if they're in a VM or not.

Why do you think 4K BluRay players are so strict? They know all the tricks and are working extremely hard to keep all those doors closed. PCs aren't allowed to touch the stuff, only set top boxes, and those are encrypted up the wazoo, including using new DHCP keys (some even require online registration).

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Re: And will this DRM realise its been run in a VM and is a chocolate teapot?

And yet most bluray/4k stuff appears on torrent site in no time.

That is the thing about DRM, generally it serves to piss of honest consumers and does not stop anyone really wanting to pirate.

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Re: And will this DRM realise its been run in a VM and is a chocolate teapot?

But I bet you they're NOT coming from BluRay rips, though. And I think many of them aren't real 4Ks but upscaled 1080s passing off as 4Ks. Plus some of those copies are supposed to be watermarked.

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Re: And will this DRM realise its been run in a VM and is a chocolate teapot?

Companies like RedFox sell bluray ripping software. Not tried it as I don't have any need for it, but it seems the goal of DRM there has been comprehensibly broken. No mention of 4k capabilities though.

Sadly windows only.

Edited to add, here is a link about 4k ripping from Nov 2015:

https://torrentfreak.com/pirates-can-now-rip-4k-content-from-netflix-and-amazon-151127/

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Unhappy

Re: And will this DRM realise its been run in a VM and is a chocolate teapot?

"That is the thing about DRM, generally it serves to piss of honest consumers and does not stop anyone really wanting to pirate."

That's because they ARE after "the little guy". Think about some of the fascist DRM actions (in the form of lawsuits) have been [ab]used in the past. And now their strategy is transparent.

Seriously, though, flash had way too many serious problems to be taken seriously, and its tech is way behind the times by now. What I *fear* is the inclusion of some closed-source requirement, SUCH AS not being able to run on Linux with an open source video driver (or on an X11-based GUI system at ALL).

And no, Wayland won't fix it. It would only become PART OF THE PROBLEM.

[this goes along with "you must use this browser" and oh by the way, Windows-only, worse if it's Win-10-nic only]

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Devil

Re: And will this DRM realise its been run in a VM and is a chocolate teapot?

"Companies like RedFox sell bluray ripping software"

Who needs software, when you can do it with HARDWARE? Anyone _not_ heard of a cable 'T' for HDMI and/or component video? Plug THAT into your TV, then use a video ripper off of the 'T'. There are legit uses for such a device (such as a DVR device for watching shows from a converter output) as well as the potential for pirating stuff.

Seriously, existing laws should be fine. It's illegal to copy the content and distribute it to others. FAIR USE FOR YOURSELF however needs to be respected, too.

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Re: And will this DRM realise its been run in a VM and is a chocolate teapot?

They don't work with 4K discs because they use HDCP 2.0, which uses different keys and IINM forbids the use of splitters.

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Re: And will this DRM realise its been run in a VM and is a chocolate teapot?

You would lose the bet. No DRM has ever worked. Blue ray in particular was broken even before the standard was fully implemented (google advanced access control system).

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Re: And will this DRM realise its been run in a VM and is a chocolate teapot?

Except this time BluRay players can ONLY be set-top boxes AND they REQUIRE the use of encrypted host processors. Based on what I've seen in the smartphone front, encrypted OS images HAVE NOT been cracked (the keys are stored on the processors themselves and contain suicide circuits and the like, think FIPS-compliant crypto modules), and they use government-standard encryption algorithms which means if they can find a way to crack them, they'd have a lot bigger fish to fry.

IOW, this time they've done their homework. The video streams are never presented on the wires in a decrypted format until they reach the actual screens (HDCP 2.0 mandates this IINM), by which time the data is too large (raw pixels) to capture in a lossless way.

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Re: And will this DRM realise its been run in a VM and is a chocolate teapot?

Except this time BluRay players can ONLY be set-top boxes AND they REQUIRE the use of encrypted host processors. Based on what I've seen in the smartphone front, encrypted OS images HAVE NOT been cracked (the keys are stored on the processors themselves and contain suicide circuits and the like, think FIPS-compliant crypto modules), and they use government-standard encryption algorithms

Is it just me that looks at this and wonders why humanity has been wasting such effort on the media companies? It's an impressive setup, but feels like overkill for what it's actually protecting.

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Re: And will this DRM realise its been run in a VM and is a chocolate teapot?

"They don't work with 4K discs because they use HDCP 2.0, which uses different keys and IINM forbids the use of splitters."

And yet this device offers HRDCP 2.2 splitting:

https://www.hdfury.com/shop/splitters/integral-4k60-444-600mhz/

(Cheaper than replacing an older 4K TV that lacks 2.2)

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Re: And will this DRM realise its been run in a VM and is a chocolate teapot?

First, it's a TRANS-crypter, so the output is still encrypted.

Second, you need an HDMI 2.0-level output (which means HDCP-2.0+) to still receive 4K above film rate. Otherwise, it's downscaled (1.4 only has support for 4K at film rate). So you still have the same problem. Also, compared to 2.2, 2.0 is lossy (4:4:4 to 4:2:0). Plus they may block 1.4 down-conversion for protection reasons, only allowing 4K at 2.0 and up.

Third, have you seen the price tag?

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Re: And will this DRM realise its been run in a VM and is a chocolate teapot?

Point camera on tripod in dark room at 4K screen.

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Re: And will this DRM realise its been run in a VM and is a chocolate teapot?

"Is it just me that looks at this and wonders why humanity has been wasting such effort on the media companies? It's an impressive setup, but feels like overkill for what it's actually protecting."

It's protecting money, innit?

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Re: And will this DRM realise its been run in a VM and is a chocolate teapot?

Yes, but you can see their point of view, can't you? As has often been observed, everyone wants to satisfy their needs and wants, preferably with as little effort as possible, and ripping off other people is a good way of doing that.

So you set up a big company with a huge skyscraper HQ with marble halls and fig trees (oh sorry, that's the MPs' offices I'm thinking of).

Then you find one set of mugs - commonly known as "artist(e)s" - and persuade them to sign their valuable work over to you for a small consideration.

And you find another, much larger set of mugs - commonly known as "consumers" - and persuade them to pay (preferably a regular subscription, whether they use it or not) to enjoy the material the artists created.

Then you sit back in your $5,000 leather reclining office chair, put your feet up on your mahogany desk, light a cigar, sip your champagne, and enjoy the sweet smell of PROFIT!

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Get the MPAA and RIAA DRM out of our tv equipment (HDMI/HDCP) and stop it getting baked in to the internals of our browsers.

The media companies should be able to utilise the peoples internet but not shape it to become their own content delivery content network where they have control over who can play what and where along with what websites can be seen at their behest.

Seriously, screw the media cartels. It's bad enough that they manipulate governments to do their bidding as well as ISP's with vested interests. Now the internet creator and bastion of freedom is giving in to them. Sad times...

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"Get the MPAA and RIAA DRM out of our tv equipment (HDMI/HDCP) and stop it getting baked in to the internals of our browsers.

The media companies should be able to utilise the peoples internet but not shape it to become their own content delivery content network where they have control over who can play what and where along with what websites can be seen at their behest."

Trouble is, it's ultimately THEIR content. Copyright means they get the final say on where their content gets shown and under what conditions. If you can't abide by those conditions, just don't watch. But since they still make a killing, that would put you in the minority.

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Trouble is, it's ultimately THEIR content. Copyright means they get the final say on where their content gets shown and under what conditions.

Indeed. But it is MY money and MY eyeballs. That means I actually get the FINAL say on whether I will buy it and under what conditions! They can offer it to me with whatever conditions they wish but only I decide if those are acceptable, for the price.

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No, THEY get the final say because they're the providers. The seller ALWAYS gets the final call. They don't HAVE to sell or provide, AND they can give ultimatums: take it or leave it. If you leave it, it's YOUR loss, not theirs (they can always find another customer).

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Trollface

Which is why piracy is important, to keep the sellers honest

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Copyright means they get the final say on where their content gets shown and under what conditions

This isn't actually strictly true, and effective DRM isn't actually possible. It's just shit to put in browsers for the sake of putting it in. If it can be built it can be broken.

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They're not messing with t'internet. It's just delivering the data. The DRM is at the source and the players.

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Charles 9: "Trouble is, it's ultimately THEIR content."

Trouble is, it's not. It's ultimately OURS.

Copyright law acknowledges that every new work is built on all previous works, and that all creative content therefore ultimately belongs to civilization as a whole - 'the public domain.' In order to allow creators to go on creating new works, copyright grants them strictly limited rights, so that they can reap a reasonable profit. But at no time do they own the content. We all do.

Publishers have framed the debate these days so it's all about "creators' rights." But we, the public, are supposed to have the more extensive and fundamental rights. We might do well to remember that.

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Yes, they do. They ONLY cede those rights when the copyright expires. That's why their name is attached. And we're talking about how new releases which are MEANT to be within copyright's purview.

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"Seriously, screw the media cartels."

You REALLY want to screw the media cartels? There's only one way they'll listen. Get lots of people to stop going to cinemas.

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"This isn't actually strictly true, and effective DRM isn't actually possible. It's just shit to put in browsers for the sake of putting it in. If it can be built it can be broken."

Oh? How come they can't do that with smartphones, then? There are still plenty of phones for which custom OS's are impossible because they use CPUs with mandated black-boxed encryption (the key is stored in the CPU and not accessible directly) that enforces signature checking and the like?

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Boffin

How come they can't do that with smartphones, then?

Because phones aren't general purpose computing devices despite all claims to the contrary? Secondly they're not as secure as you might think - keys *can* be retrieved from them if they were worth the effort. They can be broken, if somebody was that way inclined, but honestly, why bother. P.S. microprobing is cool.

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"But it is MY money and MY eyeballs"

How much do you pay for your browser? Zero, zilch, nada. You might be paying for an ad-blocker extension, though. Similairly, if enough people are willing to pay for a browser that doesn't include DRM standards, I'm sure it will be built. Heck, given the uproar this has created I'm pretty sure some friendly fold will provide an open-source DRM-free browser for free. So, if you want to continue to use the web without seeing other people's copyrighted content, you are still at complete liberty to do so, and this won't affect you one jot.

If you want to watch Netflix or whatever online, you need to use a browser that works with that (and it's not like it's an issue to have multiple browsers installed on the same computer is it? I've had at least 3 different browsers on every PC I've owned in the last 10 years)

What worries me with DRM isn't the technology itself (as many people have said above, it's bound to be broken eventually). It's people like Google taking stuff that isn't theirs (like they did with orphan works with their Books) and using DRM on that. It's Youtube DRM-ing videos that users have uploaded and therefore where the copyright lies with the users (if I upload a video to youtube I grant them non-exclusive use but I am still the copyright owner). It's content providers creating their own DRM systems so that only big studios can protect their content, while small independent artists (for whom this is a livelihood, not another zero in a 15-zero bottom line) cannot afford to protect their content.

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