Mozilla slammed over Firefox DRM scheme

May 15, 2014 | 12:41

Tags: #andreas-gal #drm #firefox #free-software-foundation #fsf #web-browser

Companies: #mozilla #open-source #w3c

An agreement between Mozilla and Adobe to build digital rights management (DRM) technology into the popular Firefox web browser has raised the ire of the software freedom and privacy communities.

The move sees Mozilla implementing Adobe's Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) into the Firefox web browser in order to allow the encrypted streaming of video and audio footage from services like Netflix and LoveFilm, regardless of host operating system. However, it also gives away control of how the browser operates from the user to large corporations like Adobe, and that's something Mozilla itself has raised concerns about in the past.

'Mozilla would have preferred to see the content industry move away from locking content to a specific device (so called node-locking), and worked to provide alternatives,' claimed Mozilla's chief technology officer Andreas Gal in an announcement on the matter. 'Instead, this approach has now been enshrined in the W3C [World Wide Web Consortium] EME specification. With Google and Microsoft shipping W3C EME and content providers moving over their content from plugins to W3C EME Firefox users are at risk of not being able to access DRM restricted content (e.g. Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu), which can make up more than 30% of the downstream traffic in North America. We have come to the point where Mozilla not implementing the W3C EME specification means that Firefox users have to switch to other browsers to watch content restricted by DRM.'

While Mozilla might not be happy about being rail-roaded into implementing EME, free software campaigners are even less impressed - despite the use of a sandboxing system which Mozilla claims will prevent the DRM module from sniffing information about the user and his or her computer.

'The Free Software Foundation is deeply disappointed in Mozilla's announcement. The decision compromises important principles in order to alleviate misguided fears about loss of browser marketshare. It allies Mozilla with a company hostile to the free software movement and to Mozilla's own fundamental ideals,' claimed the Free Software Foundation's executive director John Sullivan of the move. 'To see Mozilla compromise without making any public effort to rally users against this supposed "forced choice" is doubly disappointing. They should reverse this decision. But whether they do or do not, we call on them to join us by devoting as many of their extensive resources to permanently eliminating DRM as they are now devoting to supporting it.'

With streaming services on the rise and Mozilla's rivals implementing EME, however, it's hard to see how the company could have kept all its users - both free-software campaigners and plain old users who just want to watch House of Cards - happy.
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