Mozilla says it has no choice if it wants to keep its user base, while the user base calls adoption of DRM “a betrayal”
Mozilla will be implementing the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) specification used to protect copyrighted content, even though the organisation “philosophically opposes” such restrictions, announced Andreas Gal, its recently appointed CTO.
Mozilla has frequently criticised Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies for their ability to interfere with legitimate uses of content, but said it had no choice in the matter, if it wanted to prevent users from abandoning the Firefox browser.
“This is a difficult and uncomfortable step for us given our vision of a completely open Web, but it also gives us the opportunity to actually shape the DRM space and be an advocate for our users and their rights in this debate,” wrote Gal on the Mozilla Blog.
Following the announcement, the organisation faced an instant backlash form the community, with several users calling this a “betrayal”.
Between a rock and a hard place
EME was developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (WC3), the main international standards organization for the Web, on request of major content providers. It enables control over the way users share content in order to enforce copyright restrictions, like preventing them from making a copy.
Mozilla has long argued that DRM prevents users from manipulating the content they paid for in a lawful and reasonable manner. “Mozilla believes in an open Web that centres around the user and puts them in control of their online experience,” wrote Gal. “Many traditional DRM schemes are challenging because they go against this principle and remove control from the user and yield it to the content industry.”
Gal explained that Mozilla had to implement EME in order for Firefox users to continue enjoying the broadest range of content online, including video services like Netflix or Amazon Instant Video which now make up around 30 percent of downstream traffic in the US.
“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.”
Gal promised that the EME implementation will be completely secure, with Adobe’s proprietary Content Decryption Module (CDM) running in an open source sandbox environment, completely separate from the user’s hardware.
In addition, EME will require activation, so the users who are not interested in watching copyrighted online video content will not have to run proprietary code as part of their open source browser.
“We’ve contemplated not implementing the new iteration of DRM due to its flaws,” wrote Mitchell Baker, executive chairwoman of the Mozilla Foundation. “But video is an important aspect of online life, and a browser that doesn’t enable video would itself be deeply flawed as a consumer product. Firefox users would need to use another browser every time they want to watch a controlled video, and that calls into question the usefulness of Firefox as a product.
“Despite our dislike of DRM, we have come to believe Firefox needs to provide a mechanism for people to watch DRM-controlled content. We will do so in a way that protects the interests of individual users as much as possible, given what the rest of the industry has already put into place.”
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