drm in firefox?">

Today I received an email from the Free Soft­ware Foun­da­tion enti­tled “Tell Mozil­la: No DRM in Fire­fox”. Here’s how it read, with ref­er­ences:


Dear Jer­ry,

You’re receiv­ing this email because you signed our state­ment to the W3C against the inte­gra­tion of DRM into HTML5.

We want to alert you to new devel­op­ments that unfor­tu­nate­ly require more action. Yes­ter­day, Mozil­la announced that it is adopt­ing DRM in its Fire­fox web brows­er. Please read and share our state­ment con­demn­ing this deci­sion, and write to Mozil­la CTO Andreas Gal let­ting him know you oppose DRM.

Thanks for all you do,

John, Lib­by, William, and the rest of the DRM Elim­i­na­tion Crew

FSF condemns partnership between Mozilla and Adobe to support Digital Restrictions Management

In response to Mozilla’s announce­ment that it is adopt­ing DRM in its Fire­fox Web brows­er, Free Soft­ware Foun­da­tion exec­u­tive direc­tor John Sul­li­van made the fol­low­ing state­ment:

Only a week after the Inter­na­tion­al Day Against DRM, Mozil­la has announced that it will part­ner with pro­pri­etary soft­ware com­pa­ny Adobe to imple­ment sup­port for Web-based Dig­i­tal Restric­tions Man­age­ment (DRM) in its Fire­fox brows­er, using Encrypt­ed Media Exten­sions (EME).

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.

Although Mozil­la will not direct­ly ship Adobe’s pro­pri­etary DRM plu­g­in, it will, as an offi­cial fea­ture, encour­age Fire­fox users to install the plu­g­in from Adobe when pre­sent­ed with media that requests DRM. We agree with Cory Doc­torow that there is no mean­ing­ful dis­tinc­tion between ‘installing DRM’ and ‘installing code that installs DRM.’

We rec­og­nize that Mozil­la is doing this reluc­tant­ly, and we trust these words com­ing from Mozil­la much more than we do when they come from Microsoft or Ama­zon. At the same time, near­ly every­one who imple­ments DRM says they are forced to do it, and this lack of account­abil­i­ty is how the prac­tice sus­tains itself. Mozilla’s announce­ment today unfor­tu­nate­ly puts it — in this regard — in the same cat­e­go­ry as its pro­pri­etary com­peti­tors.

Unlike those pro­pri­etary com­peti­tors, Mozil­la is going to great lengths to reduce some of the spe­cif­ic harms of DRM by attempt­ing to ‘sand­box’ the plu­g­in. But this approach can­not solve the fun­da­men­tal eth­i­cal prob­lems with pro­pri­etary soft­ware, or the issues that inevitably arise when pro­pri­etary soft­ware is installed on a user’s com­put­er.

In the announce­ment, Mitchell Bak­er asserts that Mozilla’s hands were tied. But she then goes on to active­ly praise Adobe’s “val­ue” and sug­gests that there is some kind of nec­es­sary bal­ance between DRM and user free­dom.

There is noth­ing nec­es­sary about DRM, and to hear Mozil­la prais­ing Adobe — the com­pa­ny who has been and con­tin­ues to be a vicious oppo­nent of the free soft­ware move­ment and the free Web — is shock­ing. With this part­ner­ship in place, we wor­ry about Mozilla’s abil­i­ty and will­ing­ness to crit­i­cize Adobe’s prac­tices going for­ward.

We under­stand that Mozil­la is afraid of los­ing users. Cory Doc­torow points out that they have pro­duced no evi­dence to sub­stan­ti­ate this fear or made any effort to study the sit­u­a­tion. More impor­tant­ly, pop­u­lar­i­ty is not an end in itself. This is espe­cial­ly true for the Mozil­la Foun­da­tion, a non­prof­it with an eth­i­cal mis­sion. In the past, Mozil­la has dis­tin­guished itself and achieved suc­cess by pro­tect­ing the free­dom of its users and explain­ing the impor­tance of that free­dom: includ­ing pub­lish­ing Firefox’s source code, allow­ing oth­ers to make mod­i­fi­ca­tions to it, and stick­ing to Web stan­dards in the face of attempts to impose pro­pri­etary exten­sions.

Today’s deci­sion turns that cal­cu­lus on its head, devot­ing Mozil­la resources to deliv­er­ing users to Adobe and hos­tile media dis­trib­u­tors. In the process, Fire­fox is los­ing the iden­ti­ty which set it apart from its pro­pri­etary com­peti­tors — Inter­net Explor­er and Chrome — both of which are imple­ment­ing EME in an even worse fash­ion.

Undoubt­ed­ly, some num­ber of users just want restrict­ed media like Net­flix to work in Fire­fox, and they will be upset if it doesn’t. This is unsur­pris­ing, since the major­i­ty of the world is not yet famil­iar with the eth­i­cal issues sur­round­ing pro­pri­etary soft­ware. This debate was, and is, a high-pro­file oppor­tu­ni­ty to intro­duce these con­cepts to users and ask them to stand togeth­er in some tough deci­sions.

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. The FSF will have more to say and do on this in the com­ing days. For now, users who are con­cerned about this issue should:

  • Write to Mozil­la CTO Andreas Gal and let him know that you oppose DRM. Mozil­la made this deci­sion in a mis­guid­ed appeal to its user­base; it needs to hear in clear and rea­soned terms from the users who feel this as a betray­al. Ask Mozil­la what it is going to do to actu­al­ly solve the DRM prob­lem that has cre­at­ed this false forced choice.
  • Join our effort to stop EME approval at the W3C. While today’s announce­ment makes it even more obvi­ous that W3C rejec­tion of EME will not stop its imple­men­ta­tion, it also makes it clear that W3C can fear­less­ly reject EME to send a mes­sage that DRM is not a part of the vision of a free Web.
  • Use a ver­sion of Fire­fox with­out the EME code: Since its source code is avail­able under a license allow­ing any­one to mod­i­fy and redis­trib­ute it under a dif­fer­ent name, we expect ver­sions with­out EME to be made avail­able, and you should use those instead. We will list them in the Free Soft­ware Direc­to­ry.
  • Donate to sup­port the work of the Free Soft­ware Foun­da­tion and our Defec­tive by Design cam­paign to actu­al­ly end DRM. Until it’s com­plete­ly gone, Mozil­la and oth­ers will be con­stant­ly tempt­ed to capit­u­late, and users will be pres­sured to con­tin­ue using some pro­pri­etary soft­ware. If not us, give to anoth­er group fight­ing against dig­i­tal restric­tions.”


My first thought was “Wow! DRM…really?”, my sec­ond thought was “In open source soft­ware?”. To me, forc­ing DRM in open source soft­ware is a bit like eat­ing ice cream in front of a Jen­ny Craig gym.

  1. It’s dick­ish.
  2. You’re going to get peo­ple in trou­ble.
  3. Some peo­ple are either going to find a loop­hole, cheat, or find anoth­er way to get it.

I’m not say­ing that I am for, or against, pira­cy. I am say­ing that you shouldn’t be forc­ing it down the throats of the peo­ple you ser­vice, espe­cial­ly when you offer your own prod­uct for free. Per­haps it me, but that’s just a lit­tle hyp­o­crit­i­cal. That’s why I have been tak­ing part in Inter­na­tion­al Day Against DRM, May 6th. It’s a phi­los­o­phy that I don’t agree with and will not sup­port. I urge you all to go the same route.

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