On DRM and Firefox

BnsgnKsCcAE52YMThere has been a lot of criticism of Mozilla’s decision to move forward in implementing W3C EME, a web standard that the standards body has been working on for some time. While it is understandable that many are upset and believe that Mozilla is not honoring its values, the truth is there really is no other decision Mozilla can make while continuing to compete with other browsers.

The fact is, nearly 30% of Internet traffic today is Netflix, and Netflix is one of the content publishers pushing for this change along with other big names. If Mozilla were to choose not to implement this web standard, it would leave a significant portion of users with inability to access some of the locked content the a majority of users desire. A good portion of users would likely make a decision to leave Firefox rather quickly if this was not implemented and they were locked out.

So with that reality in mind, Mozilla has a choice to support this standard (which is not something the organization necessarily enjoys) or to not support it and lose much of its user base and have a very uncertain future.

“By open-sourcing the sandbox that limits the Adobe software’s access to the system, Mozilla is making it auditable and verifiable. This is a much better deal than users will get out of any of the rival browsers, like Safari, Chrome and Internet Explorer, and it is a meaningful and substantial difference.” – Cory Doctorow, The Guardian

The best thing that can be done right now is for users who are unhappy with the decision to continue to support Mozilla which will continue to fight for an open web. Users should also be vocal to the W3C and content publishers that are responsible for this web standard.

In closing Ben Moskowitz also wrote a great blog post on this topic explaining quite more in depth why Mozilla is in this position.

 

 

 

 

Comments

    • says

      Correct and Netflix additionally is becoming more popular in other countries and this is not just about Netflix but other big name content publishers that will require this implementation. So across the globe users would be impacted by not being able to view content that other browsers would let them view.

    • Ioana Chiorean says

      100% agreeing with you Jan and I tend to believe that in EU at least won’t get to those numbers in the near future

  1. Dave S says

    Mozilla loses one of its userbase the moment it forces code on me which I cannot edit. I’d rather lose some functionality than lose control of my computer!

  2. DuvJones says

    I think that the biggest concern that I have with this move come from the fact that mozilla, as a foundation, has lost any real credibility for attempting to protect and foster the “open web”.

    As much as I hate to say it, it was pretty clear what the intentions are with EME. It protection of position, for Netflix and the many companies that license with them (among other players). Mozilla has played to this, mostly by being dragged into a nasty situation with a big player. But by doing so, I have to ask now… What is mozilla protecting, what credibility does the foundation have in saying that they act on behalf of the “Open Web” while making decisions like this one that threaten it?

    As far as I have seen, there is nothing to say that this will not happen again. If you honestly think that mozilla is protecting it’s users by doing this, then it is lost… Because when any threat comes to it through it’s users, Mozilla will cave to it, Mozilla will have to. This is twice that the foundation has caved on it’s principles to protect itself, and I don’t see much of a fight when a third issue presents itself (and it will).

    • abral says

      What do you think would be the best solution here?
      What do you think most users want when they go to a website like Netflix? They’ll want to watch the movies they’ve paid for, no matter how.

      Firefox gives you the choice. You hate DRM? You can just avoid installing the DRM component. You want to watch a DRM protected video? You can install the DRM component. It’s nothing different than the current situation with plugins!

    • says

      DRM is not the only fight to be had on the open web or moving it forward. This is beyond Mozilla’s ability to stop or resist. If Mozilla resists it cannot sustain financially because users would not use it.

      • DuvJones says

        Which is why this is a bitter pill swallow, because it gets harder to fight for an “Open Web” when it’s quite obvious that Mozilla will sacrifice it to allow users “to do cool stuff”. They are not as mutually inclusive as you make it out to seem.
        I wonder why Mozilla continues to sacrifice itself for simple market-share. I wonder whom’s in control, ultimately… Is the Foundation or the Corporation in control of what Mozilla is?

        Fine, Mozilla will not die on this hill… So that does make me ask, with it’s users so vulnerable, what hill would the community die on? What would make Mozilla take a stand as a community, collectively, before it’s own principles and protect them? Because that question gets harder with things like this, and you are only going to see more of it asked when another issue crops up.

        So I as again, at what point does Mozilla stand up for itself?

        • says

          “Which is why this is a bitter pill swallow, because it gets harder to
          fight for an “Open Web” when it’s quite obvious that Mozilla will
          sacrifice it to allow users “to do cool stuff”.”

          It was the W3C a standards body backed by industry giants that sacrificed the open web. That sacrifice is already done. Mozilla is just implementing this so users do not depart because metrics and data show users require the content that will be DRM’ed to be available via their browser.

          “I wonder whom’s in control, ultimately… Is the Foundation or the Corporation in control of what Mozilla is?”

          The corporation is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation and answers to the board of the foundation and its chair.

          “Fine, Mozilla will not die on this hill… So that does make me ask,
          with it’s users so vulnerable, what hill would the community die on?
          What would make Mozilla take a stand as a community, collectively,
          before it’s own principles and protect them?”

          Mozilla already took a stand on DRM as it has taken stands on many things in this case that stand was not strong enough to defeat an alliance of industry giants and a standards body that decided this is the right move for internet users.

          “So I as again, at what point does Mozilla stand up for itself?”

          Mozilla constantly stands up for itself and has absolutely said this is not a decision it takes lightly.

    • says

      That is what is going to happen from Andreas post: “As plugins today, the CDM itself will be distributed by Adobe and will not be included in Firefox. The browser will download the CDM from Adobe and activate it based on user consent.”

  3. says

    I understand the requirement for a Content Decryption Module, I’m not going to pretend that the requirement for it isn’t real in this time of Netflix. But why does it need to be a closed source CDM? That’s the issue I take with the current course of action. While the open source sandbox is indeed a step in the right direction, why are we opting to with an organisation that has been terrible for the open web and has a reputation of pushing closed source proprietary sub-par software.

      • says

        That appears to be the default answer, but I’m yet to understand why? We’re talking about a module, why can’t it receive a key, decrypt the content and dismiss it? Why does it need to be closed source? You’re suggesting that should the source code to the Adobe module ever leak, then all of a sudden DRM would cease to exist.

        • says

          Because if the creator of the CDM in this case Adobe made it open source a circumvention could be engineered which would defeat the purpose of the CDM.

          • says

            Yes you’re right, a circumvention could be engineered, but it could be anyway. Someone could reverse engineer the closed source module and do the same thing. They could do the same thing with Flash player now. We need to remember that the only job of the CDM is to decrypt encrypted content upon authenticating a key. The issue here seems to be that Mozilla is over-thinking its role in all this. You’re essentially saying that if Flash was open sourced today, all of a sudden streaming DRM video as we know it would become obsolete and that’s a huge assumption with little to no evidence support it.

            • says

              No I’m not saying that I’m saying these companies like many companies are choosing not to open source the technology they are building. This is not something Mozilla has any say in.

              • says

                I’d say that when Mozilla chooses the language of “we have chosen Adobe as a partner to implement EME along with their ‘Adobe Access’ CDM” they should certainly have enough sway in the partnership to have a say in it.

        • abral says

          There are laws that prevent people to explain how DRM solutions work, so it’s basically impossible to make the code public.

  4. DigDug2k says

    “The best thing that can be done right now is for users who are unhappy
    with the decision to continue to support Mozilla which will continue to
    fight for an open web.”

    I think they can do more than that. They can write loudly to services like Netflix/Google to voice their disapproval of what they do. They can stop using those companies products as well. Voting with your checkbook is going to have a lot more effect than any letter writing campaign.

  5. DigDug2k says

    I think there’s probably an interesting blog post in there about the difference between companies who fight for THEIR users versus companies that fight for user rights in general. I’ve had a chance to work on some W3C working groups lately, and its been really eye opening to see Google actively work there to try and provide competitive advantages to Chrome. I’m seeing it in the second-screen group, but the EME stuff is a good example as well.

    Google didn’t just implement EME here, they’ve actively campaigned for it, spreading FUD about how its what users “want”. i.e. what I said above, they’re fighting to make their users happy, but don’t actually give a shit about real user rights (and yes, I’m sure there are many people at Google who do care about user rights, but they apparently aren’t the ones driving the bus anymore).

    Mozilla does lots of good, and when they’re doing it right/well/successfully, you’d never notice. When they “fail” (and calling this EME stuff a Mozilla failure is really a stretch), people suddenly scream.

  6. Rafał Cieślak says

    “The fact is, nearly 30% of Internet traffic today is Netflix”

    This seems like a very bold claim. Could you please refer me to the source of this information? I would like to learn details on how exactly did they measure internet traffic and how were such statistics derived.

  7. says

    On operating systems like Ubuntu, I would be perfectly willing to use Firefox as my browser, while having to use something else if I wanted to access encrypted video content. But from Mozilla’s point of view; what would that look like on Firefox OS? It’s not the browser that would become irrelevant, because people would still use it on the desktop if it didn’t have the EME. It’s the Firefox OS devices that would become irrelevant.