Free Software Foundation Slams Mozilla Over DRM Decision

by Ostatic Staff - May. 16, 2014

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is considerably less than pleased with Mozilla's decision to support digital rights management (DRM) software in upcoming versions of the Firefox browser and has published an open letter condemning the move. The FSF, of course, is the home of Richard Stallman, who keeps a close eye on issues of openness in the technology arena.

Mozilla's new CTO Andreas Gal wrote in a blog post this week that it is working with Adobe on Firefox support for Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) – which are being added to the HTML5 spec  – primarily so that Firefox users will have access to the same streaming media and other media that most browser users have.

According to the FSF editorial:

"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."

"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."

The FSF isn't the only organization condemning Mozilla for the move. The Register refers to the decision as an "ankle grab." 

Mozilla's Gal Gal wrote in his blog post:

"Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a tricky issue. On the one hand content owners argue that they should have the technical ability to control how users share content in order to enforce copyright restrictions. On the other hand, the current generation of DRM is often overly burdensome for users and restricts users from lawful and reasonable use cases such as buying content on one device and trying to consume it on another."

"In 2013 Google and Microsoft partnered with a number of content providers including Netflix to propose a 'built-in' DRM extension for the Web: the W3C Encrypted Media Extensions (EME). The W3C EME specification defines how to play back such content using the HTML5 <video> element, utilizing a Content Decryption Module (CDM) that implements DRM functionality directly in the Web stack."

"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....As a result we have decided to implement the W3C EME specification in our products, starting with Firefox for Desktop."