Thinking about EME/DRM

:: mozilla, firefox, drm, english

By: Andre Alves Garzia

I think people on the interwebs are confusing the smoke for the fire.

For those that haven’t read how the new EME/DRM stuff will work: Firefox will have a sandbox to run the binary blob. The blob will not come installed on Firefox. The blob will not have access to the hardware or be able to fingerprint you. The sandbox is open source and can be compiled separate from Firefox so that people who want to make sure their sandbox has not been tampered by NSA/MAFIAA will be able to do so.

If you don’t use services that use DRM such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon then your Firefox will still be free from the evil binary DRM blob. If you decide to utilize such services then you authorize (explicit user action, like press a button and there is a message) the installation of the binary blob at the time you try to use the said services.

“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.” — Andreas Gal, Mozilla CEO in Reconciling Mozilla’s Mission and W3C EME

If you’re among the group that is against DRM on the web then instead of going into flamewars and hatred about Firefox having the EME spec you should just stop using DRM enabled services and show them where your convictions are. If on the other hand you want to consume said content then you will have the only open source sandbox that protects you agains hardware access and fingerprinting. Firefox still the best alternative even with EME/DRM.

The main thing is that content providers are moving towards EME/DRM. This type of spec can’t be implemented as a plugin from what I heard from Mozilla people at MWC. Firefox will come with EME but the blob (CDM) that provides the DRM evilness will come from third-party (a.k.a. Adobe). The Adobe DRM module will only be installed for those that decide to use a service that is EME/DRM enabled.

So if you want to fight for the Open Web stop consuming DRM enabled services. Show your convictions with your hard earned cash. Everyone that is shouting on the net forgets that it is your choice to use DRM enabled services or not. Its like saying: “You can’t have bacon because I am a vegan”, if you’re a vegan then all the power to you but please don’t limit other people freedoms including their freedom to shot themselves on the foot. Those against EME/DRM should just stop using such services and then all is fine. The EME spec by itself (without the CDM) is not evil. It’s just inactive code in your browser if you’re not using any DRM enabled site…

The alternative would be not to support EME and then the following scenario would occur: SuMo Army of Awesome receives a support call asking: “how do I watch Netflix on my Firefox?” and the answer would be: “Install Chrome, IE or Safari”. Is this an alternative at all?

No one here and even Mozilla can’t force content providers to adopt another solution. We may not like it and we may not use it but to remove from the users who want to use DRM enabled services the ability to do so is arrogance and selfishness its saying because we’re morally against DRM we’re limiting your ability to choose what to watch/do regardless of your will. Let the user choose what to watch and what services to use. Build all APIs, give them choice and then educate them on good choices.

Firefox still the only browser that is developed in an open collaborative way by a community that believes in the open web. Sometimes we’re screwed and can’t do things the way we’d prefer.

I am sure that no one here would decline to do a medical examination because some equipment is not running on free/open software blesses by GNU and FSF. I dare someone to say: “Don’t place this pacemaker inside me because I can’t see the microcode inside it” or “remove the avionics from these planes because they contain DRM”.

Sometimes we lose a battle. I too wish content providers moved to watermarking content instead of DRM. I am against DRM but instead of wanting a Firefox without it I’d rather let the user choose. I have a Kindle. That thing is 90% DRM 10% usefulness. Instead of buying my DRM enabled books at Amazon, I prefer to go directly to O’Reilly and buy the eBook in open formats. Kindle DRM does not affect me and I vote with my wallet which solution I am supporting.

The mob is acting as if Firefox died and became a monster. As if it was an imense treason against user will. Remember that without marketshare Mozilla loses political influence on the web and w3c. The DRM battle was lost but the war for an open web continues. We don’t always win. In a world of proprietary apps, walled gardens, NSA spying, rising sea levels, closed IM protocols and duckfaces there are worst monsters than the EME sandbox.

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