back to article FSF slams Mozilla for 'shocking' Firefox DRM ankle-grab

The Free Software Foundation says it is "deeply disappointed" in Mozilla's decision to support digital rights management (DRM) software in future versions of its Firefox browser and has published an open letter condemning the move. Mozilla announced on Wednesday that it will work with Adobe to ensure that Firefox supports …

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  1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

    Raise your hand if you're surprised...

    *Cricket Chirping*

    Anyone? Anyone?

    *Tumbleweed rolls by*

    Hello, is this thing on?

    *TapTap, FeedbackWhine*

    I take that as a No.

    First Mozilla decides to drop ads in the opening page for first time installers, then it decides to cuddle up to Adobe. What's next, handing over the code to Microsoft for "enhancement & efficiency improvements"?

    *Head explodes*

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: If it's part of HTML5

      then why wouldn't they? Are they a standards compliant browser or not?

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: If it's part of HTML5

        Well, you see, HTML 5 is NOT an official standard, yet.

        1. Jordan Davenport

          Re: If it's part of HTML5

          "Well, you see, HTML 5 is NOT an official standard, yet."

          Right you are, but then they can remove the DRM-enabling sandbox if EME gets dropped from the HTML5 draft.

          That being said, why should they? You have to install the extra component yourself separately. I hate DRM as much as the next consumer, but not supporting it when every big name media provider requires it would be corporate suicide, whether it enters the standard or not. Boycotting DRM should be a decision left to the individual user, NOT the company that makes that user's web browser.

          And as I said, you are indeed right that it's not a standard yet... but HTML 5.0 is all but finalized now and is expecting an official recommendation by the W3C later this year. From what I've been reading though, EME will probably be in the HTML 5.1 spec, expected in 2016. EME is not an official part of the standard yet, but do be careful with such blanket statements when the draft is almost ready to be released.

  2. Steven Roper

    I can see where the FSF is coming from

    but at the same time, they need to consider what Mozilla themselves have said about marginalisation. It's all very well to carry the banner against DRM, but what use is doing so if it means that Firefox's market share shrinks to negligibility as a result? Especially with Google pushing Chrome in everyone's faces without let or surcease. We don't want "I used to use Firefox, but I couldn't watch YouTube on it so I had to switch to Chrome" to be Mozilla's epitaph.

    Mozilla are going about resolving a difficult situation as best they can. They do want to fight DRM, but they also have to stay relevant in order to carry on the fight. By simply creating a framework for embedding DRM modules they aren't compromising the browser or even forcing anyone to use DRM. As I've posted elsewhere, I certainly won't be installing any DRM, and if that means there's sites that show me nothing but blank boxes with click-to-dowload-DRM buttons as a result then so be it. At least Mozilla are giving us that option.

    1. vagabondo

      Re: I can see where the FSF is coming from

      "Mozilla are going about resolving a difficult situation as best they can."

      The problem I see is the level of collaboration with the not-to-be-trusted Adobe. Mozilla will be accepting some of the responsibility for implementing an intrinsically broken DRM schema. Hopefully the FSF and others will help sway Mozilla away from too close a relationship with the proprietary battalions. I also fear that this alliance strengthens the pro-DRM position within W3C etc.

      I would be happier if Mozilla stopped at creating a good sandbox. Preferably this would be a container for all non-OSS extensions/plug-ins.

      Those that want to use their system for entertainment, rather than work-only, could add the Adobe and other malware from a non-OSS repository, or download from untrustworthy sources. That would remove the implication of endorsement, and indicate "at your own risk", similar to the present situation with Adobe Flash and Reader.

    2. RJ

      Re: I can see where the FSF is coming from

      How can you carry on the fight by giving in?

      By giving in to this and h.264 they have shown that they are not the idealists they claim to be and that they can be cowed now, so why not cowed in the future?

      All you have to do is threaten them with marginalization and they will fall like a house of cards.

      1. boltar Silver badge

        Re: I can see where the FSF is coming from

        >How can you carry on the fight by giving in?

        How can you carry on the fight if no one is using your product because - to the average user - it no longer works?

        Its time to come down out of the FSF ivory tower and rejoin the real world.

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Re: I can see where the FSF is coming from

          This is a case of choosing one's battles. There is nothing sensible to be gained by Mozilla taking a Canute-like stance against the waves coming in (except in so far as it would prove Canute's position that no-one can successfully command the tide). Giving people the choice over whether/when to use the plug-in is a sensible move, especially if data can be collected (with the permission of the user, of course) on how it is used if downloaded - the bare numbers of downloads will not be sufficient. I expect to have the plug-in disabled most of the time, but enabled occasionally, for instance.

    3. Reg T.

      Re: I can see where the FSF is coming from

      Mozilla is funded by Google, and is thus a subsidiary by default.

      If Mozilla threw themselves at code and open source viability with the energy they throw at social issues, Firefox would be the leading browser, and not simply a step-down from Chrome.

      Mozilla is kaput.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I can see where the FSF is coming from

        Real world - in the real world if the browser can't easily access content on various network services it wont get used, except by arseholes.

  3. P. Lee

    The proper way to handle DRM

    1) Implement it.

    2) Be surprised when you discover that it's broken.

    The better standards are supported, the less call there is for different browsers. If I trusted Google more and Chrome had noscript/flashblock and a separate search/location box, there'd be little reason to pick one or the other.

    With noscript on, precise rendering is way down the list of priorities.

    1. vagabondo

      Re: The proper way to handle DRM

      " ... and Chrome had noscript/flashblock ..."

      There is AdBlock, Ghostery, and NotScripts for Chrome. And it is not difficult to remove Google, Bing, Yahoo etc. from the search engines, and replace them with DuckDuckGo, StartPage/Ixquick, what-have-you. Of course that still leaves the big problem of closed source -- how far can you trust Google?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The proper way to handle DRM

        notscript has nowhere near the features as noscript unfortunately because chrome does not expose the necessary interfaces.

      2. big_D Silver badge

        Re: The proper way to handle DRM

        NotScripts is not NoScript. I tried switching to Chrome several times, but it isn't a patch on NoScript.

    2. dogged

      Re: The proper way to handle DRM

      > Be surprised when you discover that it's broken

      Well, they did go with Adobe...

  4. dan1980

    It's not up to the browser manufacturers to stop this, it's up to the browser users.

    It's a browser manufacturer's job to display web content for the users; it's the user's responsibility to choose that content.

    What matter if Mozilla stands fast when Google and Apple* are on board? Given the latter two companies' stranglehold on the (western) smart phone/tablet market what possible impact could Mozilla have? Yes, it's a popular browser, but if people want to watch content that is unable to be displayed in Mozilla they will just switch to Chrome.

    I most assuredly do not support these extensions but what, ultimately, could have been gained had Mozilla remained the lone hold-out?

    * - And Microsoft, for what it's worth.

    1. vagabondo
      Facepalm

      A partnership with Adobe

      to implement one company's proprietary DRM is what is being objected to. There is not a call to ban Adobe from producing a plug-n/extension.

      There are Adobe and Gnash swf plug-ins for Firefox, that do not require Mozilla to partner with Adobe. Why should this be different?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A partnership with Adobe

        There are Adobe and Gnash swf plug-ins for Firefox

        Bad example, since Gnash doesn't work and development of it ground to a halt ages ago. (Didn't help that the main developers seemed mostly interested in using it a playground to try out myriad different graphic and niche boost libraries).

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: A partnership with Adobe

        They did partner with Adobe for other plug-ins and this new plug-in is not different. Browser makers worked with each other and third parties to work out the several different revisions of NPAPI (which is what Flash uses).

  5. fairbro

    I deleted Firefox from my computer and will never use it again. I badmouth Firfox-Mozialla wheneverthe opportunity arises.

    Firefox proved itself to be corrupt when it fired the director because he made a political contribuution to a group which sought to ban gay marriage. This was the only reason the director was fired - because he made an incorrect political contribution.

    I don't have any use for a group of corrupt criminals.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      He was not fired because he made an "incorrect political donation".

      He was harassed because he made an "incorrect" political donation.

      He was "fired" (as you put it) because all the publicity which the harassment drew was distracting from Mozilla's business, and tarnishing its image among the larger tech community; and it showed no sign of abating while he was still in charge.

      1. SundogUK Bronze badge

        The witch hunt was specifically after Mozilla, to force them to fire him, so yes, he was fired for making a political donation.

      2. boltar Silver badge

        "and tarnishing its image among the larger tech community"

        Which tech community is this? I'd have had far more respect for them if they'd kept him on rather than bowing down to a small minority of politically correct noisemakers who seem to think that being intolerant of everything you disagree with is somehow spreading tolerance. Oh the irony!

    2. Don Dumb
      Facepalm

      Dictionary Corner

      @fairbro -

      Firefox proved itself to be corrupt when it fired the director because he made a political contribuution to a group which sought to ban gay marriage. ... I don't have any use for a group of corrupt criminals.

      You use the word "corrupt" twice and you clearly demonstrate that you have no idea what it means.

    3. Moonshine

      "I don't have any use for a group of corrupt criminals."

      These are strong words. No substance unfortunately.

    4. redtux

      So because you think bigotry is fine, Mozilla are criminals and corrupt?

  6. rcmattyw

    I'd rather have access to content, or the option to access it than not. I think Firefox is doing a good thing here. It gives the choice to consumers.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Any downsides to not supporting DRM?

    Just asking.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Any downsides to not supporting DRM?

      You'll find that your browser stops displaying shit loads of content.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Any downsides to not supporting DRM?

        So if Mozilla don't implement DRM, the lose customers and potentially go down the pan?

      2. nematoad Silver badge

        Re: Any downsides to not supporting DRM?

        You'll find that your browser stops displaying loads of shit content.

        There, fixed that for you.

      3. h3

        Re: Any downsides to not supporting DRM?

        Content that should be not in a browser in the first place.

        Anything using DRM belongs away from my main browser.

  8. Forget It
    Unhappy

    D irty

    R at

    M ozilla

    ?

  9. RonWheeler

    I used Chromium rather than Chrome

    but then the lack of media support drive me back to Chrome despite the worrysome Google/big-media hookup. Same logic applies to Mozilla right here. They have to do it whether they like it or not.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I used Chromium rather than Chrome

      I use SW Iron, can't say I found any content that doesn't play.

      1. vagabondo

        Re: I used Chromium rather than Chrome

        @Lost all faith

        I think you meant SRware Iron. I just now installed from the rpm, copied ~/.config/google-chrome to ~/.config/chromium and everything worked, extensions and all settings. It's brilliant thanks for the heads up.

        https://www.srware.net/en/software_srware_iron.php

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Big Brother

          Re: I used Chromium rather than Chrome

          I think you meant SRware Iron. I just now installed from the rpm, copied ~/.config/google-chrome to ~/.config/chromium and everything worked, extensions and all settings. It's brilliant thanks for the heads up.

          I tried it when it was first released as the claim that it was de-googled seemed fair enough. The first time that I logged into a site it made an SSL connection to a server owned by Google. It may have changed since but once something has lost my trust I don't give it a second chance.

  10. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    Bad move

    "content providers" need view far more than browser makers need users (specifically, they need far more of them). Mozilla has at least as much leverage as the DRM pushers here, ad probably more. Them folding is a bad move indeed. I suspect they're afraid of Google, as chrome+youtube is certainly a powerful tool to attract the kids. Anyway, I don't use Mozilla software much these days, and most of my browsers don't even talk javascript, so I'm probably shielded from DRM for the next 50 years or so...

    1. Lamont Cranston

      Re: Bad move

      I remember when Firefox was nipping at IE's heels, working to depose it as the dominant browser. I've just looked at Wikimedia's usage stats, which shows Firefox as third, behind IE and Chrome - I don't think they have the same clout that they once did.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem...

    If Mozilla / Firefox do not bother to implement the DRM then users will find half their favourite websites no longer work.

    Google (/ other) will then use this as leverage to get people to adopt a browser where the the DRM support has been implemented.

    In the end people will simply start saying 'Do not use Firefox, your favourite websites won't work' and the Firefox userbase will hit 0 (and because they've made the GUI so close to Chrome now nobody is going to care about switching over to Chrome)

    The FSF stand for a good cause, but when 99% of the internet doesn't care and the money is elsewhere the only thing you'll achieve by following their wishes is, regrettably, that you become completely irrelevant as people look to solutions that do meet their needs.

    DRM is evil, and ineffective, but unfortunately short of a worldwide revolution it's something we're stuck with.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why is the Register always behind every other tech news site?

    1. Kane Silver badge

      If you're concerned about timeliness, why not go and read one of those other tech news sites?

    2. Rick Giles
      Trollface

      It takes a few more milliseconds...

      for the information to be compreheneed on that side of the pond.

  13. Peter Hewitt

    Stallman

    Not sure why he's so bothered. IIRC doesn't he read websites by using SSH?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stallman

      Not sure why he's so bothered. IIRC doesn't he read websites by using SSH?

      He gets others to email him the text content of web pages he wants to read. The man's so dogmatic that he's fast tracking the Free Software Foundation and GNU Project into irrelevance. Take the GNU Compiler Collection for example, where it is deliberately architected to make it difficult to create things like optimisers in a modular way. The intent is to make it hard for others to develop commercial extensions, but in practice it encourages bad programming practices, difficulty in developing or testing new features and - contrary to the supposed philosophy of Free Software - hard to share code amongst different projects. Hence things like LLVM and Clang getting serious traction. Then there's the funding of pointless projects or mismanagement of them (Gnash is an example of the latter), and the toleration of terrible project leaders (Glibc is the classic example here).

  14. PassiveSmoking

    If there's a hook in the software to get a decrypted stream from a DRM module, then how hard would it be to write a plugin that proxys the hook in order to save the encrypted stream to a file as it's being played back?

    Unless the entire browser is closed-source and digitally signed there's no way of really stopping people circumventing any DRM scheme you put in place. As an earlier commenter suggested, Mozilla's plan is probably to just implement what Big Content want and act surprised when it doesn't work.

    Also, Stallman needs to learn the meaning of the word pragmatism.

    1. Neil Lewis

      History

      Don't underestimate just how pragmatic RMS actually is. He tends to look a long way ahead and sees outcomes others don't wish to see. While his positions can initially often look hopelessly idealistic to the naive, the passage of time has repeatedly shown them to be right on the button.

  15. Blarkon

    Nerds, believe we can get to Alpha Centauri, but not create effective DRM

    The FSF like the EFF have marginalized themselves by advocating the piracy of intellectual property as a right as fundamental as that of free speech.

  16. JDX Gold badge

    Dear FSF

    Mozilla is a company driven by the need to make profit, not a charitable foundation. If you want to create a free browser then go right ahead.

    FSF chipping in with their views is like the Humberside City Council releasing a press release damning the Columbian drug trade... inconsequential.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dear FSF

      I wouldn't worry... outside of nerddom, no one, and i mean no one, has ever heard of them or ever will. Hardly anyone outside of nerddom has even heard of drm or cares about it.

      What they would care about is suddenly not being able to watch films because of a desire by a handful of nerds toto live in the 90s.

      A lot of these nerds are only too happy to make donations to open source projects they like: linux distros, writers of extensions like noscript etc... and think people who are happy to pay money for a film are making a pact with the devil

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: Dear FSF

        Oh, look - another AC with a pro-media-whore position!

        No-one in the EFF or FFS thinks someone choosing to pay for media is making a "pact with the devil" - their position is that people should be able to choose.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Entitlement

    It's almost as if distributing your only product for free is a bad business model, and when your client base also objects to you getting income from adverts, you finally have to get into bed with anyone who'll pay you.

    We are entitled to exactly what we paid for. And we paid nothing.

  18. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Alert

    If Mozilla didn't support this..

    With the existing climate all that would be accomplished is that people would start abandoning Firefox to watch their precious DRM'd content on <shudder> IE. And Mozilla would find itself in the same situation Apple did with Flash--people whining and nothing really accomplished.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DRM not the real issue

    This is going to introduce a massive vector for malware in the same way java, activex, flash have done in the past.

  20. Elmer Phud
    Big Brother

    Eh?

    Does everybody only use one browser?

    1. Lamont Cranston

      Re: Eh?

      Pretty much, yes.

      I used Opera, but have Firefox installed as my son likes the logo. Opera will probably be gone, soon, as, far too frequently, I find that some pages won't load properly. Having to switch browsers to get a page to load is maddening, and Firefox tends to be on the list of browsers that authors test their pages against.

    2. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Eh?

      Most people do, but I can't believe you're foolish enough for that to be anything but a poor troll attempt ;)

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Eh?

      Yes. Tried them all.

      FF is my daily beater. IE as fall back only for certain made-by-morons websites that can only function in IE.

      Chrome as a tester.

  21. tempemeaty
    Big Brother

    DRM, Corp Execs and the Four "F"s

    The biggest problem is the DRM itself, the Corporates and it goes way beyond Firefox. The corporate executive psychopath control freaks will not relent in their beating a path to hand-cuffing users in every way possible unless users get up close and personal in their face and make them fear doing that.

  22. bigtimehustler

    How can they be criticized for going against "sticking to Web standards in the face of attempts to impose proprietary extensions." when they are following the HTML5 spec, which is the only standard any web browser can and should follow. If they have a problem with it, campaign to have it removed from the draft spec!

  23. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Color me naïve.

    I support DRM for documents under the following stricture: It is intended to ensure I bought a copy of whatever missive Mr/Ms Babyneednewshoes has written to pay the rent. Fair's fair. I get paid for producing, so should the writer.

    I am avowedly against DRM if it is merely a way of ensuring that I can only read said missive on one computer or device and that I pay multiple times for the same thing. For me a written tract is a book, to be picked up wherever and more importantly whenever I like.

    My thinking extends to music. A recording is not a concert. I own the first. I attend the second at a single time and place.

    For software I'm willing to countenance a seat/machine licensing model, provided I own the instantiated files needed to get it in front of me. I am rabidly against the "you licensed something but not ownership of the said bit settings yaddayaddayadda" model.

    But.

    Adobe will get no more money from me, at least, not knowingly, after the "Complete National Geographic" fiasco I went through last Christmas. Briefly, I had been using this product (a gift from the previous Christmas) which forced me to use the awful, lousy, unspeakably nasty Adobe Air reader instead of giving me a bunch of pdfs. That notwithstanding the content itself was wonderful (the Air reader fought the Flesh reader every step of the way, though).

    Clearly "thou shalt not copy" was the top priority, though the market for Nat. Geo. from 1920 would be small in my opinion.

    I then had to rebuild my laptop to incorporate some upgrades. When I tried to re-install the Nat Geo thing it was borked by an Adobe Air upgrade that automagically intruded itself into the business. The install threw a Java error (and we all know how helpful those are, don't we kiddies?). I did what any red-blooded SA would do and downloaded an "improved" installer from Nat. Geo. - also borked.

    I cleaned off the system vis-à-vis adobe, java and Nat Geo. Scrubbed it with Vim and Mr Clean. Then I isolated my machine from the tricky interwebs and ran the install again. Borked.

    I used several different installation procedures recommended by Nat Geo tech support. All ended in Swedish Chef Land (borkborkbork).

    Fuck knows what's wrong, but thanks to Adobe Air, never great by any stretch of the imagination when it was working, I cannot access so much as a word from this set now. It would be nice to think I could hold Adobe's feet to the fire and get either a working Nat. Geo. library or a refund of its value, but there's that ubiquitous passage in the license that says "although we do make software for a living, and although we do say we are the best at what we do, we refuse to be held accountable if said software doesn't, in fact, work". My efforts are now being put into finding something that can translate the oodles of bought-and-paid-for content into some sort of portable, readable form.

    So no, Adobe, I don't think I support *YOUR* latest implementation of DRM even if I do see the point of the exercise. You are fuck useless at making active software, especially for the browser, and I can't tell you the contempt in which I hold people who call themselves engineers but who don't have the balls to stand behind their products..

  24. Rick Giles
    Coat

    Lynx

    What is this DRM you speak of?

    You can actually watch videos in the browser? I don't need to download the movies and play them in VLC any more?

    Next thing you'll tell me is that the browser displays pictures and cute little animations with sound...

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Market share

    I do not understand why everyone thinks that not implementing DRM would cause a significant market share. As far as I am aware, no website actually uses DRM at the moment and I don’t see why that would change from one day to another. Web standards can take absurdly long periods of time to actually start being used, and I don’t see why half the websites used by users would suddenly stop functioning. There may be some websites that would stop functioning in Firefox, but that’ll be in 7 years from now and it won’t have any significant effect on Firefox’s market share. Nothing to worry about, at least for now.

    Mozilla could very well wait 5 more years without implementing DRM or even thinking about it and then reconsider it and see if it is worth it without losing any significant number of users. This would create more pressure against DRM and I really don’t see the disadvantages of it.

  26. wayward4now
    Alien

    They said it was a weather balloon.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAHSb5WwADU

    When I read another FSF news announce I hear "Unmarked Helicopters", by Soul Coughing, in my head. Spare me from those who would save me. Especially the bearded ones.

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