Firefox Says Yes to DRM

May 20, 2014

Quintessential open source browser shores up its market share with a step toward the proprietary dark side.

The Mozilla Foundation, maker of the Firefox open source browser, has agreed that Firefox will support the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) standard, which will enable DRM extensions to control copy-protected video used by vendors such as Netflix. Mozilla has teamed with Adobe to create what they call the Content Decryption Module (CDM), a DRM-based sandbox for playing copy-protected video. The CDM will carry a proprietary software license. Because Firefox is open source, CDM will not ship with the download version of the tool but will be installed as an extension with the user's permission if it is needed to play a video.

Although the decision to support DRM has caused a fire storm within the open source community, Mozilla says its greater fear was that the lack of support for streaming proprietary video was forcing users to adopt other browsers. Understandably, the Free Software Foundation has stated its strong opposition to the decision. According to FSF executive director John Sullivan, "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 market share. It allies Mozilla with a company hostile to the free software movement and to Mozilla's fundamental ideals."
Since Firefox is open source code, anyone can modify the code base to remove a features and release a new version. The FSF expects that a new non-EME fork of the Firefox code will appear soon. Of course, the Debian project has already forked the Firefox code to produce the all-free Iceweasel browser, which will undoubtedly refrain from integrating the new DRM components.

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