Mozilla & DRM

Most people’s reaction to the Mozilla & DRM debacle makes me want to firmly and repeatedly smash my head against my desk - not a great idea when I’m surrounded by exams. I’ll outline why in a minute, but first, if you haven’t already, you really should go and read both Mitchell’s post on the Mozilla blog and Andreas’ post on the Mozilla Hacks blog.

Done? Good. Now for the things that make me want to hit myself over the head:

1. People who can’t (be bothered to) read

Most of the criticism comes from people who haven’t been bothered to go and read what Mozilla’s written about the issue (or just suck at it). If these people had, we’d have no complaints of Mozilla forcing users to use DRM, bundling proprietary code, or ‘giving up’ on user’s freedom and rights.

As you know from reading those two posts, essentially all that is happening is Adobe’s CDM is going to be implemented as an optional, monitored, special-type-of-plugin.

I’d say it’s no different from Flash, but it is going to be different. It’s going to be more secure, and presumably less buggy (being a ‘feature’ of Firefox). Once Firefox implements EME, there’s really no reason for Flash or Silverlight to continue to exist. Sure, this setup sucks. But I think Flash sucks more.

As for ‘giving up’: Mozilla can only be influential if it has influence. The primary source of Mozilla’s influence is the number of people using Firefox, which isn’t currently very big. Not implementing EME won’t help that. As others have said, this is not the hill to die on.

This all leads nicely onto my second point:

2. People who use Chrome

One of the best Tweets I found on the issue was somebody threatening to switch to Google Chrome because of this. I think the irony here is clear.

Yet, what astounds me more is not people threatening to switch, but people already using Chrome who want Mozilla to protect their rights.

Google is a for-profit company which exists to exploit users data. It’s collaborated with the NSA. It’s helped to lead the charge with Microsoft and Netflix for EME. Why on Earth, then, would you give Google support by using Chrome?

This may seem hypocritical from someone who uses Google’s services. Yet Google Search, Maps, Android (and so-on) are unparalleled. Chrome isn’t.

The single easiest thing you can do to support Mozilla is to use Firefox. It gives Mozilla the influence it needs to fight.

3. People who think Mozilla can single-handedly ‘change the industry’

I hate DRM as much as the next guy and I think copyright is fundamentally broken - it’s why I’m a member of the Pirate Party, it’s why I donate to ORG and EFF, and it’s through these avenues I expect to see real change.

Mozilla can only change the industry with user support. And users don’t care about DRM, they only care that video works. We clearly saw this with WebM and H.264.

There’s work to be done, but it can’t be done if Mozilla loses its influence, and it can only be done with the support (not ire) of other organisations.

Users want DRM. We should give them DRM. That doesn’t mean Mozilla supports DRM, and it doesn’t mean Mozilla can’t educate users about what DRM means (and there are some very good signs of that being bundled into Webmaker soon).

In conclusion

Don’t be disappointed in Mozilla.

Be disappointed in Google, Microsoft and Apple for implementing this first, and forcing Mozilla’s hand.

Be disappointed in Netflix and its friends (including, surprisingly, the BBC!) calling for DRM.

Be disappointed in your elected representatives creating an environment where it is potentially illegal to say specific things about DRM.

Now go out, educate users about what DRM means, and why it’s bad. Use Firefox, and donate time or money to Mozilla to give it the influence it needs. Support organisations (such as EFF, ORG, FSF, FSFE) and political parties who represent your views on DRM and Copyright reform.

This is by no means the end of the battle over DRM and Copyright - it’s just the beginning.