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May 22, 2014

Mozilla to Allow DRM in Firefox

One of the pledges of the Mozilla Foundation is to build and enable open-source technologies and communities. Those are great ideals if everything everyone created was open source, but copyright laws and free enterprise make that impossible. While Mozilla and its browser, Firefox, try to make every new technology available for its users, there are instances in which copyright laws prohibit the company from offering these services, and in this case it is movies and TV shows.

In a company blog, Mozilla makes the case for having to implement DRM or digital rights management in its browser. Mozilla's dislike of DRM is very well publicized, but video has become a very important component of a Web browser's functionality, and if it is not capable of delivering these contents, users will go elsewhere. Currently Google, Microsoft and Apple have already implemented the new system, and it is survive or perish for Mozilla as video becomes more prominent on the Web.

The problem Mozilla has with DRM is the lack of control and privacy users will experience once this system is implemented. Even though the industry is in the process of deploying new DRM mechanisms – Content Decryption Module (CDM) and Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) – Mozilla still believes it contains the same flaws as the old system. It said in the blog, "It doesn’t strike the correct balance between protecting individual people and protecting digital content. The content providers require that a key part of the system be closed source, something that goes against Mozilla’s fundamental approach."

Mozilla has chosen Adobe to provide the key functionality for its DRM because the platform it uses provides some level of user control and transparency, while at the same time delivering a wide range features including multiple platforms and video codecs. Once the new system is fully implemented, it will become the only way browsers will be able to provide access to DRM-controlled content.

With personal privacy as one of its core tenets, Mozilla has designed a mechanism to protect its users as much as possible considering the parameters it has to work under. Although the company doesn't see this as facing the core problems with DRM, they have implemented options that allow users some control, which are:

  • Each person will be able to decide whether to activate the DRM implementation or to leave it off and not watch DRM-controlled content
  • Surrounded the closed-source portion with an open-source wrapper, allowing Mozilla to monitor and better understand the scope of activities of the closed-source code.

Mozilla is an open-source platform with many hardcore and loyal users who appreciate the privacy and security it provides, but the vast majority of its users will go to any of the other browsers if they can't watch their favorite show; and that is what the company is facing. Its survival will depend on being able to keep up with the other browsers, and video is key.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey
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