Mozilla Firefox DRM decision prompts warning from former Kazaa CTO

Mozilla has announced it is embracing the W3C Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) digital rights management standard in Firefox, prompting a warning from the former chief technical officer of peer-to-peer sharing service Kazaa.

 

Phil Morle, the chief executive and cofounder of startup incubator Pollenizer, was previously the chief technical officer for peer-to-peer file sharing service Kazaa. The service was shut down following a series of lawsuits from the recording industry.

 

Morle told StartupSmart digital rights management has historically been a problematic technology.

 

“I think DRM as a feature historically fails and will continue to do so because the user experience is implicitly poor. It stops customers doing things,” Morle says.

 

“After a while customers can’t track which media will still work and which will not. Then they give up trying or buying. DRM goes against the nature of the web which gives media a powerful channel to reach customers.

 

“As Tim O’Reilly [an open source advocate] says, the biggest problem for creators is not piracy; it’s obscurity. Adopting DRM says that your customer is your enemy and not to be trusted. Customers understand that.”

 

EME is a protocol designed to prevent anyone other than people legally licensed to watch video or music files from viewing that content in their web browser.

 

In a statement posted on Mozilla’s official blog, cofounder Mitchell Barker says it is joining Apple, Microsoft and Google by implementing the protocol in its Firefox web browser.

 

“People want to watch video, including movies and TV shows. Browsers must provide the ability to watch video or the browser becomes less and less the tool users need,” Barker says.

 

“A number of content owners (in particular film and TV studios) require technical mechanisms to reduce the ways in which people can use that content, such as preventing people from making copies.

 

“This technical mechanism is generally called ‘DRM’ for ‘digital rights management.’ Browsers must implement DRM in a way that makes the content owners comfortable. Otherwise they won’t allow their content to be viewed through that browser.”

 

The EME standard insists on a closed-source solution, with Mozilla’s adoption of the standard meaning there will be a HTML5 standard across all major web browsers for DRM.

 

Barker says Mozilla is implementing the protocol in its open source Firefox browser through an optional restricted content module to be developed by Adobe.

 

In a separate blog post, Mozilla’s chief technology officer provides technical details on how its implementation will work.

 

“The W3C EME specification defines how to play back such content using the HTML5 element, utilizing a Content Decryption Module (CDM) that implements DRM functionality directly in the Web stack. The W3C EME specification only describes the JavaScript APIs to access the CDM.”

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