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Mozilla CTO blasts WC3 plans to bless anti-piracy DRM tech in HTML5

Brendan Eich warns of 'The Bridge of Khazad-DRM'

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The co-founder and CTO of Mozilla Brendan Eich has issued a strongly worded statement decrying moves by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to allow digital rights management plugins to be included in the specifications for HTML5 and future code iterations.

Last year Microsoft, Google and Netflix submitted a proposal to web standards overlord W3C to allow the use of Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) that would allow companies to build plugins for watching DRMed content in browsers.

The proposals are supported by the W3C and Sir Tim Berners-Lee – the web's daddy basically told users to get over it and accept that anti-piracy tech such as DRM was going to be in their future. But the Free Software Foundation and EFF have both objected strongly to the proposals, and have now been joined by Eich and, by inference, Mozilla itself.

"We see DRM in general as profoundly hostile to all three of: users, open-source software, and browser vendors who aren’t also DRM vendors," he said in a blog post titled "The Bridge of Khazad-DRM".

"What the W3C is entertaining, due to Netflix, Google, and Microsoft’s efforts, is the EME API, which introduces new plugins that are neither Silverlight nor Flash, called Content Decryption Modules (CDM for short), into HTML5. We see serious problems with this approach. One is that the W3C apparently will not specify the CDM, so each browser may end up having its own system."

Eich said Mozilla wasn't against any plugins using DRM, indeed Mozilla's browsers supported some such code. But the he feels W3C is making a major mistake in not specifying the exact form of DRM that can be used, which could leave browser manufacturers having to deal with competing and possibly incompatible systems.

He likened the situation to the bad old days when Microsoft's ActiveX was rife, and said that for the open-source community any move to DRM would cause massive problems in coding and implementation. Some plugins could even be dependent on having the right kind of operating system, and as such Mozilla is taking a stand against the proposed EME system.

"Here is a narrow bridge on which to stand and fight — and perhaps fall, but (like Gandalf) live again and prevail in the longer run. If we lose this battle, there will be others where the world needs Mozilla," Eich concluded. ®

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