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May 13, 2015

Mozilla caves into DRM requests with dual Firefox release

Supporters of nonprofit unhappy about closed software collusion.

By

Mozilla is offering versions of Firefox with and without digital rights management (DRM) amid an ongoing furore over the future of copyright online.

The move is a pragmatic response to an argument that has caused much strife in the nonprofit’s community, with Mozilla clearly torn over the "hard decision" made last year to implement a component allowing restricted content to be played on the browser.

Whilst the open source nature of Firefox has many opposed to "closed" systems such as DRM, the nonprofit believes that without the ability to play services such as BBC iPlayer the browser’s popularity will crumble.

Denelle Dixon-Thayer, SVP of business and legal affairs at Mozilla, said: "As we explained [last year], we are enabling DRM in order to provide our users with the features they require in a browser and allow them to continue accessing premium video content.

"We don’t believe DRM is a desirable market solution, but it’s currently the only way to watch a sought-after segment of content."

Version 38 of Firefox, released this week, will include an integration with Adobe Content Decryption Module that will allow playback of DRM-wrapped content, a feature that streaming firms such as Netflix have already begun testing in the browser.

However Mozilla will also offer Version 38 without the integration, and the company has also released a tool to remove the Adobe module from Firefox after installation.

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"As we’ve discussed, DRM is a complicated issue," Dixon-Thayer said. "We want our users to understand its implications and we have developed a teaching kit to introduce DRM, its challenges, and why some content publishers use it."

Writing in the Guardian last year Cory Doctorow, an advocate for copyright reform, condemned the move, even though he understood why Mozilla had caved into it.

"Like many of Mozilla’s supporters – and like many of the Mozillans I know and respect – I am devastated by this turn of events," he said.

"The free and open web needs an entity like Mozilla to stand on principle, especially when the commercial internet world so manifestly stands on nothing but profits."

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