Mozilla jumped into bed with Adobe in support of digital rights management standards, and open source advocates are furious.
Mozilla’s decision marks a strike against the open source software movement. For years, Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight were the plugins of choice for making sure that copyrighted material distributed on the web– like movies and music– was not easily downloadable or illegally copied under U.S. copyright laws. Because plugins have a number of security vulnerabilities, content providers are increasingly moving towards Adobe’s proprietary DRM software.
Since most browser developers are happily acquiescing to DRM, Mozilla said they either had to get on board or risk losing a large share of the browser market.
Unfortunately for Mozilla, the open source community is less than sympathetic to their plight. In a press release the Free Software Foundation writes, “Nearly everyone who implements DRM says they are forced to do it, and this lack of accountability is how the practice sustains itself.”
In the eyes of open source advocates, Adobe is an evil nemesis. Fundamentally they stand for two different things: Adobe promotes the use of closed-source proprietary software and open-source advocates support software that is free, open, and community built. Mozilla’s support of DRM comes after Tim Berners-Lee’s addition of DRM to HTML5, the internet’s core coding technology, and essentially adds insult to injury.
Some feel that Mozilla may not have closely examined how much of the market they would actually lose by not making the switch to DRM. In an article for the Guardian, editor of Boing-Boing Cory Doctorow says “When a charitable nonprofit like Mozilla makes a shift as substantial as this one – installing closed-source software designed to treat computer users as untrusted adversaries – you’d expect there to be a data-driven research story behind it, meticulously documenting the proposition that without DRM irrelevance is inevitable. The large number of bytes being shifted by Netflix is a poor proxy for that detailed picture.”
For open-source advocates the bottom line is this: free open-source software may be losing the fight for relevance and use in favor of commercial software that’s quick and easy to use.