As much of the technical world is now aware, Mozilla has agreed to put HTML5 EME support in Firefox via implementing a DRM scheme. I am like many other Free Software folks who are very upset by the Mozilla Foundation acting in a way that I see as against their stated goals. Bradley Kuhn has a great post in which he argues that the Mozilla Foundation (either by enabling the Mozilla Corporation, or by its own volition) by creating and distributing DRM is acting against its charitable purpose as posed to the IRS. After reading the documents that bkuhn linked to, the Mozilla Foundation’s stated goals and their actions do appear to be directly opposed.
The two statements made by the Mozilla Foundation in their IRS paperwork that I will draw on here are as follows:
From “Part II, Question 1: Part B. Background”
“Furthure, some Web pages can be viewed solely on a certain type of computer or with a specific Web browsing software. The use of such non-standard technologies, often promoted by commercial software developers and vendors who are eager to maintain a competitive advantage, reduces the Web’s universality and, consequently, limits Internet access on those unable or unwilling to afford the commercial technologies.”
From “Part II, Question 1: Part D. Key Activies”
“The Foundation plans to engage in the following key activities in pursuance of its exempt purpose:” “(1) Facilitate the development of a web browser, e-main software and other Internet software that (a) are open source, (b) implement open standards, (c) are available free of charge to all Internet users around the world, regardless of the make or model of computers they use, the language they speak, or disabilities they may have, (d) are developed in an open process in which any interested party (individuals, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, corporations) can contribute, and (e) are powerful and easy to use.” … “(5) Participate in Internet standards development efforts with the focus of promoting standards that complement the Foundation’s exempt purpose (i.e., the availability of software to the general public free-of-charge, regardless of the make or model of computers that they use, the language they speak, or disabilities they may have).”
Based on the quote from “Part B” above, we can clearly tell that the Mozilla Foundation as it was when these forms were filed, knew that DRM was not something that would advance the free and open web. The fact that an organization behind a for-profit company was willing to publically say that is a very big deal. In the second quoted section above, the notable part is “(5)” wherein the Mozilla Foundation states that they will work promoting standards that complement the Mozilla Foundation’s stated goals. One of these goals is “the availability of software to the general public free-of-charge, regardless of the make or model of computers that use, the language they speak, or disabilities they may have.”
Deconstructing that Goal
That sentence reads funny to me. Is the goal to make software available free-of-charge to users no matter what computers they use, language the speak, or their disablities? Meaning, for users of GNU/Linux, OS X, or Windows the cost is $0; For speakers of English, German, Spanish, etc. the cost is $0; etc. Or is the goal “to make software available” that has the following characteristics:
- is free-of-charge
- will work regardless of computer specifics
- will work regardless of language
- will work regardless of a user’s disability
If the correctly stated goal is the former, then the Mozilla Foundation has by enabling DRM in Firefox acted completly in accordance with their stated goals. If however, the later clarification is correct, then the Mozilla Foundation has misled many people for a long time, and is no longer even trying to act as it claimed it would.
I only use vanilla Firefox on my mobile phone, but now, I am unsure if I even will continue doing that. On all of my other machines, I use GNU IceCat and I would suggest that others do the same.
I also suggest that others educate themselves on the HTML EME fiasco, and on the Mozilla Foundation’s latest news before jumping to rash decisons.