First, let’s have a little background information:
DRM is ridiculous. It is used by media companies to prevent unauthorised copying of their digital media files. It inevitably gets cracked, so is ultimately ineffectual. As more and more schemes are cracked, even more advanced methods are cooked up by these companies. Modern DRM often misfires, giving incentive to infringe on copyright: why pay for something that’ll probably be a headache to get working (if it works at all) when you can get a cracked, and therefore unencumbered, version on a torrent network for free? DISCLAIMER: I don’t do that, and I certainly don’t condone it, but you can see the logic.
For these reasons, and others, I oppose the use of DRM. Now, I’m no fanatic. Even though I would prefer if it didn’t exist at all, I don’t mind it in small doses, where it doesn’t greatly interfere with my life. I have no problem watching programmes on RTÉ Player, even though that copy-protects the stream (and requires me to use Adobe Flash). Similarly, I don’t mind playing my games on Steam. They work, and I can mod them as I please (I am irked by Portal 2′s DRM though, as it seems to prevent me from playing under Wine). However, I despise Blu-Ray. Keys are issued, keys are revoked, and it’s not possible to play a newer disc on an older player. As well as that, in order to legally play an encrypted BD on a PC, a boatload of proprietary software is required, all of which is expensive and takes up hard-drive space. Apparently using the free VLC with a list of cracked keys is a legal “grey area”.
This brings us to the topic at hand: Encrypted Media Extensions, or EME. This is a proposed part of the standard for HyperText Markup Language version 5, or HTML5. For those unfamiliar, this is the newest version of HTML, the language used to write web pages. If EME was accepted as part of the HTML5 standard, it would require all web browsers to support a standard DRM to “protect” the audiovisual material displayed on certain web pages. This goes completely against the philosophy of the free and open web. How can Mozilla, an organisation dedicated to keeping the web free and open, implement any kind of digital restriction in Firefox? Leave that kind of work for the proprietary software, free software needs to stay free! Of course, any DRM in free software would be legally toothless, thanks to the GPL’s DRM clause. However, free software developers still should not be asked to programme for DRM.
The forces behind the EME proposal, it appears, are online media companies aligned with Hollywood. Notably, Netflix would appear to be pumping lobbying dollars into the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to get them to go along with EME, so that they can use it to appease the Hollywood giants that supply the bulk of their material. Their plan is to rework their delivery service to work only in browsers that use EME, again bullying free software developers. Thus, the FSF is calling for a boycott, until they change their position on this. I don’t use Netflix myself, so I can’t cancel anything ( ), but I would encourage others to inform themselves about this and make whatever decision they feel is right.
Incidentally, this isn’t the first time that a boycott of Netflix was called for, but that last one turned out to be an embarrassing mistake. Luckily, the foundation for it is much stronger this time, based largely on NF’s own announcements.
PS. For you history buffs out there (if any), here’s something on one of those very Hollywood giants: http://youtu.be/3FZAPUyR-5M
It sometimes helps to know a bit about what you’re up against!