Really afraid of Mozilla

A week after the International Day Against DRM, Mozilla has announced that it accepts the W3C DRM proposal and will actively support DRM on the Web. So we’ve lost another battle against DRM. All major Web browsers now officially accept DRM on the Web.

I find the following Mozilla explanation scary: “Every other major browser vendor has already implemented EME, and as it becomes the norm, we want to avoid the possibility that people will be unable to access key Internet content such as streaming Hollywood movies via Firefox. We also do not want to create a situation where Firefox users must use other browsers for key Internet activities.”

I don’t consider Hollywood movies being “key Internet content” and I don’t want to access any DRM content in Firefox. Whenever I need to use DRM or a similar broken system, I do so on platforms where privacy and security are already compromised (such as Google Android or proprietary operating systems).

So what’s the problem when using DRM in Firefox is going to be voluntary? For first, Hollywood demanded to put control on the users and the W3C and all the creators of major Web browsers have accepted that. For second, Mozilla has recently demonstrated several times that freedom is not very high among its priorities: It promotes non-free add-ons (without informing users about their licenses on mobile platforms), it failed to resist the outrage of political lobbyists and now it supports DRM. We all know the situations when we have to make hard choices and make decisions we are not proud of, because of our cowardice, lack of alternative choices or because we think we do the least evil. It’s a dangerous game we don’t want to play but we can’t avoid it. And it can lead us to crossing all limits.

When Mozilla says that “every other major browser has already done that and it becomes the norm” I’m alerted. The fact is that every other major browser is designed to serve interests of its creator and not the interests of the users. This is the primary reason I use Firefox and not another major browser. But when Mozilla conforms to what other major browsers do and what is “the norm” then what’s the difference? I have to ask some serious questions such as whether Mozilla will sell users’ data or whether it will close some parts of its source code or will switch to a hostile license when that looks like an effective way to fulfill “interests of Firefox users” and to save the market share. My answer is such things may happen. So I can’t trust Mozilla anymore. (As a precaution I disabled sending Firefox reports to Mozilla from my mobile devices and of course I use my own Firefox sync server instead of the one provided by Mozilla.)

Retracting from certain principles typically doesn’t bring the expected good. When my country was sacrificed to Hitler, it was applauded as saving the world peace. The next year World War II has started. When Netscape offered its proprietary Web browser as free meal, users have accepted it instead of making a free Web browser. Some years later Netscape has lost the war of browsers and turning to the Mozilla project has saved us from the worst in the last minute. The years of Netscape dominance had nevertheless made serious damages to free software which I hoped were recently finally recovered. But I was mistaken, we actually tightly depend on a single free software product apparently ready to sacrifice the principles of freedom just to conform to “the norms” and retain some users. Maybe Mozilla changes its attitude and instead of making definite steps against user freedom and vague claims about supporting it it will act in the opposite way. But maybe things get worse and we must be prepared for that. It’s time to start preparing for the worst, i.e. loosing the last free major Web browser.

We need a major free Web browser, sufficiently separated from direct commercial interests and with high respect to users’ freedom and privacy. We should start with properly maintaining a freedom aware branch of Firefox (perhaps the GNU IceCat project, the GNU version of Firefox, might be a good start). In case more bad things happen with Mozilla we should be ready to start a complete Firefox fork. Otherwise we may end up with a completely proprietary Web.

International Day Against DRM

Today is the eighth International Day Against DRM. I consider DRM unethical, dangerous, threatening our freedom and serving no useful purpose. A lot could be said on the topic, but I’ll try to give just an illustrative example instead.

When I looked for works of George Orwell in Czech e-shops I found that they were mostly out of print. They were also unavailable as e-books — except for his two most important works, which were (and still are) only available with DRM. That means reading Nineteen Eighty-Four or Animal Farm requires installing a secret software on your approved and supervised reader, you are not allowed to read the book without special permission and you may be reported every time you open it. And we all remember the infamous Amazon incident, don’t we? That all happens for “protection” of whoever, but certainly not the more than half a century dead author. Truly Orwellian.

What can we do? Above all, please don’t ignore the problem nor accept the DRM game passively. Tell about the problems of DRM to your friends. Raise your voice against accepting DRM as an official W3C standard. We must fight for freedom otherwise we lose it. There is still hope: This year, it’s possible to buy the first Czech e-book of George Orwell’s writings that may be read without supervision, on non-approved readers and without spyware installed on them. An interesting book, looking forward it!

10 years in the European Union

My country, Czech Republic, has joined the European Union 10 years ago. It was great event and it’s clear that the EU has been helping us a lot to return from the Soviet empire to civilized world.

What did we give to the EU? I’m not sure. Our government has made some serious troubles but hopefully there have been also positive things. In any case, I believe it was worth to invest in our participation, it’s better to have good neighbors than bad ones. (Can our prime minister, telling us that we can’t support freedom due to economic reasons, figure out that someday?)

While some people have been dying to enter the EU, as immigrants or as citizens of a maybe future member country, other people inside the EU fight against the Union. Of course, there are many problems and bad things happen. But European unification is not the ground cause of that (think what are the actual problems and how the matters would evolve without the EU). I believe the EU project is primarily a great opportunity of world wide importance, which we can either make the best of or waste.