May 6, 2015
To Andreas Gal,
We are a group of Free Software advocates from Melbourne Australia and supporters of the Mozilla Foundation and its goals. While we would usually hold Mozilla in high esteem, on this International Day Against DRM we feel compelled to join the FSF and Defective By Design in condemning Mozilla's decision to include proprietary mechanisms (Encrypted Media Extensions) in Firefox.
We understand that you are trying to do what makes content owners comfortable lest they not allow their content on your browser; you have outlined this in the article "DRM and the Challenge of Serving Users". However it seems that your focus is on the short term, compromising your values to retain existing users, rather than protecting them in the longer term. That article significantly neglects any mention of the harms caused by such proprietary technologies, and how they lead users to inflict this harm upon themselves.
When data passes through a machine that cannot be inspected by us, its nominal owners, we’ve lost essential freedoms to our personal and social lives. When this loss of freedom is enabled by a foundation we've learned to know and trust, it is particularly disappointing. Firefox has, through inclusion of these restrictive technologies, lost a key differentiator over competing browsers. This puts at risk the support you have gained from being the most open and free solution for the web. We wish for Mozilla to stand with us in this fight against anti-features.
The Mozilla Manifesto's second principle is: "The Internet is a global public resource that must remain open and accessible". That laudable statement seems at odds with delaying support for some free software HTML5 video playback features, while acting to support DRM in the browser so quickly.
The plugin functionality users currently enjoy has benevolent uses, and was not implemented with the specific intent to assist in the development of DRM technologies. EME, on the other hand, has a single purpose, hostile to the user and to free society and the Free Software movement. The seventh principle in the Manifesto, "Free and open source software promotes the development of the Internet as a public resource", should compel you to strongly reconsider the decision to implement EME.
We agree with your statement that "In the past Firefox has changed the industry". We also remember that it did not do so by implementing anti-features that "become the norm". Perhaps supporting or promoting alternatives would be more productive. Putting any company and its closed formats above the users freedoms by implementing EME damages uptake on those very alternatives. What efforts has Mozilla undertaken to counter this harm? How does implementing EME encourage content providers to do the right thing? What kind of example does it set? It also seems that companies like Netflix encourage and supply dedicated programs and devices rather than promoting the browser option in the long run.
In the article you mention that "until an alternative system is in place, Firefox users should be able to choose". We ask what Mozilla has done to promote or support alternatives promoting freedom? In the spirit of the final principle of your Manifesto, "Magnifying the public benefit aspects of the Internet is an important goal, worthy of time, attention and commitment" we ask that you give this matter the time, attention and commitment that is needed for the free society we are all working toward.