DRM in Action

DRM in action

It has recently come to our attention a good example of how proprietary software combined with DRM (Digital Rights Restrictions) can directly impact the programs that people use.

Here is a blog entry titled 'I tried creating a web browser, and Google blocked me'.

This is in relation the use of Widevine technology. It is a non-free technology that powers DRM for online streaming video (dis)services. It powers the likes of Netflix, Facebook, Amazon etc. It is used to take away your rights to view the works as you wish and forces you to use non-free programs on your machines.

The overall issue is that a developer is trying to make a web browser but they are limited in functionality because Google will not give them the rights to implement the Widevine technology via a non-free addon. Of note is the comment from Google Support, "I'm sorry but we're not supporting an open source solution like this". This brings up two distinct issues.

Firstly that they are actively not willing to work with a program that is non-free, thus forcing people to produce programs that restrict the users and their ability to run the programs. Essentially unless you produce a program that Google doesn't approve of then you will not be allowed to make it as you wish.

Secondly, that open source is not free software. If Google had allowed this program to use the Widevine technology, the program could still be technically considered open-source with a 3rd party proprietary add-on. If this was free software, putting this add-on in would make it non-free and would be in violation of the licenses put in place to protect you the user.

We have previously mentioned the issue of mono-culture in limiting Internet standards, the last case of this was with Microsoft adoption the Chromium standard for their Edge browser thus reducing the available pool of technology available to the users and giving more control to Google. This is another example of browser functionality being limited. While others are free to make web browsers, the likes of Google can control the technology so that no others can easily compete with their version of the standards. This is essentially a monopoly strong arming the competition out of the way be dictating the rules to other competitors. Developers and users should never be forced into this position and we must demand to be able to use our technology without giving up our freedoms.

Even if the developers of this program were not restricted by Google, we would never recommend a program that would use this kind of restrictive functionality. Not just because it is non-free software, but because it encourages more creative works providers to use DRM to lock down their services. If people do not push back and refuse to use these restrictive systems, it will only get worse for us.

We do not recommend anything other than entirely free software. When it comes to media we do not recommend the use of anything that uses DRM as it is not only needs non-free software to run but it also encourages you to give up your rights. If works are locked behind DRM, we say it is not worth it regardless of the subject matter.

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