Study: Many Sharing Economy Companies Not There Yet On Privacy And Transparency
Update: Apple Responds To Consumer's Claim That Apple Music "Stole" His Music

Proprietary Content Formats Threaten Both Consumers' Choices And An Open, Fair Internet

EFF - Save Firefox image

The open Internet and consumer choice are both under attack. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) described the threat (links added):

"The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), once the force for open standards that kept browsers from locking publishers to their proprietary capabilities, has changed its mission. Since 2013, the organization has provided a forum where today's dominant browser companies and the dominant entertainment companies can collaborate on a system to let our browsers control our behavior, rather than the other way.

This system, "Encrypted Media Extensions" (EME) uses standards-defined code to funnel video into a proprietary container called a "Content Decryption Module." For a new browser to support this new video streaming standard -- which major studios and cable operators are pushing for -- it would have to convince those entertainment companies or one of their partners to let them have a CDM, or this part of the "open" Web would not display in their new browser.

This is the opposite of every W3C standard to date: once, all you needed to do to render content sent by a server was follow the standard, not get permission. If browsers had needed permission to render a page at the launch of Mozilla, the publishers would have frozen out this new, pop-up-blocking upstart. Kiss Firefox goodbye, in other words.

The W3C didn't have to do this. No copyright law says that making a video gives you the right to tell people who legally watch it how they must configure their equipment. But because of the design of EME, copyright holders will be able to use the law to shut down any new browser that tries to render the video without their permission."

An EFF blog post explained the related threat from vague online language:

"A team of researchers from UC Berkeley and Case Western have published a study showing that customers think they are getting traditional ownership rights when they buy digital media online, even when a vendor’s site includes legal terms (often buried in click-wrap agreements) purporting to limit those rights.

In the study, customers purchased digital media from a fictional website with either a “Buy Now” button, a “License Now” button... Customers clicking “Buy Now” overwhelmingly believed for that they would “own” both digital and hard copy media, and have the right to keep it indefinitely and use it on a device of their choice. Little did they realize that their digital copy could be taken away or simply be discontinued when a vendor went out of business or stopped supporting the product... When the button was changed to read “License Now,” customers’ expectations did not significantly change (they were less likely to say they "owned" the product, but just as likely to believe they had the rights that come with ownership). When, however, customers were presented with a plainly-written summary of the rights that were and were not granted, this did cause a corresponding change in people’s expectations. The paper reinforces the truism that no one reads fine print online terms, even in a research study. If vendors really wanted customers to understand what’s in their terms, they could easily craft informative summaries as the researchers did."

So, when you visit a website with "Buy It Now" buttons or "Own it Now" ads, you now know what really matters is what the fine print states. Some Apple Music and iTunes customers are learning this the hard way. Subscribing to music online may be convenient, but the downside is loss of control over music files that can also affect files users do own.

Publishers have every right to protect their property from theft, and the old adage is true: the devil is in the details. Read the fine print. When publishers use digital rights management (DRM) to drive web browser standards and both the hardware and software consumers can buy, then the tail wagging the dog.

So, it's not only about saving the Firefox web browser. It's about ensuring competition; that publishers build content to open standards and any web browser can display content built to those standards. Read the entire EFF article. Standards are standards. They should be open to everyone; not driven by publisher's needs.

What are you thoughts or opinions about the new standard?

Comments

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Chanson de Roland

Mozilla's has installed, as a default installation of CDM, Google's Widevine CDM in the beta version of Firefox, version 47.0b6, which will almost certainly be the default installation in four to six weeks in the release version of Firefox. I don't object to CDM-DRM per se, where it does nothing more than protect and defend a copyright holder's lawful interests in his/its copyright. My objection to Widevine, however, and my great disappointment with Mozilla is that Widevine goes much further and does much more than simply protect copyright; it installs what I regard as Google's malware, Widevine, into Firefox, which boldly and unabashedly collects a Firefox user's personal information, as set forth in Google's privacy policy, as the consideration for using Widevine. That violates at least my privacy.

And my disappointment with Mozilla is that it is almost certainly installing Widevine into Firefox, instead of CDM that only protects copyright and does nothing more, because it is getting a fat check from Google to do so. I expected Mozilla, in the spirit of open-source software and with respect for its users' privacy, to install CDM that only protects copyright, instead of a CDM, here Widevine, that requires its users' to sacrifice their personal information to Google and its business partners have CDM. If, instead of Widevine, Mozilla installs CDM that only protects copyright in future versions of Firefox, it will permit its users to use CDM-DRM protected and duly copyrighted materials without sacrificing their privacy to do so. Otherwise, Mozilla is little better than a pimp, with its users as its whoes.

To not put to fine a point on it, the reasonable inference is that Mozilla has sold out or is in the process of selling out: It is preparing to compromise its users' privacy for money. That is morally repugnant, at least to me, and will cause me to revisit using Apple's Safari as my primary, if not sole, browser, if Apple uses CDM that does not compromise its users' privacy but only protects copyright.

I occasionally might wish to use CDM content, but I will only do so without compromising my privacy. Therefore, I will be watching to see what CDM Mozilla installs in the release and future beta version of Firefox. If it is Widevine or any other CDM that lays claim to my personal information or in any other way compromises my privacy, I won't use it but will look for a third-party CDM extension to Firefox that does not compromise its users' privacy. If there are no such extensions that provide CDM for Firefox without compromising my privacy, I will look elsewhere for my browser. And if there is no browser that does not require its users to sacrifice their privacy to use CDM, then I will forgo CDM content.

It appears that no one need save Firefox, because Firefox is in the process of saving itself at a handsome profit but at the cost of its soul. And, as has been said: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” The Bible, KJV, Mark 8:36.

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