Firefox has DRM even if you turn off DRM.

Today I learned that Firefox has DRM even if you turn off DRM.

Even if you hide it in the GUI and stop sites from asking you to turn it on.

The MPEG-DASH standard has a form of DRM called ClearKey.

You can read about it here. (Warning: Microsoft GitHub)

In fact, when I went checking, Firefox, LibreWolf, and Ungoogled-Chromium all work with Clearkey, at least this demonstration.

I noticed that Clearkey exists because people on Reddit using Firefox ESR 91 have complained about Firefox popping up a dialog box saying the “Clearkey plugin has crashed”, on various Web sites.

It seems that the Web is getting so nasty that the purveyors of DRM want you to think you can turn it off when a different version goes ahead and runs instead.

The only browser I have on my computer that refuses to play it, is GNOME Web (version 42, latest WebkitGTK).

SeaMonkey also didn’t play it. It may be because Gecko (the rendering engine) is too old.

This does explain some things. The test video is not detected by Video Download Helper.

Whether this means Clearkey works or if the author of Video Download Helper just doesn’t want to get sued for helping people bypass DRM is unknown to me.

The US DMCA says any form of DRM is illegal to bypass, even something laughable or trivial.

Just telling someone to turn off a site’s JavaScript or to read the New York Times using the Lynx browser may even qualify.

Advertising companies have used the DMCA to get removed from the EasyList adblocking filters.

So they may just be relying on something like that.

The program, yt-dlp apparently works around “ClearKey” saying it’s not DRM.

However, they are stupid enough to host it on Microsoft GitHub where youtube-dl (the program they forked) had already been taken down for less, and where many other projects get deleted in the middle of the night.

Recently, even a port of DOOM to the processor in an IKEA smart lamp was taken down after IKEA sent threatening legal garbage. I haven’t been to an IKEA store since that happened.

If porting a program to a CPU is all you need to do to get threatened, then I wonder what IKEA’s lawyers do to sites that tell people how to make unintended recipes out of their frozen Swedish meatballs.

Mozilla continues to disappoint me. They had an opportunity to fight the people who are hijacking and corrupting the Web. They instead signed the Web’s death warrant on the dotted line, alongside Microsoft, Google, and Apple.

ClearKey apparently won’t stop people from copying. Why would it?

Stronger DRM doesn’t stop copying either.

All it does do is waste the user’s computer’s resources trying to play back a stupid video. Potentially one that they didn’t even want running on that Web page.

One of the most disappointing things about turning off DRM in Firefox and having ClearKey continue functioning, is it means that Mozilla is basically lying about what that switch does. Six years ago, they made it so you can’t even drop to about:config and disable ClearKey there.

Real sites are starting to use ClearKey, and it’s just one more aggravation that people on the modern Web will have to face.

I think I should be able to right-click and copy and paste anything I want from my Web browser, or click “Save Video”. If we had the people running Mozilla today in the 1990s, Web browsers wouldn’t even allow you to save an Image.

If a Web site uses JavaScript to try to block me from reading it or copying text, I simply revoke that site’s permission to use JavaScript.

That takes an Extension now, which is nuts.

More and more, I use Web to Gemini proxies to deal with Web content because it’s clean, it’s fast, and it’s readable.

Grabbing news articles and Wikipedia articles over Gemini on my Android phone is very easy using the Buran program from F-Droid.

On my laptop with Fedora, I use Lagrange.

They work like simple Web browser in the 90s did, where if there is an image, you can load it if you want to. Modern browsers just shove those in without asking even if it’s some stupid stock image.

This is what happens when presentation is more important than content quality.

There are simply too many Web problems to deal with and it’s only getting worse, and I no longer expect Mozilla to push back on any of them.


4 thoughts on “Firefox has DRM even if you turn off DRM.

  1. Pingback: Firefox Has DRM Even if You Turn off DRM | Techrights

  2. Pingback: Links 09/08/2022: EndeavourOS Artemis Neo and 14″ Pinebook Pro GNU/Linux Laptop | Techrights

  3. Somewhat Reticent

    Isn’t ClearKey simply a way to assure stream delivery (and a degree of privacy)?
    The stream’s key is “in the clear”, isn’t it?


    1. baronhk Post author

      Obviously, you can work around it if you want and the legal argument can be made that it’s not an “effective technical measure” if it doesn’t hide the key, but this is the kind of stuff that would have to be argued in court. And the point of it is to make it more difficult for the user to get at the video and for many independent software developers that could help the user bypass it not wanting to touch it for fear of becoming the next DVD Jon.

      I think the whole point of it is for people who realize DRM is stupid and people are always going to rip, but want to use your computer’s resources against you to at least make it more difficult. The Web “shouldn’t” allow anything other than pointing at a video or video stream and playing it unencrypted. But thanks to the Google/Apple/MPEG people, it becomes “Blu Ray Disc” whether you want to use that or not. It’s become a perversion of itself. In the early Web, the whole thing basically made it impossible to control what people did with information once you posted it.



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