After years of insisting that DRM in HTML wouldn't block open source implementations, Google says it won't support open source implementations

The bitter, yearslong debate at the World Wide Web Consortium over a proposal to standardize DRM for web browsers included frequent assurances by the pro-DRM side (notably Google, whose Widevine DRM was in line to be the principal beneficiary) that this wouldn't affect the ability of free/open source authors to implement the standard.

The absurd figleaf used to justify this was a reference implementation of EME in open source that only worked on video that didn't have the DRM turned on. The only people this impressed were people who weren't paying attention or lacked the technical depth to understand that a tool that only works under conditions that are never seen in the real world was irrelevant to real-world conditions.

Now the real world has arrived, and it was just as predicted. Samuel Maddock is a free software developer who is creating a new browser called Metastream, derived from Chromium, the free/open version of Google's Chrome. Metastream is designed to allow users to "playback videos on the web, synchronized with other peers."

This is obviously not a copyright violation of any kind. Metastream allows users who are streaming videos they are allowed to to stream to synchronize playback so they can watch them together. In an age of Twitch, this is obviously useful (also: it's something I personally ghost-wrote in to the BBC's 2006 Charter Renewal document as a favor to one of the people involved, so it's something that major rightsholder groups like the idea of, too).

Maddock wanted to allow his users to do this with the videos they pay to watch on Widevine-restricted services like Hulu and Netflix, so he applied to Google for a license to implement Widevine in his browser. Four months later, Google sent him a one-sentence reply: "I'm sorry but we're not supporting an open source solution like this" (apparently four months' delay wasn't enough time to hunt up a comma or a period).

The connection to the Article 13 debate should be obvious: for years, advocates for the Directive insisted that it could be implemented without filters, but of course it requires filters. Likewise, for year, EME's backers insisted that it wouldn't prevent us from having open, auditable, free-as-in-speech browsers that anyone could inspect, improve and distribute. But of course it does.

Of course it does.

I’m now only left with two options regarding the fate of Metastream: stop development of a desktop browser version, or pivot my project to a browser extension with reduced features. The latter requiring publishing to the Google Chrome Web Store which would further entrench the project into a Google walled garden.

I tried creating a web browser, and Google blocked me [Samuel Maddock]

Boy howdy, this is one subject where I loathe saying "I told you so", but... I sure told you so.[1] [Diaz/Hacker News]

(via Four Short Links)