Why Is Adobe Trying To Add DRM To Flash?

from the anti-competitive-reasons dept

The EFF’s Deeplinks blog has an excellent discussion about Adobe’s plans to add DRM to Flash. Flash has become something of a defacto standard online, and it’s partly the lack of included DRM that allowed this to happen, encouraging creative uses, such as mashups. However, with the latest version of Flash, apparently Adobe wants to include DRM. As the EFF notes, this clearly is not to stop copyright infringements — as no DRM has ever stopped copyright infringement. However, thanks to the DMCA’s anti-circumvention clause, it will make it possible for Adobe to block out competitors from making tools and players to work on Flash, by failing to license that DRM to them as well. This was not the purpose of the DMCA at all.

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Comments on “Why Is Adobe Trying To Add DRM To Flash?”

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Panaqqa says:

Wouldn't be the first time Adobe's tried for vendo

Remember Adobe PostScript back in prehistory? Well, let’s leave those first early practice maneuvers out of it, even though the scandalously high license fees do sound familiar.

Move forward to Acrobat Reader and PDFs. I bet it still bothers them today that other software developers actually had the gall to create applications that could read and write PDF files. After all, wasn’t the big plan to wait until PDF was a nearly ubiquitous format before sticking it to everyone to the tune of $300 or so for the Acrobat Pro package needed to create PDFs? And a few spoilsports had to wreck it for them by supporting their proprietary file format, and even creating PDFs no less. The nerve.

So. Adobe is going to try again, this time having purchased an almost ubiquitous piece of software so they needn’t do that part of the work all over. Strategy? Buy Macromedia so you own a piece of software installed on 98%+ of the world’s Windows PCs, then gradually lock out other vendors as you provide new features that their competing products cannot work with unless a DRM license is available, which it won’t be for anything close to a reasonable price.

This is one of the few cases where I am going to root for Microsoft… go Microsoft go!! Work on that Silverlight! You see, Microsoft is our only hope right now to avoid a software monopoly on this one specific category of rich web content. Either that or maybe a black hat hacker will do the world a service for a change and find a vulnerability that is so serious yet so easy to exploit and so deeply integrated with Flash that mass uninstallation will be the only option.

Warning, spoiler: just wait until you get a whiff of Adobe’s plans to try making Flash into an application platform. I guarantee you Adobe’s just itching to let Flash out of its sandbox and into the whole playground.

TheDoc (user link) says:


I can’t wait for Adobe to release DRM protected flash. I have no problems with people that spent money/time on something, wanting to protect that investment. The ‘net clearly has massive copyright infringement issues and Adobe is clearly about making money, I see a match made in heaven. Adobe builds some pretty good software so with some luck they might actually produce a solid DRM solution.

me too says:


Obviously DRM is not good as per RIAA and MPAA it adds undo complexity and only punishes honest users. Even the music industry is catching on the you can only push users so far. I have respected Adobe for many years for producing rock solid products with a minimum of DRM caca. But I too must root for Silverlight and Microsoft this could be thier opening I hope they can take advantage and give Adobe pause. Talk to Intuit Folks.

drjones says:

Yea but...

Whether DRM works or not, there are a great many content providers that will not in any way shape or form let their content be used online, in a format that doesnt include DRM. It doesnt make sense really, seeing as how anyone can rip or re-encode anything that is playable, in some way or another. But lack of DRM is probably keeping Flash out of a lot of businesses out there.

The ability to lock out other 3rd party flash software is probably just a bonus

Jeffry Houser (profile) says:

I'm confused..

The article you link to does not quote any source for this claim, so I’m unsure how to take it.

Adobe Flash Player 9 has been out for almost two years. I would not expect any major changes to the player to occur until Flash Player 10 comes out. Following previous release schedules I would expect this to be before the end of the 2008.

If I had to guess, the article is probably referring to the Adobe Media Player (AMP). Information about this can be found here: http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/mediaplayer/

Based on the Adobe Labs page, Adobe Media Player is a desktop application. The Flash Player is a browser plugin. The two are a bit different.

If I had to guess, it seems likely to me that Media Player was built using ActionScript3 (Language of Flash/Flex) and the Adobe AIR runtime. Adobe AIR supports an embedded version of the Flash Player.

If the article is truly are talking about AMP; then they are comparing apples to oranges. It would be like saying that “Microsoft adds DRM support to C#” when in fact they just built Windows Media Player DRM technology using C#.

I have pinged some Adobe contacts regarding this, and asked for an official response.

Jeffry Houser
Adobe Community Expert

Rose M. Welch says:

Great, adding more DRM will...

…encourage innovation and save me money. I use a fifty dollar program to create Flash for the wesbites I design, and I use a cheap Photoshop knock-off for the graphics I create. If Adobe screws up Flash, someone will come up with something better and/or something that is already better will get some economic room to grow.

I shop on Amazon for my DRM-free music, I purchased a Creative Labs mp3 player free of restrictions, and I talk on an awesomely functional Erikson cellphone that doesn’t care who I have a plan with. I will continue to shop with companies that attempt to capture my business with a great product at a reasonable price, rather than trying to capture my business by locking out competitors.

And you know what? All of the things I purchased were cheaper than the crap marketed by companies that are afraid of competition. Yay, economics!

Twinrova says:

Excellent News for Web Surfers Everywhere!

I hope Adobe adds DRM.

I hope it breaks Flash.

I hope it restricts its users to build new content.

Why do I hope this? Because I’m tired of Flash pop-up ads that can’t be stopped without a Firefox add-on. I’m tired of reading “Loading” sites. I’m tired of crap-designs that utilize blinking colors and scrolling messages.

As a web developer, I remember back in the day when 14.4 modems pushed people to develop faster loading web pages which meant no music, no large images, and easy navigation.

Now with all these “web tools” at people’s disposal, it seems that creating crap has returned. Just because speeds are faster doesn’t mean I want to listen to crap music as I hit a web page, or seeing flashing items screaming “look at me” and I sure as hell don’t want to sit around waiting for a website to load.

It amazes me how all this seems to be accepted, once again, but yet just a few years ago, people screamed at having to wait for pages to load.

Is it me or has the internet population really turned stupid? Has the option to treat visitors with respect been replaced with rude “in-your-face” attention-seeking options?

Techdirt is a prime example of a page that delivers content without the need for background music, flash ads (sidebar ads are acceptable), or the dreaded loading screen.

If Techdirt ever went this way, there’d be one less visitor.

So let’s hope DRM screws up Flash.
My fingers are crossed.

Stefan Richter (user link) says:

oh dear...

Did some of those commenting actually read the article properly or did you just burst a blood vessel at the headline?
Adding encryption capabilities to Flash Media *Server* does not mean that anything changes on the Flash *Player* level, neither does this mean that all Flash video will now be encrypted – it won’t be. All it is is an option you can use if you own a FMS license. Other DRM features are built into AIR and the upcoming Adobe MEdia Player, and again not the Flash Player.
You can get proper info here and here

Daniel Dura (user link) says:

'DRM' in Flash Player

Please note, I am an Adobe Platform Evangelist. I just wanted to clarify some of this. First, there are some media protection and DRM features already in the Flash Player as of Flash Player 9 Update 3, otherwise known as ‘Moviestar.’

But, this in NO WAY WHATSOEVER is required. Developers and content producers can still distribute media using Flash that has no DRM whatsoever. In fact, a gross majority (almost all) of the Flash video that is out there on the web is distributed this way and we do not expect that to change.

But because of some customer requests, we have added DRM features to the Flash Player that can be utilized by using Flash Media Server 3. This will allow those who want greater control over how their media is distributed and protected to have just that. Again, THIS IS NOT REQUIRED AT ALL!

Also see this article for more details: http://www.adobe.com/devnet/flashmediaserver/articles/digital_media_protection.html

Ben says:

Techdirt or Slashdot?

My goodness some of you commenters are uninformed. I won’t rehash the bit about this being a SERVER SIDE OPTION for content PRODUCERS and being almost completely unrelated to content CONSUMERS as others have already explained it as clear as can be.

That said there are a few points of lunacy I would like to address.

Silverlight? Really? MS has touted its DRM abilities since its inception. Its right there on the FAQ page.

PDF is an ISO standard so I kinda doubt Adobe is upset about 3rd party generators and readers.

PostScript was mainly before my time but as I understand it played a critical role in the desktop publishing revolution that began in the mid 80s. High license fees? Maybe, but its companies like HP and Canon who are manufacturing printers that pay that. I think they can spare a dime.

Finally, the bit about “trying to make Flash an application platform”. Ummm, have you not heard of Flex? Its easily been the most explosively popular client-side technology in the last 2 years. Companies like SAP, Oracle, Yahoo and others are on board so I’d say Adobe is doing a little more than trying.

Come on people, if you’re uninformed walk away from the comment form.

Rick says:

@Daniel: either you are very stupid, or just shilling for Adobe. If major customers use DRM in Flash (lets take for example, Hulu or YouTube), user will be completely restricted to using Adobe’s Flash player to access this content.

Or to use your excessive shouting: consumers will be TOTALLY REQUIRED TO USE ADOBE PRODUCTS to view DRM-ed Flash content. No third party Flash-player, and certainly no open flash player, will ever be able to access DRM-ed Flash content.

Whilst Microsoft is slowly moving away from this kind of nonsense, Adobe apparently thinks buying Macromedia’s virtual monopoly for rich media content is an excuse to go MS-style evil on us.

Macromedia was already balancing on the edge by keeping Flash mostly closed and basically breaking the web, this will have people scrambling for alternatives. And MS will be there to welcome us with open, Silverlight enhanced and interoperability embracing arms.

Never thought I would be rooting for MS, but Adobe has crossed the line here.

BTW, this won’t win Adobe any friends over at Google either. Or Yahoo. And the relationship with Apple is already far from cuddly. How many enemies does Adobe think it can handle?

gimmo says:

Re: http://www.microsoft.com/silverlight/faq.aspx

yes, MS Silverlight uses DRM, PlayReady, not backward comp with previous windows drm system…

WMP will be a desktop silverlight app
Adobe Media Player will be something new for flash as a new desktop app (air)

no matter with youtube or something else and drm on flash: youtube will make its own business, so no drm..

now, think about DRM as an enabler!

Actionscript Programmer says:

I’m am an Actionscript programmer. And myself like many others, hate Adobe. From the moment they bought out Macromedia i knew it was going south. All this does is make me look at Silverlight.

I can’t believe I’m saying this but i believe that Microsoft is the way of the future. There new VB.NET frame work is awesome. They even have the VB.Net Express edition which is FREE. I also do PHP/Mysql database programming, but honestly ASP is starting to look a lot more interesting.

Micah says:

Libraries use DRM for digital items (ebooks, videos, etc). Otherwise they’d essentially be distributing free copies of copyrighted material to the general public. This is something they simply will not do, no matter how many people think they should….

The commercial benefits of DRM may be, in some people’s mind, questionable, but it certainly is considered valuable and desirable by lots of content owners with many, many, many dollars to spend.

I for one like privacy. Might I use a convenient DRM tool if I could to encrypt home videos and then share them with family and friends with some privacy measures in place. Yes.

The argument that the very presence of encryption/DRM support will “kill” the platform, or drive a substantial number of non-kooks away from it is interesting, and does bring to light some real issues that need to be mitigated where possible. But it seems rather unlikely to have such large scale effects IMHO.

So, in the real world, would a large digital media platforms company turn away from big time paying customers, privacy advocates, and public libraries on the basis of this kind of specious conjecture? Of course NO.

And the “conspiracy theory” about DRM support being a way to shut out competition comes off to me as totally baseless conjecture. And even if true, it is certainly a reasonable approach to monetizing and leveraging one’s technology. Yes, it MIGHT be MORE profitable in the long run to take a more open approach than that. Like maybe open the file format, give the authoring tools away for free to students, put as much stuff like compilers out in open source, contribute to Mozilla, participate in standards bodies and create standards compliant authoring tools, etc…

Anonymous Coward says:

Follow up

To clarify, I do understand that there is a real downside for some in that encryption support could create compatibility issues with third party renderers. Seems to me that various business/technology solutions to that can be worked out over time. But I do question the soundness of the conjecture that this compatibility issue is a significant “business decision driver”.

I personally do not believe that Adobe is all that concerned about 3rd party players. Flash Player will always be advancing with new features (like the recent H264 support) and will for the foreseeable future have the biggest consumer distribution/uptake. Where 3rd party tech fills niches, seems like that is good for Adobe. Maybe that’s why they opened the file format in the first place?

James Gardiner (user link) says:

Adobe has a good product on offer here.

Why Is Adobe Trying To Add DRM To Flash?

I am personally surprised that has taken so long. But really, this will be the best form of (Commercial/proprietary) DRM content on the Web as its it uses a SMPTE standard (H.264/AAC in a MP4 container) and is also the cheapest to purchase of all commercial DRM systems available. The $995 verison is all you need (The 4-5K one is for sites like ustream.tv features) And it runs on Linux.
I am all for a Open Source DRM. They are simply not viable currently. So if you need DRM, Adobe has made a good product with competitive prices.
Those complaining, go help a Open source DRM like Openipmp.
If you don’t know what your talking about please, ask questions, don’t make accusations.

NOW, if you want to consider the darker side of Adobes plans, go read my post called “Adobe’s plan for world domination” at

If you want to compain about Adobe, this is a buch better issue to focus on.

Joeflash (user link) says:

DRM for Flash is just a fancy name for "encrypted

> I’m am an Actionscript programmer. And myself like many others, hate Adobe.

You’re kidding me, right? That would be like saying that although you are a programmer, you hate computers. Like, DUH. Just in case someone is actually tempted to believe such nonsense, and other more ridiculous claims like “Flash breaks the web,” I mean really; that is like saying JavaScript or HTML “breaks the web”. Whatever.

I am a non-partisan, independent Flash Platform Developer, I build applications aimed at Flash and AIR all day, and I’ve been working with Flash for over 10 years. And I have to say that there is nothing out there even close to what the flash player can do for RIA and video on the web, PERIOD. (Do your damn research for a change and prove me wrong, I dare you.)

Now, before you all go off all half-cocked (and many of you have), THERE IS CURRENTLY NO DRM IN THE FLASH PLAYER ITSELF. It’s all in Flash Media Server, which is a SERVER SIDE PRODUCT. All DRM in Flash consists of is an FMS3 encrypted video stream (RTMPE) with domain security protocols already present in the Flash player. Do your research.

I’m the first to say “down with DRM” — I want my MP3 and my FLV (cue Dire Straights song — okay, before your time I guess ;). I love the open source revolution, and I could not do business without it. But on the other hand, previous to this capability, some clients would not publish their material to the web at all rather than use Flash. Or they’d put their content on Windows Media Player (egads! Have you ever tried to play web video in that thing?) Given that Silverlight has DRM in it, Adobe must follow suit and leverage a DRM solution in order to compete. And, given the number of clients that will now regard Flash as a serious broadcast-capable video publishing medium, the increased usage can only be a good thing, because once again Flash video will be made to accommodate a more demanding client market, which eventually translates into better performance, more codecs, more choice for video on the web.

And DRM is an illusion anyways: bottom line, if you can see it on your monitor, you can copy it; this will never change. DRM is just a deterrent in the great digital cold war currently being played out. So don’t sweat it.

So before anyone spazes out running around like Chicken Little proclaiming the end of free video in flash, get your facts straight.

Joe says:

Adobe DRM

The idea is to be able to control your content as you would if no one used computers. When I perform a song, I want to be able to control that peformance, how loud, soft, long, can it be duplicated (how many times), distributed (to whom and for what purpose). After all, it’s my creative output. Computers are here to serve our needs and wants. For a computer to take the creative content that I create and distribute it and play (perform) it without my knowledge or consent is obsurd. How dare the computers and how dare the people hiding behind the computers. Computers are here to serve us, and as a content creator, computers should serve in a way that is acceptable to me!!! If you want to distribute your genius for free and without limitation, then go ahead…I want to be compensated for my contribution to society and the world at large. This is what gives our life meaning, to know that our contributions are appreciated and that appreciation should not exclude monetary appreciation.

Down with the borg….we will assimilate the borg and bend them to our will!!!!

Chris (user link) says:


DRM will require some authentication from a server at least once no matter who creates it. The encryption algorithm is very unlikely to get broken, it all comes down to how well they add the extra controls in. Adobe PDF DRM is useless because there are still vulnerable passwords being used and no-one will ever want to type in a ridiculously long password. Whether they then try and prevent video capture devices running from the desktop is another question. Adobe dont even attempt to stop screen capture programs while viewing PDFs and 99% of other PDF DRM firms do not stop it either.

GNU/Linux User says:


How is the anti-competition thought baseless? Given the DMCA ordinances on “anti-circumvention” measures, if a free/open-source player like Gnash tries to play DRM-enabled flash, it will need to “circumvent” the DRM, thus making it illegal. Then what’s to stop Adobe from charging for its currently free flash player?
This is the very reason playing DVD’s on GNU/Linux is risky. There are no commercial Linux DVD-playing programs you can just go out and buy. The only one I know of has to be licensed for use, and only one distribution I know of actually does that: Mandriva. But I don’t want to be a part of vendor lock-in, so the only option available is the libdvdcss program, which is a very grey area under the law.
As for the “fostering innovation” concept that seems to be a widely-held belief, it’s completely BS. Thanks to the incompetence of the patent office, IDEAS can be patented, and often are, which prevents competing technologies from rising up or even having a chance to see the light of day.
DRM has not worked thus far in the last 2 decades, what makes anyone think it’s going to work now? And what is the point of it? “Copyright infringement” will still occur by the technically savvy, and your average Joe will find it frustrating to use the crappy DRM-laden software/hardware and will decide not to use it. I’m just going to laugh at Adobe when their sales start to hurt and they wonder why people will be starting to hate them. It’s essentially a corporate knife to its own gut.

strony internetowe wrocław (user link) says:

It is realy great designs

I’m the first to say “down with DRM” — I want my MP3 and my FLV (cue Dire Straights song — okay, before your time I guess ;). I love the open source revolution, and I could not do business without it. But on the other hand, previous to this capability, some clients would not publish their material to the web at all rather than use Flash. Or they’d put their content on Windows Media Player (egads! Have you ever tried to play web video in that thing?) Given that Silverlight has DRM in it, Adobe must follow suit and leverage a DRM solution in order to compete. And, given the number of clients that will now regard Flash as a serious broadcast-capable video publishing medium, the increased usage can only be a good thing, because once again Flash video will be made to accommodate a more demanding client market, which eventually translates into better performance, more codecs, more choice for video on the web.

Paul Davidson says:

Wouldn't be the first time Adobe's tried for vendo

I mostly use PDFfiller to fill, edit or create fillable PDFs. Its not the same thing, but maybe someone needs it. It also allows you to erase in a pdf, esign, efax, add logos and pics to pdfs. Its pretty easy to use and its pretty cheap. I think you can get a free week if you and a friend both register. Here is a link to the site’s functionality http://www.pdffiller.com/en/categories

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