Google will make it impossible for users to deactivate the DRM system in their browser. The change will come in the next stable version of the browser, Chrome 57. The ‘Widevine DRM plugin’ will therefore become a permanent ‘feature’ of Google’s browser.
The Widevine Content Decryption Module is Google’s implementation of the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) a DRM system approved the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). It is pushed by movie studios, a few broadcasters and Netflix. It’s a default feature, added as plugin to the browser, with the idea that no longer plugins like Silverlight and Flash need to be installed when you want to view content of one of the backers of EME. E.g. Netflix switched from Silverlight to EME based content encryption.
Widevine is just one of the EME implementations, it’s developed by Google who uses it for its Chrome browser and it’s also used in Mozilla’s Firefox.. Widevine is not the only DRM plugin in Firefox, the browser also uses Adobe’s EME plugin ‘Premier’. Microsoft on the other side uses Windows 10 native DRM in its Edge browser and PlayReady on Internet Explorer 11.
Normally it was possible to disable default plugins in Chrome, such as Widevine, through a page that could be accessed by typing chrome://plugins in the browser. From version 57 this page will no longer be accessible. This means it’s not longer possible to easily disable the DRM feature.
When Widevine is disabled the browser no longer supports viewing DRM protected content. Most users will therefore have no interest at all in disabling it, but some users feel it has to be their choice to browse with a DRM plugin enabled or not. They argue the plugins could be a security risk as they can also contain bugs and vulnerabilities, just like Flash and Silverlight. Other users want to disable DRM to send a message to Hollywood that locking content is not accepted.
There’s also an issue for security researchers, due to laws like the DMCA in the United States and the European Copyright Directive it can be risky for security researchers to audit browsers that have DRM built in. They can become subject to criminal and civil penalties for tampering with DRM due to these laws. Even if it’s for legal and legitimate purposes.
Widevine DRM won’t be only plugin that can no longer be disabled through chrome://plugins, also Adobe’s Flash Player, the Chrome PDF reader and the Chrome Native Client can’t be disabled in case Google decides to make the change.
Because there is a change the company will change its mind, at least one Chrome developer has stated to be OK with a setting to disable the DRM plugin.