Letter to StockholmGamlaStan

Apr 22, 2009

It recently came up that the site for the StockholmGamlaStan uses a javascript to block right clicking in major browsers; ostensibly to "protect" their content from being stolen. However, because Opera doesn't allow the right click context menu to be intercepted as other browsers do, the site editor actively blocks the Opera browser and displays a pretty rude message instead.

It wasn't all that bad; since they were only sniffing the user agent string, I just had to change that option in the site prefs and was able to browse their site normally. Still, it's a smack in the face for all users in the name of protecting content from a tiny thieving minority.

So I decided to write them a note. The text of the message follows:

Blocking Opera, eh? To protect against theft of content? Tsk, tsk. Consider the following:

  1. The fact that I am viewing the text and images on my screen means that it has been downloaded to my computer; all browsers do this, not just Opera. I just have to browse through the browser's cache to get it.
  2. Opera users can select the "Mask as Firefox" or "Mask as Internet Explorer" options and bypass your block as easy as you please.
  3. Disabling your right-click copy protection in all browsers is a simple matter of disabling Javascript, which a fair percentage of users already do for security reasons.
  4. If I'm really desperate, I can also use the Print Screen button to save a picture of your entire page, images and all. Again, this works in any browser, not just Opera. Why aren't you disabling that too?
  5. Man, oh man, are you going to love this one. In Firefox, Internet Explorer and Chrome, I can select File >> Save As... and save your page using the "Webpage, complete" type, which saves an HTML file on my desktop as well as a nice folder of every linked item of the page: text, images, scripts, you name it. Try it yourself! It's pretty amazing. Only Safari for Windows doesn't seem to have that save option so you'd better start blocking everything but Safari to be safe!

In any event, how can you say these browsers are actively working on ways to help you protect your content when all of them make stealing it so easy? You don't have to be a computer hacker to do it either; it's right there in the Menu, File >> Save As... And yet you say Opera is the one working against you just because they don't allow you to disable right-click? Rather all browsers are working against "protecting" your content; you've just focused on preventing right-clicks and refused to see the larger picture.

The people who really want to steal your content know how to do all of the things above and doubtless they find your attempts to "protect" your content utterly laughable. So basically what your right-click script and Opera block amounts to is annoying legitimate users who would never steal anything, but who might want to use right-click for other things, such as bookmarking your page for instance. Wouldn't you say that's pretty important?

So anyway, here I am using Opera to browse your page, and send you this message. I never stole any of your content, but it's not like your counter-measures were difficult to work around. And if you're thinking "well, this guy is pretty web-savvy; normal users won't know how to get around the right-click block" think again. These days, it's easier than ever for even beginners to set their preferences in such a way that will render your copy-protection useless. And not just in Opera, but in every major browser currently available. The only way you're going to stop it 100% is to, quite simply, block everything.

Cheers, and good luck.

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