« Previous | Main | Next »

Groklaw Interview

Post categories:

Ashley Highfield | 10:07 UK time, Monday, 19 November 2007

groklaw.pngOne of the comments on one of my previous posts on this blog suggested that I do an interview with Groklaw (this Wikipedia entry gives a good summary of what Groklaw is).

So I did an interview over the phone last week and it's now been published; I hope this helps to move the debate around a number of issues, especially DRM, onto where we go from here.

Ashley Highfield is Divisional Director, BBC Future Media and Technology Division.


  1. At 01:01 PM on 19 Nov 2007, Dave wrote:

    Hi Ashley!

    You said,

    “Well, they started from the principle of, “We just don’t know the way this market is going to develop. We don’t want any of our content to be made available.” A lot of the rights holders are not at all familiar with this world. They are often writers, or directors, or producers—and for them, they can see that this world has opportunity, but they also see that it has great risk of undermining their current business. And so this is something that we’ve had to take them on a journey with. And the initial point was, yes, convincing them that the content was well-protected, that once they understood enough about copyright and digital rights management to want to be assured that the content would be available free within the UK but not freely copying available outside the UK. And we had auditors in to demonstrate that that was the case.”

    This reminded me of something Eben Moglen said at http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl2420/stories/20071019507610000.htm :

    “What’s happening is that, at one and the same time, the digital revolution is offering capitalists the undreamt of possibility that they can continue to charge large prices for goods that have no cost of manufacture and distribution. That is the bonanza. That is perfection for capitalism. Profit becomes the whole of the price. It’s a very great dream for them.

    “At the same time, they are facing the possibility of complete ruin if we move to a voluntary distribution system in which they no longer own anything but perform services to creators. Because then, in distributing culture, they must compete with children and lovers and people who distribute culture just because they want to. So there is a competitive crisis building.

    “On the one hand, their pay-off matrix shows in the positive side some very large numbers. And on the negative side, their pay-off matrix shows equally large negative numbers. There is no saddle point in this game, the game theoreticians would say. The game itself does not give you an optimum strategy.

    “There are two possibilities: they have superior force, and so they coerce the game to the cells in which they win. Or we have superior force in which case they must change their way of doing business. Unfortunately, there is really no choice in the middle. The middle becomes hard to hold because the ends are so attractive.

    “So, international capital at one and the same time sees that it has opportunities beyond its wildest dreams and it has challenges that might put it out of business. This produces that same uneasiness that beset capital when it first encountered the communist movement in the middle of the 19th century. And so I took the moment at which it encountered communism and I changed a few words to show how it works at the opening of the 20th century. And the spectre of free information that haunts capitalism now is like the spectre of communism that haunted it in the 19th century with just one exception; this one works. The communists of 1867 were writing about something that they hoped to do. We are writing about the spreading out of something we have already done. This one is already showing that it can happen.”

    Interesting times :-)

  2. At 02:16 PM on 19 Nov 2007, J Davies wrote:

    Many thanks for taking the time to do the interview.

    A few questions:

    1. Why did the BBC not put iPlayer out to tender and make it a requirement of the contract the the player would be cross platform? This is industry best practice.

    2. Do you accept that releasing BBC content in Microsoft-only formats helps entrench the Microsoft monopoly? (MS was found to be a monopoly by the EU.)

    3. I noted in one of your other blog posts that you wanted to get a better idea of Linux use within the UK. Will you also be looking at how many people would swap to Linux if BBC services were fully available? I will hopefully be switching soon, one I've convinced my wife that she can still "Listen Again" to the Archers :-)

  3. At 06:01 AM on 22 Nov 2007, Liam wrote:

    That interview was very good. It seems you're learning some things about Free software. :)

    Thanks for taking the time and courage to do this interview, it's appreciated.

    That Wikipedia article is (at this moment) very horribly biased however. There are a number of people that have a vendetta against Groklaw. The community there--and PJ in particular--have a remarkable ability to uncover truth and interesting facts.

  4. At 09:33 PM on 11 Apr 2008, sean wrote:

    The release of the iPlayer on Nintendo Wii is a great idea, considering how many families up and down the UK have the console. I believe that by using the Wii the BBC have shown the rest of the worlds tv media how free access to shows and news programmes can really be free, and that by not allowing "certain" companies to force thier restrictive practices onto what in essence is a public property (since most people in the UK pay for a tv licence).

  5. At 09:26 AM on 14 Apr 2008, Javier wrote:

    Have you thought about using BitTorrent to distribute your files. There was a TV station in .....(I cant remember but im sure it was scandanavian and was covered on BBC News). Anyway they had a sucsessful trial of distributing one of their most famous / popukar TV programmes using BitTorrent.

  6. At 03:18 PM on 14 Apr 2008, Nick Reynolds (editor, BBC Internet Blog) wrote:

    Javier (comment 5) - you may be interested in this thread from BBC Backstage where people discuss the strengths and weaknesses of Bit Torrent.

This post is closed to new comments.

More from this blog...


Sign in

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.