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BBCHD and DRM: A Response to Cory Doctorow

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Graham Plumb Graham Plumb | 18:00 UK time, Friday, 2 October 2009

The issues surrounding HD and DRM were fuelled further this week by Cory Doctrow in his inaccurate assessment of our proposals in Wednesday's MediaGuardian.

This isn't the time to further discuss the DRM debate, or speculate on the relative merits of copy protection but I do want to re-state the BBC's position, and correct some of the inaccuracies in that piece.

The BBC does get caught up in this debate from time to time. The BBC is a content producer, a licensee, and a distributor and we have a commitment to make our content as widely available and accessible as we possibly can to our audiences. We also want to be able to secure a proportion of high-value content from external sources to ensure our channels remain varied and attractive to licence fee payers.

As I stated in my last post, this includes our commitment to launching an HD service on Freeview, which creates both technical and licensing complexities. We believe we have come up with a solution to this challenge.

Without wanting to negate Cory's contribution to this debate, he got a number of major points wrong in his analysis and in particular there are five key areas that need clear correction.

1) DVB CPCM "fell apart after years of acrimonious discussion"

No. This is an agreed standard that is now available to the marketplace (though completely unconnected to this debate).

2) The BBC's proposals will "freeze out" British entrepreneurs, "increase the cost" of HDTV in the UK, "limiting competition"

We are working on the standard with the UK's Digital Television Group (DTG). The DTG's purpose is to agree standards with the consumer electronics sector. Consumer electronics companies generally operate in global markets, and by nature, shared standards mean a level playing field for all in the sector. Further, the fact that you have a properly certified standard through a respected body means consumers have the assurance that the product will work, as well as a shared brand to promote the standard (in this case Freeview HD) - which creates scale. This is good for consumers, and is not just a point of view: it's proven in the case of Freeview and virtually any other market where economies of scale exist.

3) We make the consumer electronics market "subject to the whims of the DTLA" in effect, sidelining Ofcom.

This is not how the DTLA works and is a misrepresentation of the DTLA's role in this process. The DTLA is responding to our requirements - not vice versa. With access to its technology, consumers will be able to share high definition content across home networks. With the consultation that is going through Ofcom, it stretches credibility to suggest that they are being sidelined in this process.

4) We "create a mountain of e-waste" and "break existing equipment"

As I stated in my previous post, this is simply incorrect. Standard definition outputs from HD receivers will be unaffected, so existing DVD and VHS recorders can be used to record all HD programmes in standard definition. SD Freeview boxes remain completely unaffected, the SD signal won't change. This is about new Freeview HD devices. Note that DAB radios, mobile phones, and TV remote controls will also (happily) remain unaffected.

5) The BBC's "cosy negotiation" with rightholders and "secretive consultations" amounts to us neglecting our responsibilities and a desire to slip this process through quietly

This point we take most seriously. Above all else, we are a public organisation funded by the Licence Fee and have committed ourselves to greater transparency and openness because we believe that this is an obligation we have to our audience.

The fact is that discussions with both the DTG and Ofcom about how we solve this issue have been ongoing for months. We have consulted a wide range of stakeholders, and haven't tabled these proposals lightly. Further, we sent Ofcom a formal letter with every intention to undertake this open, public consultation. None of these actions demonstrate an attempt to conceal our intentions.

Perhaps Cory does know all this, but is just unhappy that we won't fight for his cause. However our focus is not to champion causes - it's meeting our public service remit which means serving our many audiences as best, as fairly, and as openly as we can.

Graham Plumb is Head of Distribution Technology, BBC.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I like how you rebut “freeze out British entrepreneurs” by omiting half of the sentence:

    “Freeze out British entrepreneurs, such as the manufacturers of the Promise TV, who produce video recorders that run on open source software.”

    Please explain how, say, MythTV users (and developers using things like MythTV to produce new products) can obtain the appropriate yet non-conflicting licenses to use the decryption keys?

    “The DTG's purpose is to agree standards with the consumer electronics sector.”

    DVB-T2 has been specified (by ETSI, the EBU, and CENELEC) for some time now. Its use was specified quite some time ago. The DTG generally only concerns itself with the higher-level issues (e.g., MHEG vs MHP, how EPG data should be carried, etc.). Without the crypto, a bare-bones DVB-T2 receiver would be able to tune to BBC HD and a consumer view its content, even if interactive features and OTA EPG were not directly available; encrypting the SI makes this difficult (and, thanks to EU law on copyright protection measure circumvention, illegal).

    “Consumer electronics companies generally operate in global markets, and by nature, shared standards mean a level playing field for all in the sector”

    Yes, precisely: by introducing a Freeview HD-specific rights-management system, you introduce an additional layer of complexity at a low level which is necessary ONLY for this market; entirely counter to the global shared standards ideal.

    “With access to its technology, consumers will be able to share high definition content across home networks.”

    This isn’t something which DRM _enables_. It’s something that DRM _permits_ in a limited fashion. Re-stating this ad nauseum doesn’t make the reverse magically true.

    “We have consulted a wide range of stakeholders”

    Who? When? The BBC only made mention of it here -after- the Ofcom non-consultation got widespread coverage—that in itself was a miracle, as Ofcom didn’t actually publish it AS a consultation, merely a “letter of enquiry” with a minimal window for responses. If there’s a consultation still to come, when will it be? Please don’t forget that the license-fee paying public ARE stakeholders here. If discussions have been ongoing for months, why is it only now being made public?

    Moreover, if introducing this is critical to the launch schedule of Freeview HD services, why is it only being discussed now (at what can only charitably be called the eleventh hour)?

    Have rights-holders been told they can expect it to be in place in time for launch, despite it being contingent upon Ofcom’s (and presumably, the Trust’s) approval?

    If not, then what do the contracts for BBC HD on Freesat say? (broad terms, we don’t need to breach “commercial confidentiality”)

    Alternatively, is it the case that the content licensing agreements for BBC HD currently ONLY cover Freesat, despite everybody knowing perfectly well when Freesat was launched that Freeview HD was due to launch late 2009/early 2010?

    “Above all else, we are a public organisation funded by the Licence Fee and have committed ourselves to greater transparency and openness because we believe that this is an obligation we have to our audience.”

    That applies to the content, the method of delivery -and- discussions surrounding them. This issue has specifically not demonstrated a commitment to openness with respect to any of them, until pushed.

  • Comment number 2.

    Excellent, nevali, I think you've summarised my own primary concerns well.

  • Comment number 3.

    My main concern is that I will not be able to install a DVB-T2 card in my computer and view BBC HD, I can not find a definitive answer to this.

  • Comment number 4.

    The problem is that nobody trusts the BBC anymore especially after the destruction of picture quality on the so called BBC HD channel.

  • Comment number 5.

    "with every intention to undertake this open, public consultation"

    What open, public consultation? Ofcom circulated your letter to "industry stakeholders" with a very limited time for response - hardly an open public consultation.

    Why am I not surprised this blog post was posted at 6pm on a Friday afternoon - a great time for burying bad news in public and in keeping with how this issue has so far been handled.

    "However our focus is not to champion causes - it's meeting our public service remit"

    So no more "Children in Need"? No more campaigning one way or another on the License Fee? I'm sorry, but the BBC is more than happy to champion causes that either directly benefit it or shed good light upon it (as long as said cause causes no great inconvenience to the BBC). I'm guessing that the BBC has decided that an anti-DRM stance would not shed enough good light to make up for the inconvenience it would cause in negotiations with rights-holders.

  • Comment number 6.

    The reason for all the speculation and mistrust is that the BBC won't give a straight statement of what it is doing. This is just a re-iteration of what won't be affected.

    It's DRM, therefore it imposes restrictions. What are they?

  • Comment number 7.

    Quick question. When the HD streams are turned on will I be able to put a HD tuner into my Open Source MythTV box and watch BBC HD?

  • Comment number 8.

    ParkyDR (comment 6): If you read Graham's previous post you may find some of the answers you are looking for. I quote:

    "Our preferred content management approach (Huffman's Look-up tables) as stated in our letter to Ofcom describes how using this method will allow us to deliver Freeview HD on time, with the least disruption to manufacturers, and the least restriction to audiences. But it is important to stress that the technology places no restrictions whatsoever on copying standard definition content - nor recording and viewing any HD content stored on a PVR. Even in its most restrictive state it still allows one HD copy to be made to Blu-ray and unrestricted copies in SD (and for most content there will be no restriction whatsoever on the number of Blu-ray copies permitted)."

  • Comment number 9.

    Obviously it's the weekend so I will try and get answers to some of your specific questions on Monday.

  • Comment number 10.

    This one's a losing battle for the BBC. At least, certainly here it is.

    Remember, you're talking to the blog-savvy mostly tech-savvy people. Most of us storngly dislike DRM. Whether on principle of because of how it plays (or doesn't) with various open-source media implementations we use.

    Don't try to put a spin on it. It just won't fly.
    And to those of us who are concerned about homebrew methods not working, the whole "you're still allowed to copy" eans absolutely nothing. As what's the point of being "allowed" to copy something that our equipment is blocked from recording in the first place?

  • Comment number 11.

    Like some previous posters, I exclusively watch TV using a computer-based setup (in my case a laptop + eyetv USB stick).

    The software is compatible with HD, the hardware is compatible with HD (subject to upgrading the stick to a DVB-T2 compliant one, as and when they become available); are you seriously saying that this won't now be an option? HD will surely become the de facto standard, and I cannot be alone in objecting to being disenfranchised in this manner.

  • Comment number 12.

    ‘and haven't tabled these proposals lightly’
    The existence of any proposals at all means the BBC have already left the side of the licence fee payers.

  • Comment number 13.

    Graham, I must say I find this response very disappointing. You're dodging the issues -- as many commenters have noted -- focusing on tiny details, and ignoring the overarching point.

    Let's start with that overarching point: the BBC is prohibited from encrypting its terrestrial signal. Full stop.

    The reason it is prohibited from encrypting that signal is that, as a matter of policy, it is bad for Britain for the Corporation to have the power to condition what sort of equipment a license payer can use to receive its signals.

    This business of encrypting the lookup tables instead of the video is a transparent bid to circumvent Ofcom's rules. By pretending not to understand that objective in banning encryption of video signals is to ensure that license payers can use any working equipment to receive BBC signals, you make out that you are somehow not falling afoul of the rules by conditioning their access by encrypting a control channel instead of the video stream.

    I'll repeat it again: the rule is that the BBC isn't allowed to tell license payers what sort of equipment they're allowed to use. Attaining control over receivers through some other means is a dirty and transparent trick.

    Now, onto specifics:

    > 1) DVB CPCM "fell apart after years of acrimonious discussion"

    > No. This is an agreed standard that is now available to the marketplace (though completely unconnected to this debate).

    No, it is a hopeless mess that is unimplementable and unimplemented, thanks to the acrimony of the negotiations, which I participated in, on behalf of UK and European manufacturers whose products cannot comply with CPCM, due to its prohibition on user-modifiability.

    Its connection to this debate is that it was the last attempt to encrypt EU FTA TV signals, and this business is its successor.

    > 2) The BBC's proposals will "freeze out" British entrepreneurs, "increase the cost" of HDTV in the UK, "limiting competition"

    > We are working on the standard with the UK's Digital Television Group (DTG). The DTG's purpose is to agree standards with the consumer electronics sector. Consumer electronics companies generally operate in global markets, and by nature, shared standards mean a level playing field for all in the sector.

    Does this "level playing field" include vendors whose products are built on, or incorporate free/open source software? Will your scrambling system allow users to rewrite the drivers and applications that run on their hardware?

    > Further, the fact that you have a properly certified standard through a respected body means consumers have the assurance that the product will work, as well as a shared brand to promote the standard (in this case Freeview HD) - which creates scale. This is good for consumers, and is not just a point of view: it's proven in the case of Freeview and virtually any other market where economies of scale exist.

    You are conflating the right to certify with the right to prohibit. Yes, DVB or DTG can withhold a badge from a non-complying device, but they can't use the law to prohibit devices that are out-of-spec.

    I can't believe that the BBC doesn't understand the difference between the right to certify that a given piece of equipment conforms to a standard and the right to prohibit all competing technologies. Do you seriously maintain that these are the same thing?

    > This is not how the DTLA works and is a misrepresentation of the DTLA's role in this process. The DTLA is responding to our requirements - not vice versa.

    So, if Ofcom says, "The BBC needs to allow its signals to be recorded and output in the clear," will the DLTA extend keys to devices that have cleartext outputs and storage? Or if Ofcom says, "The BBC needs to allow its signals to be recorded and output by devices that have free/open source drivers and applications," will DTLA extend keys to those devices, despite the fact that they have user-modifiable components that can be used to undermine DTLA's restrictions?

    And if DTLA does. how will they square this with all the *other* members of DTLA, whose devices operate on the assumption that everything they sink to uses non-modifiable code and encrypted storage and outputs?

    > As I stated in my previous post, this is simply incorrect. Standard definition outputs from HD receivers will be unaffected, so existing DVD and VHS recorders can be used to record all HD programmes in standard definition. SD Freeview boxes remain completely unaffected, the SD signal won't change. This is about new Freeview HD devices. Note that DAB radios, mobile phones, and TV remote controls will also (happily) remain unaffected.

    Leaving aside all the straw-men you invented here, let's discuss an actual example from my article: HD receiver cards with free/open source software drivers. Will they work?

    > The fact is that discussions with both the DTG and Ofcom about how we solve this issue have been ongoing for months. We have consulted a wide range of stakeholders, and haven't tabled these proposals lightly.

    This "wide range" appears to have omitted everyone whose technology stands to be prohibited under this regime. You didn't consult Free Software Foundation Europe, who control the copyrights to a wide variety of free/open technologies used in PVRs. You didn't consult GNU Radio, MythTV, Promise TV, or the VLC project, all of whom have European representation and have participated in previous standards-setting efforts here.

    A consultation that only seeks input from people whose oxen don't stand to be gored by your plans is no consultation at all. It is the very definition of "cozy."

    > Perhaps Cory does know all this, but is just unhappy that we won't fight for his cause. However our focus is not to champion causes - it's meeting our public service remit which means serving our many audiences as best, as fairly, and as openly as we can.

    What is the public interest in eliminating the power of license payers to choose from among open and proprietary solutions? What is the public interest in moving regulation of BBC reception from Ofcom to DTLA?

    I'm unhappy that the BBC won't fight for public service. No license payer woke up this morning and said, "Hey, I wish that there was a way to do less with my telly. I know! Maybe Auntie's run off and figured out how to restrict my viewing! Hurrah!"

  • Comment number 14.

    Kindly provide a list of the "wide range" of stakeholders with whom you have consulted. Please indicate which ones are active in the fields of open source software and digital rights for consumers. If you've not consulted organisations with activities in these areas, then you've not consulted at all, and will have to start all over again. You can't just consult with the people who are likely to support your preconceptions.

  • Comment number 15.

    My primary concern here is how little Graham Plumb, Head of Distribution Technology at the BBC seems to understand the underlying technology.

    It would appear that either his grasp on it just isn't up-to-scratch enough to allow him to consider the needs of license payers, or something is being obfuscated.

  • Comment number 16.

    peterjmahoney - the discussion so far has been civil. No personal remarks please.

    As I've said earlier on this thread on Monday I'll be trying to get answers to some of the questions raised by people here.

  • Comment number 17.

    Nick, what is:

    "Perhaps Cory does know all this, but is just unhappy that we won't fight for his cause."

    if not a personal remark?

  • Comment number 18.

    NickReynolds:—

    peterjmahoney raises an important question; suggesting that his posts convey either a lack of understanding or deliberate obfuscation isn’t a personal attack, it’s merely one of an extremely limited range of potential conclusions which can be drawn.

    Given that knowledge and understanding of DRM and related technologies is absolutely critical to somebody in Mr Plumb’s role, it’s entirely fair to question it given the posts here and not one which could by _any_ stretch be construed as uncivil or a “personal remark”.

    I’m also a little puzzled by you comments that you’ll be trying to get answers—can Mr Plumb (as the author of the post) not respond himself?

    And, is it not considered rather poor form to release a post for comment at 6pm on a Friday evening and then disappear for the weekend? The term “taking out the trash” did spring to mind, I must confess.

  • Comment number 19.

    I am a just a normal BBC viewer with little technical knowledge of DRM etc but it strikes me the tail is wagging the dog. The BBC keep telling us how much of their TV output is home-grown so it must be a very small proportion of programmes that the BBC might lose out on in the worst case scenario. If US film and TV studios want to introduce these restriction, show them where Channel 4 and Five's offices are.

    In the "old days" the boffins at the BBC seemed to have an attitude of "what can we develop to improve the viewing experience?" e.g. Nicam. teletext. Now is it "what do the multinationals want us to do to improve their revenue stream?"

  • Comment number 20.

    I am the host of this blog (and the executive editor of it). So let me set a few ground rules before this discussion starts to go down the wrong track.

    1. We were planning to publish Graham's blog post earlier than 6 pm on Friday but there were some last minute revisions. We could have delayed it until Monday but I felt it best to get it out as soon as possible.

    2. I will be keeping an eye on comments over the weekend to make sure they are within the house rules and to see if there are any useful answers I can give or links that I can point people to. I won't be following up on your specific questions until Monday when people are back at work when I will obviously raise them with Graham and others. So you will have to be patient. BBC people don't have to respond to comments when they are not at work.

    3. Abusive remarks, questioning people's professional competence or integrity (e.g. accusing them of lying or incompetence) make it less likely that you will get answers to your questions. The DRM debate in my experience has a tendency to become strident and emotional very quickly. So please stick to the arguments rather than attacking individuals. You may disagree with their decisions or the reasons for them but in my experience these decisions are made in good faith.

    4. Off topic comments and comments that break the house rules will be removed.

    I appreciate that you feel strongly about this. But you will help yourselves if you remain civil and reasonable.

  • Comment number 21.

    I agree that questioning people's integrity is likely to lower the quality of the discourse. That's why I was surprised to see Graham's "Perhaps Cory does know all this, but is just unhappy that we won't fight for his cause."

  • Comment number 22.

    Cory - if you're offended then I apologise.

    Let's keep it civil please.

  • Comment number 23.

    I've got a thicker skin than that. I just wanted to point out that the incivility and questions about integrity and motivation started with the OP, not the commenters.

    Thank you for the apology, Nick.

  • Comment number 24.

    @Cory:

    "Let's start with that overarching point: the BBC is prohibited from encrypting its terrestrial signal. Full stop."

    Thanks to a certain Mr. J. Birt, the Thatcher and Major administrations, and a distressing lack of genuine vision or political talent in New Labour's tenure, the BBC is a shadow of its former self and somewhat fragmented in its structure. There's still a Director General, but his is no longer the only hand on the tiller.

    The BBC also has to deal with the world as it *is*, not as it was in the 1950s. They no longer make all their own content, so they cannot always dictate how it can be distributed. And, yes, they *do* have to care about viewing figures to some extent: there's no point throwing millions of pounds of License-payers' money at a programme if none of them are going to bother watching it.

    So, yes, they need some way to make it harder to copy HD content. Not impossible; the technology for that level of control doesn't exist. But making it that little bit harder is enough. Raise the barriers just enough to make unauthorised duplication of your content too much hassle for the average consumer and you reduce the problem to a manageable level.


    "The reason it is prohibited from encrypting that signal is that, as a matter of policy, it is bad for Britain for the Corporation to have the power to condition what sort of equipment a license payer can use to receive its signals."

    Who cares about broadcast HD signals? This is the first time in the history of TV when more HD content is readily available online and in your average video store than is broadcast over the air. Traditional, terrestrial TV and radio broadcasting isn't likely to remain mainstream for much longer. Give it a generation or so and we'll be wondering what all the fuss was about. The BBC's Charter is also likely to change radically within a decade or so, moving the Corporation away from its once-core duty of *broadcasting* towards *content production*.

    It was a mistake to force the BBC into removing much of its web content some years ago. This is the BBC's *future*. Informing the population is far more important than the medium used to get that information to the people. And no democracy can survive without clear, accurate information.

    Who cares whether MythTV or PromiseTV works well with the BBC's broadcast output when the same, *minority*, tech-savvy users of such technologies are already more than familiar with the likes of the BBC's own iPlayer app, as well as P2P technologies.

    It is not the remit of the BBC to cater to a tiny, tiny minority of the public when the vast majority are only going to buy the cheapest set-top box they can find in Curry's. If you're watching TV on your computer, how that content *gets* onto your computer isn't limited to what's being broadcast from the nearest transmitter multiplex.

    Enough with the FOSS rubbish already. What matters to most people is open *standards*, not open *source*. It never ceases to amaze me how often the FOSS and GNU advocates bang on about catering to their every whim, yet they never seem to care enough to create their own damned content! Where's your Open Media provision, eh? Why do you expect other entities, entirely unaffiliated with the FOSS movement and ethos, to provide you with free beer too?

  • Comment number 25.

    Some years back I watched a Flash presentation on this very site about history of the BBC (I just looked for it and it seems to have gone). One item was a recording of the first BBC radio broadcast to Australia and the presenters asked for ideas from the listeners to improve the service. In that tradition I would like add my voice to those above in saying that DRM is a Very Bad Idea in any form.

    Equally as bad is the BBC's geolocation system that stops overseas readers from seeing much of the content on the BBC site. As someone that originally came from the UK and paid the licence fee for 22 years I feel a little peeved about this.

    By the way, I have no gripes about the licence fee as it money well spent and the BBC is still the best broadcaster on the planet. Please don't ruin that reputation with even more restrictions on what licence fee payers can do with the content that they have already paid for.

  • Comment number 26.

    @stimarco

    "So, yes, they need some way to make it harder to copy HD content. Not impossible; the technology for that level of control doesn't exist. But making it that little bit harder is enough."

    But they're not worried about sneakernet duplication -- they're worried about copying over the Internet. And since the "average" license payer's experience of copying over the net is: search for a copy and download it, then this makes *zero* difference. So long as it's flawed enough to let a skilled user copy it and put it online, it adds no complexity to the copying process for the average user.

    "It is not the remit of the BBC to cater to a tiny, tiny minority of the public"

    Yes it is. This is why the Beeb has put such a lot of work into getting its signals into the remotest parts of Britain.

    "when the vast majority are only going to buy the cheapest set-top box they can find in Curry's."

    Which will all run on Linux.

    "Enough with the FOSS rubbish already."

    This is not an argument. It's barely a sentence. Try again.

    "What matters to most people is open *standards*, not open *source*. It never ceases to amaze me how often the FOSS and GNU advocates bang on about catering to their every whim,"

    Luvvies bang on about protecting their content, etc etc, but how much open code have they released?

    "yet they never seem to care enough to create their own damned content!"

    Well, I have created and released under open and shareable, no-DRM licenses, 6 novels, 2 short story collections, about 5 audiobooks, a graphic novel, and a book of essays. 260+ million works have been licensed under CC in the past 6 years, since the licenses launched. So please take your strawman elsewhere.

    But you seriously misapprehend the nature of the debate here. This is about whether the underpinnings of the future of media, the platform on which our culture runs, will be designed to stop the public from understanding and modifying its workings, or whether our money will be spent n a way that allows for a maximally competitive, open system where anyone is allowed to innovate.

  • Comment number 27.

    @24 / stimarco

    > "Who cares whether MythTV or PromiseTV works well with the BBC's broadcast output when the same, *minority*, tech-savvy users of such technologies are already more than familiar with the likes of the BBC's own iPlayer app, as well as P2P technologies."

    For one thing, the iPlayer's quality will be scaled down from the broadcast version.
    As for your P2P argument. Yes, I'm more than tech-savvy enough to use applications such as Bit Torrent and the like. I download my Linux ISOs that way. I would rather not obtain my missed BBC content that way, thankyou very much.

    Seriously, are you really advocating that MythTV (and similar) users turn to download sites for the HD content that's supposedly broadcast in the clear? Really?

    > "Enough with the FOSS rubbish already. What matters to most people is open *standards*, not open *source*."

    Exactly. It's just that the two tend to go hand in hand sometimes.
    But, yes, open standards. Truly open. Meaning that anybody, commercial or otherwise, can provide an implementation without having to sign NDAs and the like. Requiring encrypted lookup tables doesn't sound like a very "open" standard to me.

    > "It never ceases to amaze me how often the FOSS and GNU advocates bang on about catering to their every whim, yet they never seem to care enough to create their own damned content!"

    Podcasts.
    Free audiobooks.
    Creative commons.

    There is a lot of free-as-in-beer content out there. Much of it created by the same people into FOSS. (Free or Open-Source Software, to anyone not recognising the acronym) And much of it created using FOSS applications (such as Auacity) or hosted on FOSS platforms (such as WordPress), and a lot further building on other free and open content.

  • Comment number 28.

    Midly astonished to see the BBC aiming its full resources squarely at an individual critic of its plans. That aside...

    The real debate here is not about DRM, it is about the BBC's attempts to control the production of Freeview HD equpiment, such that only the products it approves of may be released to customers. As we know, the "quid pro quo" for obtaining BBC approval (and access to the HD EPG) will be the inclusion of "copy protection measures" to secure the valuable material being broadcast in HD.

    ... while completely ignoring that all the HD content will be being broadcast FREE TO AIR and COMPLETELY UNPROTECTED anyway. You cannot copy-protect a free to air, unencrypted broadcast. Anyone [with the right equipment] who wants it will be able to make a pristine digital copy of it, any time they want to. So the content won't be "protected" at all. All that will happen is that the vast majority of the public will be forced to use only the reception equipment which the BBC has approved, and which will therefore not come with features of which the BBC disapproves - for example, high definition component video outputs (necessary for some older HD TVs, disabled on officially approved BBC Freesat boxes), standard definition RGB SCART output of high definition programmes (disabled on BBC Freesat boxes), the ability to move a recording to an external disc if you run out of space on your PVR (disabled on recordings made from BBC HD but not from any other channel, only on BBC Freesat boxes) and so on.

    The signal is not encrypted or protected in any way - so all these restrictions do is inconvenience the licence payer and restrict their choice of the equipment they use to watch the channels which, by the way, they already pay for.

    And surely no competent "rights holders" will truly accept the BBC's suggestions that their broadcasts are now copy-protected just because they've influenced the design of the reception hardware? Any rights holder with half a clue will still know that their material is being freely broadcast unencrypted and unprotected against any minimal attempts at copying. Surely no rights holder will accept such an assurance from the BBC seriously, when they too will know (or should know) that the HD content remains freely broadcast and easily copiable.

    Then again, how many rights holders have accepted the BBC's version of events that its Freesat transmissions on Astra 2D cannot be received outside of the UK? Maybe the rights holders will believe anything they're told.

    None of this is any reason to restrict the possibilities of home users wishing to watch and enjoy the BBC's high quality content in their own homes, in the way that they choose to. That includes a free choice of display devices, projectors, set top boxes or Media PCs, etc, connected via any means that is required. The BBC should not be interfering with the home viewer's choices - that is the single and only thing that will happen if these proposals are accepted (or perhaps I should say 'waved through' as seems to be the current regulatory style) - because the whole idea that these measures will result in "copy protection for rights holders" is so obviously untrue as to be laughable.

  • Comment number 29.

    @PenguinCubes (#28):

    well, indeed.

    the people who *upload* TV programmes to filesharing networks aren’t the “casual pirates” who download the same TV programmes because it’s more convenient than the alternatives. Inconveniencing the latter group is a spectacular own goal, as it simply encourages them to seek more content from illicit sources than they otherwise would.

    recent history has shown us that the uploaders have no qualms about not using officially-licensed hardware, nor about reverse-engineering the look-up tables which are a vague nod in the direction of protection. license-fee payers who find they can’t do something all of a sudden—and it doesn’t actually matter _what_ it is—will just seek out the content from somewhere other than their shiny new Freeview HD box.

  • Comment number 30.

    @NickReynolds (comments 8 and 9)

    I had read Graham's previous post, that was why I was asking for specifics. I feel a bit of "spin" was involved.

    It was rather like food packaging that says "No artificial colouring" but doesn't tell you about the artificial flavourings or preservatives.

    I look forward to a fuller explanation soon.

  • Comment number 31.

    From CoryDoctrow:
    "But they're not worried about sneakernet duplication -- they're worried about copying over the Internet. And since the "average" license payer's experience of copying over the net is: search for a copy and download it, then this makes *zero* difference. So long as it's flawed enough to let a skilled user copy it and put it online, it adds no complexity to the copying process for the average user."

    This is a major point that a lot of companies miss. If you look online there is a VERY small number of people who are 'capping' content and providing it to the masses. These people have the resources to jump through whatever hoops (DRM, etc...) are put in place, thereby negating the millions of dollars that was spent on creating and implementing the protection.

    The average person doesn't want to capture a show and upload it to the internet, they want to save it to their DVR or PC so they can watch it again (or later) and they want to be able to chose how and when they do this. Having worked in the technology licensing business with Set Top Box manufacturers, anything they have to add to their boxes ends up passed on to the consumer as an increase in cost - this hurts the license payer who "goes to Currys to buy the cheapest STB". There is a reason why a lot of STBs run Linux and not some proprietary OS - it's cheaper.

    The money spent on this whole fiasco would be better spent on content and improving the service for license payers than restricting what the license payers can do in their living rooms.

    The BBC should be taking the lead with issues such as this and not bending to the pressure of nervous content producers who haven't kept up with technology and the way that the world is evolving (see the music industry for example, they've almost come full circle now). I have always greatly respected the BBC for their innovations and I seriously hope than I don't lose that respect over this.

  • Comment number 32.

    Just to let people on this thread know that Paul the editor of the blog is on leave, while I am in meetings for most of the day. I'd ask you to be patient and I hope to answer some of your questions by the end of today.

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 34.

    Hi everyone, I have now got some answers to some (if not all) of your questions above.

    craigllo (comment 3):

    Yes, you will be able to install a DVB-T2 card in your computer and view BBC HD if/when suitable cards become available.

    Alex Benee (comment 7):

    Yes you will be able to put a HD tuner into my Open Source MythTV box and watch BBC HD, again if suitable tuners become available.

    musoed (comment 11):

    You should be able to watch BBC HD using your lap top + eyetv USB stick using this set up, after the proposed changes are made, again provided suitable DVB-T2 devices become available.

    However it is worth remembering that the interoperability standards used in the UK mean that it is advisable to buy products that carry the Freeview HD brand (for terrestrial) and Freesat brand for satellite or products that are marketed as Sky HD (satellite) or Virgin V+ (cable) as these are the broadcast platforms the BBC checks for compatibility with its' broadcast services. Any products which aren't branded in this way will not have been tested against the BBC's broadcast services, so they cannot be guaranteed to continue working as those systems are upgraded in the future.

    To aid my understanding about the other questions (I'm not very technical as you will have noticed), and bearing in mind that the live streams will be unencrypted, what do users of Myth TV etc devices think they will be prevented from doing? Is it copying? I will do a bit more digging.

  • Comment number 35.

    Hi Nick,

    The problem is, for a device to be able to “tune” to the stream, it requires the SI tables. These tables will be essentially encrypted, and the key protected by non-disclosure agreement. Conceivably, you could figure out what they are, and if this proposal goes ahead, enterprising MythTV users probably will (and the likely outcome of this is receiving a Cease & Desist letter from Freeview/BBC Free to View/etc. for publishing trade secrets or somesuch). Of course, each individual user could theoretically obtain a license from the DTG themselves, but this would become unworkable extremely rapidly. It would also mean that STB manufacturers making use of Linux DVB components may well not be able to distribute their products because the NDA would conflict with the terms of those components’ own licensing agreements.

    Thus the answer to your final question is “watching BBC HD at all without serious mucking about”.

    The issue here is that the hardware itself—the tuner card—doesn’t really care about the various individual streams carried on a channel, it’s down to the software (be it commercial shrinkwrap software or something like MythTV) to match stream A+B+C to BBC1, stream D+E+F to BBC2, and so forth. This is what the SI tables do. Encrypt or obfuscate them, as is the proposal here, and the software needs to a way to decode them. The same deal applies to STBs, except that the hardware and software are bundled together in the box itself.

    In effect (and I appreciate you’re playing the messenger here), the statement that “Yes you will be able to put a HD tuner into my Open Source MythTV box and watch BBC HD, again if suitable tuners become available” doesn’t actually add up.

  • Comment number 36.

    Just to explain the licensing issue a little further:

    Say you’re a developer, intending to produce a DVB-T2 STB compatible with Freeview HD. You make use of Linux DVB components. In order to be compatible, you sign the NDA and gain access to the obfuscation mechanism so that you can make full use of the incoming HD streams.

    Then you come to distribute your box, and you realise you can’t, because the components that you used require distribution of the source code that you made use of and this source code is now dependent upon the information supplied under NDA by the DTG.

    When Cory spoke of “[Freezing] out British entrepreneurs, such as the manufacturers of the Promise TV, who produce video recorders that run on open source software”, this is the situation he was talking about.

  • Comment number 37.

    Thanks for this Nevali and for being patient with me.

  • Comment number 38.

    Hey All,

    I am also a Mythtv user who has been enjoying the current satellite BBC HD broadcasts with my DVB-S tv card and enjoy terrestrial transmissions currently with my DVB-T tv card. Many thanks to Nevali for explaining the situation, I hope the BBC will clarify what this means to us. As Nevali has said its not as simple as saying "just buy a DVB-T2 card when (if) they come out".

    May I ask if this change for DVB-T2 will effect DVB-S2 transmissions when/if BBC HD satellite broadcasts move to DVB-S2?

    Instead of the BBC looking at ways of placating the copyright holders why isn't it upholding the publics interest of broadcasting unencrypted content? Surely this would be a far simpler solution?

    Regards

    Dave K.

  • Comment number 39.

    Dave K - Just to remind you that the live streams will be broadcast unencrypted. But I'll try and get an answer to your specific query tommorow.

  • Comment number 40.

    It will be helpful if we can get a definitive answer as to whether the Huffman keys will be needed to access audio and video, or whether it's just the epg data that will be locked out without them. From what I've read it looks like the latter.

    I know this horse has all but bolted, but Dave K's final paragraph still asks a good question, even if it's only the epg that we are talking about.

  • Comment number 41.

    This is crazy. I'm not going to repeat what everyone else has been saying, but the debate about "we don't encrypt the content, just the meta-data" is irrelevant if the content is not available without the unencrypted meta-data. Of course it can't be, because otherwise this would be irrelevant and every developer would skip past the meta data. So in effect the content IS encrypted; it's just a technicality.

    Can you imagine if back in the 50s/60s when colour TV was introduced the BBC proposed only allowing programmes to be recorded in black and white but not colour unless the video recorder makers agreed to put massive restrictions on how it was recorded and/or transferred?! Ludicrous.

    Of course manufacturers aren't being asked to that now for HD are they BBC?

  • Comment number 42.

    Just one additional query—

    Where it’s specified in the proposal to Ofcom that the SI tables will be scrambled as described, is it _just_ the EIT (§5.2.4 of BlueBook A038r6, I think?) or more besides?

    If it is just the EIT, how do the BBC think this will defeat piracy in any way, and do anything at all beyond inconvenience legitimate customers who have “non-average” requirements? In other words, “how on earth did you manage to convince rights-holders that it’d do what they want”? (It’s worth nothing the licensing issues I described in #36 would still apply)

    If it’s not just the EIT, I (and I suspect many others!) would appreciate it if it could be clarified precisely what’s covered (the SI/PSI covers a multitude of sins, and it’d be a violation of all kinds of specs to do -all- of it).

    [It’s worth noting that there’s been a fair amount of confusion about all of this, as you’re no doubt aware! Part of the problem is that, rather than issuing a consultation, Ofcom just issued a letter of enquiry out with a 9-day response window, leaving little time for many people to dig out the specs and check what was being proposed—and even then, it’s still somewhat ambiguous]

  • Comment number 43.

    Until now I had always defended the BBC and the license fee, not anymore.

    The BBC seems intent on wasting my money with this useless attempt at copy protection. I already have a nice working system, which would have needed just a new tuner to access Freeview HD services. But no, the BBC wants me to have their special branded licensed logo'd box under my TV.

    What happens when Freeview Double-Plus Good comes along? I throw everything away and buy another box? I don't think so, you've lost me for good now.

  • Comment number 44.

    Hi navali and others - I'm still trying to get an answer to your latest question but in the meantime I thought you might be interested in this discussion on the backstage mailing list.

  • Comment number 45.

    navali - in response to your comment 42 it's certainly true there's been a lot of confusion. If you look at Graham's previous post he says that:

    "Our preferred content management approach (Huffman's Look-up tables) as stated in our letter to Ofcom describes how using this method will allow us to deliver Freeview HD on time, with the least disruption to manufacturers, and the least restriction to audiences. "

    I'm being told that the Huffman tables are purely used to compress the Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) data - not to encrypt the Service Information (SI) tables that enable a receiver to be able to discover services - which will remain uncompressed.

    I hope you find this helpful.

  • Comment number 46.

    Hi Nick,

    Many thanks for the update.

    Can your sources confirm, for the avoidance of doubt, that that’s it’s _just_ the EIT (that precise term)?

    Obviously, most of the other questions I’ve asked still stand :)

    This honestly raises more questions than it answers, as helpful as you’re being :\

  • Comment number 47.

    I just have to say that by comparison with other blogs & forums, the level of debate here (and the avoidance of name calling) is impressive. And can I also add my thanks to Nick for trying to get some answers.

    If what you're saying is true, that you intend to encrypt only the EPG and not the transmissions themselves, good job. Convincing the rights holders that this measure would be sufficient to see off the pirating masses is a fantastic bit of persuasion !

    Back in the real world, I'm really quite surprised that local markets are so overwhelmed with blu-ray discs full of HD programs recorded over the air. That seems to be the only thing the rights holders want to stamp out with these DRM requirements - the average man on the street 'copying' their recorded programs one too many times.

    Does anyone seriously think that DRM will prevent a single broadcast program from becoming available to anyone who wants to download it ?

    If they don't, why bother with pointless technical hoops that just make life harder for the people who actually pay for what they watch ?

  • Comment number 48.

    Now I'm even more confused.

    From Graham's last post.
    "Even in its most restrictive state it still allows one HD copy to be made to Blu-ray"

    If it's just the EPG data that's encrypted, how does that limit the number of HD copies?

  • Comment number 49.

    “If it's just the EPG data that's encrypted, how does that limit the number of HD copies?”

    Because, if you’re a legitimate user who only buys Freeview HD-branded equipment and doesn’t attempt to modify it and it’s all working perfectly, the box will honour the copy-protection flags broadcast with the programme. This is a condition of obtaining the license to use the Freeview HD mark and the Huffman tables used for unscrambling the EPG data.

    In other words, it’s a tool to control what receiver equipment manufacturers allow users to do.

    None of this applies if you’re not a legitimate user, or use unbranded equipment which is made to be compatible with the HD in some other way (perhaps by obtaining the same information from the Internet, or, if you don’t care about EU law, by reverse-engineering the tables or by illicitly obtaining a copy of them).

  • Comment number 50.

    ParkyDR: the idea is that to be able to show the EPG, hardware manufacturers will have to sign up to an agreement. The conditions of that agreement will include enforcing whatever external copying restrictions (i.e. taking material off the hard disk) have been settled on between broadcaster and the content provider.

    A similar system is currently in effect for freesat. The BBC's rules are set out by Graham Plumb, but at present no external copies of ITV HD are allowed at all. It remains to be seen whether this will be the case with Freeview, or what C4's and Five's policies on Freeview will be.

  • Comment number 51.

    BTW excellent link from NickReynolds in post 44! Thanks.

  • Comment number 52.

    Beaten to it by nevali there (I shouldn't take so long to write an answer)--and he/she lays out the other options as well :).

    I don't hold out much hope that non-branded stbs will be produced, though legal PC alternatives might (well?) be.

  • Comment number 53.

    Many thanks Nick for helping to answer some of our questions :)

    OK as some of the latest posts are already asking if only the EIT data is being encrypted then how is this considered DRM? and how has this convinced the copyright holders to continue?

    I'm also concerned abot the previous comments from Graham's blog - "Even in its most restrictive state it still allows one HD copy to be made to Blu-ray". How can copying of the recording be prevented if only the EIT data is being modified?

    I would love to be proved otherwise but it appears the wool is being pulled over our eyes, and I'm wondering if there will be a lot of opensource users left in the dark. I mean if the huffman lookup tables are only going to be given to authorised "Freeview HD" manufacturers then how is Joe Bloggs with Mythtv on Fedora going to apply the Huffman tables?

    It would be great if you can get a direct and categoric answer to wether or not users of opensource linux platforms will be able to a) recieve, b) watch and c) record the broadcasts?

  • Comment number 54.

    Its simple really.
    If the BBC are going to encrypt broadcasts, then they shouldn't be given the licence fee, and another company should take over the remit. If you wish to go to this encryption format, then take advertising and survive in the real open market like everyone else.

    I'd rather you not buy major Hollywood movies if you think we should pay for you to encrypt.

  • Comment number 55.

    Hi all - whit3knight - from my comment 34 my guess would be that you should be able to watch the broadcasts on Myth TV. But that's only a guess.

    But I'd also repeat what I said in that comment is the reason the BBC wants people to use Freeview approved boxes is because as these are the broadcast platforms the BBC checks for compatibility with its' broadcast services. Any products which aren't branded in this way will not have been tested against the BBC's broadcast services.

    So I suppose that means that while people can use boxes that aren't Freeview approved the BBC can't take responsibility for them.

    Anyway I'll try and find an answer to your question today, although I may have reached the limits of what I can do.

  • Comment number 56.

    Nick - re comment 55 - I understand that you aren't all that technical but if you can't answer, who can (and why aren't they) ?

    Surely the point of Graham Plumb writing the blog post was to answer the criticism people have raised ? It appears all he did was muddy the waters a bit and then disappear to leave you picking up the pieces.

  • Comment number 57.

    "I'd rather you not buy major Hollywood movies if you think we should pay for you to encrypt."

    You /= all licence fee payers.

    Who bluntly if it meant they got to keep seeing films and saved them considerable amounts of rights money would be quite happy to see a contract that included a condition that the BBC had to set every user of open source software in the country on fire.

    Phazer

  • Comment number 58.

    The_Phazer - Keep it civil please!

  • Comment number 59.

    Aglet321 - not really. As the host of the blog I intervened early to make sure the conversation didn't become over heated. After which it seemed natural to continue on. No reflection on Graham.

  • Comment number 60.

    navali - I've been told that it is just the EIT that will be compressed.

    I'm not sure I'm going to be able to say much more on this subject. But I will make a general observation.

    The BBC exists in the middle of a complex set of relationships which have to be balanced. This is even more true in a world where there are lots of platforms, the BBC needs to be on as many as possible, and actually controls very few of them. In this instance there's a balance between rights holders, people who use particular kinds of equipment, and a bigger audience (like myself) who are not technical but just want something that works and they can watch programmes on. Not everyone can get everything they want all the time. And since the BBC is funded by all licence fee payers the balance will always probably tilt towards the mainstream.

    To choose a hopefully non controversial example.

    As a licence fee payer I sometimes get irritated about the fact that because I am a Virgin subscriber, the BBC HD Channel is not part of my basic package. But as someone who works for the BBC I can easily imagine how that kind of compromise came to be made. It's the kind of compromise I have to make in small ways every day at work.

    And then again I will be able to buy a Freesat box and get the BBC HD Channel without having to pay anything extra. So I do have choices, still.

    And this seems to me to what this boils down to. Some people may not be able to do everything they want all the time. Obviously that's regrettable and I can see why people would be annoyed about it.

    But I'm reminded of the concerns that were expressed about DRM and iPlayer two years ago. Well the DRM is still on it, the iPlayer seems to be sucessful and people don't seem to be as worried about it as they were...

  • Comment number 61.

    Hi Nick, I guess we just need someone with the technical background of the proposed solution to confirm what we are already surmising?....

    I also don't agree with the statement indicating we should use Freeview branded equipment. If the BBC were following standards then any DVB-T2 compatible device should be able to pick up the transmissions. But thats another debate :)

  • Comment number 62.

    Many thanks for the answer to that one. I knew when I asked them that some of the questions wouldn’t get answers, though I have a feeling some of them will rear their ugly head via different channels later on. Thanks for the help you’ve been able to give, though.

    Regarding the compromises: you’re certainly correct, to an extent, but the BBC has quite specific obligations to DTT (and, for the moment, ATT) which don’t apply to satellite and cable broadcasts, which is what’s at stake here (which is, of course, why approval from Ofcom was required for this when it wasn’t for Freesat).

    Ofcom is due to publish the various responses it received to the letter of enquiry any day now, and I suspect the actual determination it makes will follow relatively soon after. I’m getting the feeling that we’re hitting the limits as to what information can usefully be gleaned on here.

    Thanks again, Nick.

  • Comment number 63.

    "But I'm reminded of the concerns that were expressed about DRM and iPlayer two years ago. Well the DRM is still on it, the iPlayer seems to be sucessful and people don't seem to be as worried about it as they were..."

    iPlayer is different, you can stream it when you want on a wide range of platforms so the DRM isn't too much of a problem.

    The download version is still useless to me, I can't download for my media player as it doesn't handle the required DRM.

    Ironically, there are other ways of downloading the programmes DRM free, but I have to become a criminal to do it.

    That's the problem with DRM, it doesn't stop what it's meant to and inconveniences/criminalises ordinary users.

  • Comment number 64.

    Nick

    re: "But I'm reminded of the concerns that were expressed about DRM and iPlayer two years ago. Well the DRM is still on it, the iPlayer seems to be successful and people don't seem to be as worried about it as they were..."

    That's very misleading.

    The DRM debacle with iMP/iPlayer surrounded it from its very inception - with most of the criticism being it's lack of cross-platform support i.e. it was a Windows-only offering. Most people didn't grapple with the "DRM only lets me watch on approved platforms" angle but simply saw it as "DRM prevents me from watching it on my platform" - I fear a portent of things to come!

    iMP/iPlayer as a Windows-only, DRM download offering was a dog.

    The thing that made iPlayer a success was the introduction of Flash streaming - without any DRM and offering cross-platform support.

    The BBC made a mistake to begin with and corrected its approach.

    Surely it's best to learn the lessons of the past and skip stage 1 and jump straight to the happy licence-fee payer stage? Well, one can dream!

  • Comment number 65.

    Nick, you've been a truly human voice in this debate. And everyone thanks you for it.

    I was disappointed to read "I'm reminded of the concerns that were expressed about DRM and iPlayer two years ago." Many of us did complain then, and fiercely.

    I myself had a face-to-face discussion with a BBC chap who assured me that the internet was 'different' and the logic that applied to the iPlayer wouldn't apply to broadcast. There was, he was at pains to say, no thin edge of the wedge and I was too sensitive about these issues.

    So, you can imagine how it makes me feel to see you use the iPlayer's success as justification. I feel that perhaps we didn't fight our case as strongly as we might, and that perhaps we trusted the BBC more than we should have.

    The iPlayer has become more and more open over time.

    I think if you'd erred on the side of openness at the start, you'd have saved much sound, fury, cost and complication. We'll never know how much better it would have been as an open platform, but, you know, I'd have used it a lot more than I did, and a lot more than I do.

    It's a travesty that if you buy the cheapest (linux) netbook and have a poor broadband or even dial-up service you're effectively cut off from the iPlayer service. An open format download service would fix that immediately. And, while I care about that, I'm not in that demographic. Nor are you, I'd warrant.

    So many of us care deeply about the BBC and the values that we assume it to hold. The mailing list and these forums display are a fantastic testament to those values - but please, we ask, err more strongly on the side of openness. It's cheaper, easier, more accessible in every way.

    Please don't rest on your mainstream successes, push, like we are, for the maximum, maximum access.

  • Comment number 66.

    I really like the BBC and the openess of their blogging. I generally agree with Cory but think he sometimes goes too far, however ...

  • Comment number 67.

    "As I stated in my previous post, this is simply incorrect. Standard definition outputs from HD receivers will be unaffected, so existing DVD and VHS recorders can be used to record all HD programmes in standard definition."

    ...but whereas a DVD recorder can record the nice quality SD RGB version from any source now, the new boxes (Freesat, and presumable Freeview HD) only allow an SD composite version to be output from the HD channels - no RGB.

    Which in English means the HD channels look far worse than they should.

    Even on SD TVs or recorders, the HD channels _should_ look better than the SD channels (because the SD channels are often really sub-SD!) - but with this restriction, the nice quality HD channels will look really horrible on SD TVs or recorders - far worse than the existing SD channels.


    That aside, we have two extreme views arguing here. Proponents of "free software" are often wrong, and the BBC is often wrong.

    You should see what's happening in Germany - the (previously) free-to-air channels are _encrypting_ their HD broadcasts. Not just the EPG, but the actual video and audio.

    Cheers,
    David.

  • Comment number 68.

    "But I'm reminded of the concerns that were expressed about DRM and iPlayer two years ago. Well the DRM is still on it..."

    ...not on the streaming version - which is precisely why it has such good cross-platform support, while the download version doesn't.

    Cheers,
    David.

  • Comment number 69.

    I too would really like to know about the satellite situation as well. whit3knight asked in #38 if any of this will be carried forward when the BBC starts using S2 on Freesat, I have used mythTV with digital terrestrial for some now, and did get a freesat STB just to get HD, but it is so much more primitive than Myth I want to be able to use mythtv for HD as well, so I would just like repeat that question:

    When Freesat HD channel(s) move to DVB-S2 will there be any form of encryption applied to the any part of the transmission?

  • Comment number 70.

    Also, the DRM on the iPlayer is ridiculously easy to circumvent.

    I often watch content downloaded from the iPlayer on my Wii, and there is no way to do this without bypassing the DRM, and since the official solution for watching iPlayer content is so awful, this is the best solution.

    I guess this is tangentially connected to this debate. Am I going to be able to download DRM free HD content from the BBC any time soon?

  • Comment number 71.

    SavyGamer - I don't know if this answers your question but you may find it interesting.

  • Comment number 72.

    Well, it does answer my question. I am not going to be allowed to watch the content my license fee pays for the creation of in the way I want to without either A) Buying some expensive hardware and going to a fair amount of hassle to circumvent DRM or B) Just downloading it from other illegitimate sources (Without installing any custom software might I add).

    I guess it is more important for the BBC to (attempt to, but ultimately fail to) prevent people who don't pay the content from accessing it than it is to make it easier for license payers to access it.

    What would be so bad about just giving me downloads of BBC content in HD resolutions without any DRM attached?

  • Comment number 73.

    Sadly SavyGamer it's not quite a simple as that.

    In many cases your licence fee is not paying for the "creation" of content you watch on the BBC.

    Two examples - series like Mad Men or The Wire which are made and paid for by American media companies. The BBC is paying simply to broadcast them.

    Many UK series like Spooks are made by UK Independent companies - again the BBC part funds them in exchange for the ability to broadcast them first - but they're owned by the independent company who then sell broadcasting rights on and try and commercially exploit those programmes.

    In these cases the BBC doesn't own this content and neither do licence fee payers. In fact the number of programmes that the BBC "owns" outright and has all rights agreements for is quite small.

    Rights holders want to commercial exploit their content and therefore in some cases require some kind of comfort around how it is downloaded. People may disagree with this, or think it's wrong, but that is the world that we are in.

    The BBC always tries to make it's content available on as many platforms as possible. But there's a balance to be struck, especially as the BBC itself is a rights holder.

    As I pointed out above downloads from BBC iPlayer have DRM on.

  • Comment number 74.

    I understand that, but what on earth does this DRM do to protect that content? It does absolutely nothing. Ten seconds and access to google is all I would need to find a way to pirate The Wire. In principal it may seem to offer some protection, but in practise it does nothing. In practise the DRM simply prevents me from watching something I have recorded on one format on a range of devices. Is the HD content DRM going to play nice with all devices? Mobile phones? Portable media players? Non-Windows PCs?

    I know that the official downloads from the iPlayer have DRM on, but I have already said I circumvent that DRM because it is far more convenient for me to do so.

    Would the BBC offer HD DRM free downloads for those programs which they hold the rights to?

  • Comment number 75.

    What about the EFFs claim that the DTLA are behind the push for this and you're going to use their protocol for this http://www.dtcp.com/? Security through obscurity always works. Honestly.

    And even the Americans, who as much as I love them (honestly), are a niave lot in large groups, didn't fall for the "do what we want or we'll take our ball home", ie "we won't take your money off of you to air our content, full of paid for product placement, which after people have seen we can sell boxsets/t-shirts/the video games/and other low quality over-priced tat to. Honestly we'd rather not have that income", tactics of the rights-holders.

    And why didn't they fall for it, because we didn't have that "protection" on our already established system and the companies that said it would derstroy them continued to profit well from it. And went on to do so on the non encrypted US system.

  • Comment number 76.


    Dear RobotMenace

    I agree with your sentiments but am really worry that in this case there is no money involved. We will pay the same for the programme for HD or SD transmission but it may end up we only transmit it in SD - who other than UK viewers (and I include me there) will suffer? Having said there is no money involved, that's not strictly true - if we do end up with some programmes not going out in HD, I will have to buy the BR!

    If there is no mechanism in the STBs to prevent mass HD copying e can never go back - if there is, it can always be switched off.

    Andy

  • Comment number 77.

    Well, the US seems to have survived without the sky falling in even though there is the possibility of 'mass copying'.

    And is Doctorow correct that when you pulled out of the Sky FTV system the same content providers threatened not to keep doing business with you--until they discovered a 'massive BBC-shaped hole' in their revenue?

    Why a different BBC policy this time?

  • Comment number 78.

    Dear HD_fan428

    It would be nice to think so but this time there will be no revenue hole, just a potential hole in the HD schedule

    Andy

  • Comment number 79.

    Andy: Only if you agreed to buy the SD without the HD. But I realise this ship has long since sailed, and we are probably stuck with restrictions the US doesn't have to deal with. Lucky us. (Lucky US :))

    I take it from your answer that Doctorow was right, as well.

  • Comment number 80.

    Dear HD_fan428
    Wish it were that easy - for big US series and features the HD version is usually the only version delivered so it's either don't buy or down convert - but we're not the only players now. This will spread to all "purchased" programmes eventually. Such is life,
    Andy

  • Comment number 81.

    Dear Andy,

    An interesting answer (though I'm not really clear on the difference between buying SD only and undertaking only to downconvert as a revenue issue for 'the studios'). It gives an insight as to where the beeb is coming from these days. Thanks.

    (I'm not hanging on your every word BTW--I just happened to come back to the computer again shortly after you posted. Honestly. :))

  • Comment number 82.

    Readers of this thread may be interested in this story from Broadband TV News:"Ofcom holds on HD licence change".

  • Comment number 83.

    Readers of this thread may be interested in this story from Media Guardian: "BBC's plea for anti-piracy measures on Freeview is turned down".

  • Comment number 84.

    Wow, thanks for the heads up Nick.

    Interesting...

  • Comment number 85.

    I'm glad Ofcom appear to have seen sense for once. I'm constantly frustrated as a Linux user that HD content is prohibited from me. I cannot play back blu-ray content on my Linux media centre the only current solution is to install Windows which I don't want to do. (and certainly don't want to pay for).

    I hope that the BBC will continue to consider us Linux users and ensure that there is still a way for us to view HD content on our computer systems.

    Nevali seems to have put forward a great set of explanations, I won't even attempt to add to them :)

  • Comment number 86.

    Your response for part (2) was shockingly bad. Poor poor effort. Did someone from DTG give you that quote?

    So again please answer the point made by the guardian....

    "freeze out" British entrepreneurs, "increase the cost" of HDTV in the UK, "limiting competition"

    This point made because of proposals not being compatiable with open source software.

    Therefore you have to be a big player to get necessary information needed (keys?) to use the service.
    How does this not freeze out small or growing businesses and thereby not limit competition?




  • Comment number 87.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 88.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

 

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