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BBC iPlayer Content Protection Enhancements

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Ian Hunter | 13:13 UK time, Friday, 5 March 2010

A number of our users have expressed concern about BBC iPlayer's recent content protection enhancements. It's a complex area so I asked our techical team for an explanation of what has happened. Here it is:

We make iPlayer content available in a variety of media formats (WMV, H.264, 3GP, MPEG, etc) many of which are open source, or at least not tied to a particular company's products.

In order to respect the rights agreements that allow us to make the content available in the first place, we use a range of content protection techniques and technologies:

- for downloads, we use digital rights management systems (Windows Media, Adobe, and OMA)

- for streaming, we use systems like SSL, RTMP, RTSP, HTTP

Many of these content delivery methods are open-source.

We also implement a range of technologies that attempt to check that our content is being played out in iPlayer, and not in an unauthorised 3rd-party application. This is because we need to be as certain as we can be that our content rights restrictions are being respected.

This is the key to the concerns being expressed at the moment: before we allow a device to access our content we need to check that it is iPlayer and not an application which might break our rules - for example, by storing programmes beyond the 30 day limit, or playing them outside the UK.

We know that a number of applications have been making unauthorised use of some media types and we have tightened security accordingly - this was done for several of the formats and content delivery types, not just for Flash. The result was that some applications that 'deep link' to our content may no longer work.

It's important to note that this has nothing to do with Flash, and it's nothing to do with support for open-source. In fact we continue to make our content available as H.264 or SSL, both of them open standards that have nothing to do with Flash or with Adobe. It's simply that the first people to be affected by this change happened to be linking to our Flash streams, which now have similar protection levels to our open-source streams.

The discussion around this issue suggests that two different uses of the term "open source" are being conflated:

a) we continue to make our content available in a range of open-source formats

b) unfortunately one of the applications that stopped working was XBMC, an open-source media player.

But the two "open sources" are quite different to each other - we have no particular attachment to Flash over open-source formats. In fact most of iPlayer is built on open-source products. However, we do need to protect our content from applications that threaten to make unauthorised use of it, even if those applications are themselves open source.

To answer Mo's comment, of course the BBC does not want people to download content illegally. That's precisely why we have built rights related constraints into BBC iPlayer. If an application becomes broken, people will be able to find alternatives which are legal and that we support. BBC iPlayer is already available on many, many devices and platforms which are legal and supported and in the coming year we will be adding as many new ones as we can.

Ian Hunter is Managing Editor, BBC Online

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Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Ouch, that's a hideous overloading of the term open source. I believe what you mean when you refer to open-source formats you really mean open standards, which may or may not have an open source implementations.

    I think the whole episode has (sort of) clarified the BBC policy on Internet delivered video. That is the BBC does not support 3rd party players/plugins. BBC content can only be played with BBC sourced players, all of which are proprietary and closed source.

    This is stark contrast with BBC content distributed via the airwaves where I can watch it with any 3rd party* equipment that is capable of receiving and decoding the published open standard.

    (* modulo HD, where the BBC have decided only "blessed" hardware will be able to receive BBC HD images)

  • Comment number 2.

    Please stop emphasising “open source formats” and “open source protocols” when the big one which matters (H.264+AAC wrapped in an FLV stream distributed via RMTP with SWF Verification enabled) can only be supported by open source clients if you want to run the risk of ending up in court. The fact that the actual content is in a format which can be understood by open source software and whose specifications are available on a royalty-free or RAND basis is actually irrelevant if the distribution channel requires one particular implementation of certain protocols, as is the case with almost all of the content served by iPlayer. Don’t think for a second that the people making noise here don’t know what the difference is between a piece of software, a format, and a protocol (you will note that most open source software developers and advocates never ever talk about open source protocols and formats, because it’s potentially confusing and quite ambiguous).

    If the BBC doesn’t want people to download content illegally, it really needs to reverse this position: the only effect is has is to make life difficult for people who have no interest in distributing iPlayer content to others, or keeping it around for months at a time, and so on. The people you want to stop — the people who upload the BBC’s content to file-sharing networks — have no qualms at all about using a piece of software which stands a reasonable chance of being considered illegal to distribute in the EU and US (and, I suspect, already do so). As far as I can tell, this change has had precisely zero effect upon those distributing the BBC’s programmes illicitly, as one would expect.

    You mention XMBC. What about the Totem BBC plug-in which was “developed by the BBC itself in collaboration with Canonical and Collabora” and also runs afoul of the change?

  • Comment number 3.

    A secondary point: nobody is asking the BBC to support third-party or open source players.

    What people are asking, however, is that the BBC does not go out of its way to break such players, especially when the breakage does absolutely nothing else (as it is in this case).

  • Comment number 4.

    Why not make programmes available in 3gp format for mobiles?

    It looks like you do yet it's clear that there is no 3gp format available - why is this?

    It seems ridiculous to act paranoid about content when it's pretty easy for someone to record and distribute content via use of a PVR. All you're doing is restricting choice.

  • Comment number 5.

    "BBC iPlayer is already available on many, many devices and platforms which are legal and supported and in the coming year we will be adding as many new ones as we can."
    Except you're waaaaay behind the curve and just hurting people who want to view the content in a different way. Real pirates just continue to do what they do and everyday users get that bit closer being tempted to access pirated material.
    Your reply is thoroughly depressing.

  • Comment number 6.

    To clarify Mo's question about the Totem plugin (developed by my team in BBC R&D) - we have connectivity problems and a glitch in the server's configuration - we're working to fix these, but this is nothing to do with any change that has been made to iPlayer. I've updated the Ubuntu bug report to give this info.

    George Wright, BBC R&D

  • Comment number 7.

    If content rights are the sole issue, here's an idea - why not turn off your measures for streams for which, in the BBCs own lingo, have no commerical value beyond their broadcast. e.g. For which you have control over the rights, won't be resold to another network or made available on DVD/Blueray. That would be a great demonstration of good faith.

    For example, you could start with news and current affairs programming, which I doubt I'll see in HMV any time soon.

    "We know that a number of applications have been making unauthorised use of some media types and we have tightened security accordingly"

    And have the steps been effective? How do you measure the effect? What's the next step?

  • Comment number 8.

    @George (#6) excellent — many thanks for the update!

  • Comment number 9.

    #7. At 3:04pm on 05 Mar 2010, Lens wrote:

    "For example, you could start with news and current affairs programming, which I doubt I'll see in HMV any time soon."

    You might not see them in your local HMV but that doesn't mean that they couldn't crop up on websites or elsewhere (some which may well would not pass the BBC's content licensing tests), even news and current affairs content has residual value, sometimes even years after the original event.

  • Comment number 10.

    Why does the BBC indiscriminately DRM all content rather than only the content that has restricted rights?
    Home-grown programmes should be freely and openly accessible to UK taxpayers.
    History shows that electronic copy protection doesn't work very well, so the BBC must know that it is honouring the letter and not the spirit of its rights agreements with media suppliers. Wouldn't it be better to work with them towards a better funding and distribution model that places fewer restrictions on rights?
    The alternative is the BBC's platform will get sidelined by more innovative and accessible competitors. For example, it's quite easy to watch HULU via a US proxy or watch programmes on justin.tv.

  • Comment number 11.

    After reading this I panicked and made sure beebPlayer on Android was still working. It does. *phew*

  • Comment number 12.

    "In fact we continue to make our content available as H.264 or SSL"

    OK, I know what H.264 is - it's a video codec. Please can someone explain how SSL is an alternative to this, because I thought it refers to Secure Sockets Layer?

  • Comment number 13.

    @11

    For now, it could be broken at any moment by the BBC. It is a great tool for a platform the BBC don't yet support. I worry they will break it when their Android app is finally ready.

  • Comment number 14.

    #13: Alex, define "Broken", I bet no two 'special interest groups' would come up with the same definition list...

  • Comment number 15.

    @peterdragon #10:

    “Why does the BBC indiscriminately DRM all content rather than only the content that has restricted rights?”

    Although it does do this, the focus here actually isn’t a DRM system. I’m not sure why DRM is even mentioned in the post, because it’s not really relevant to the discussion and risks confusng people further.

    SWF Verification is not a DRM scheme, it’s simply a protocol detail. Because it’s one which is deliberately not documented publicly by Adobe, however, they treat it as (and go after people who implement it with the same venom as) is it were. Despite this, the details of the exchange are “out there” in the public domain. All SWF Verification really cares about is that you have access to the SWF file (i.e., iPlayer itself) and can generate a hash based upon its content and a constant string known to both the client and the server. That’s all Flash Player does. In other words, it’s designed for situations where your SWF is sat behind a username/password layer, but your content is served from a CDN which doesn’t federate your authentication system.

    Everybody complaining about the BBC’s change has access to the iPlayer SWF (because we’re all based in the UK, at least a certain proportion of us are licence-fee payers), and SWF Verification shouldn’t in theory do anything at all. Indeed, if you happen to obtain a piece of software which implements the protocol (despite Adobe’s gnashing of teeth), then it will work just as before. XBMC, et al, don’t implement the protocol purely because they wish to remain “good citizens”, as it were, and not get on the wrong side of the content distributors or their suppliers. This situation is, in effect, the reward you get for being well-behaved.

    If SWF Verification really were a DRM system, then HTTPS and SSH would be, too. And they aren’t.

  • Comment number 16.

    As has already been pointed out, you should not confuse (or indeed conflate) open source with open standards or open protocols.

    Additionally, just because a standard is open does not mean that there is not a fee payable for access to the documentation (cf. ISO or ITU standards v. IETF RFC); nor does it provide for access where a specific security certificate is required; nor for that matter does it offer any indemnity from any patents that may be applicable and infringed by implementing the standard.

    Thus, a truly responsible attitude towards providing access requires more than just using any old open standard, whether or not you call it "open source".

    iPlayer may well be largely built using open source products, but part of the ethos of using open source software is that where possible something should be given back to the community at large. I'm unconvinced by the direction iPlayer is taking in this regard.

  • Comment number 17.

    A further reply to the post itself:

    “We also implement a range of technologies that attempt to check that our content is being played out in iPlayer, and not in an unauthorised 3rd-party application.”

    How can you support open source players and clients while also deliberately implementing a range of technologies which ensure that only the sanctioned clients (none of which are open source) work?

    “The result was that some applications that 'deep link' to our content may no longer work.”

    How does a video player wishing to access an on-demand media stream accomplish this any other way?

    “In fact we continue to make our content available as H.264 or SSL, both of them open standards that have nothing to do with Flash or with Adobe. It's simply that the first people to be affected by this change happened to be linking to our Flash streams, which now have similar protection levels to our open-source streams”

    As BobTD points out, “H.264 or SSL” doesn’t make any sense.

    Next, H.264 has everything to do with Adobe in many contexts, because your H.264 video, along with AAC audio, is wrapped up into an (Adobe) RTMP delivery mechanism.

    With respect to the notion of “open source streams”:

    Can you name a single instance where on-demand iPlayer content made up of H.264 video (with any kind of audio) is placed inside a standard container (e.g., MP4) and is made available using a standard protocol (e.g., HTTP or RTSP) without deliberate obfuscation to prevent it being accessed except on a particular kind of device (i.e., being restricted to a particular user-agent, and other restrictions which aren’t actually defined by the protocols concerned but are put in place in order to tie the implementation to the quirks of a particular device)?

    To the best of my knowledge, these “open source streams” simply do not exist.

  • Comment number 18.

    I think the SSL + H264 streams are the iPod ones. As the BBC can't do DRM on the iPod it uses a few tricks to make it hard to use the streams not on an iPod/iPhone.

    It is interesting to see when faced with a (very) popular device the iPlayer team feel able to ignore DRM, but feel the need to enforce it for other less popular devices.

    I won't post it here (as no doubt it would be removed by the moderators) but people have found ways of downloading the iPod streams. This would allow XBMC and all the others to work again.

  • Comment number 19.

    #17

    "As BobTD points out, “H.264 or SSL” doesn’t make any sense."

    But if one doesn't just cherry pick an extract, to make it look like only codecs are being talked about, it makes perfect sense, even if the sentence is a bit 'sloppy';

    'In fact we continue to make our content available as H.264 or SSL, both of them open standards that have nothing to do with Flash or with Adobe.'

    I would assume the mention of SSL means BBC is using a secure port to transfer the VOD content (this might not be the same port as the main program/GUI uses to access programme info or listings etc. and thus not obvious), can anyone confirm which port the VOD content is being streamed via?

  • Comment number 20.

    18. At 4:51pm on 05 Mar 2010, Ben Gidley wrote:

    "I won't post it here (as no doubt it would be removed by the moderators) but people have found ways of downloading the iPod streams. This would allow XBMC and all the others to work again."

    Which in the end could also mean a lot less content on the iPlayer (for the majority) or no iPlayer at all...

  • Comment number 21.

    @Boilerplated:

    “can anyone confirm which port the VOD content is being streamed via?”

    As far as I know, it’s all HTTP, except where it’s RTMP. Live mobile streams are (mostly?) RTSP. I’ve not actually seen any HTTPS/SSL.

  • Comment number 22.

    Ok. So this is the big question. How do we go about making the XBMC plugin a "sanctioned client"? There must be some way of doing this. If a Nintendo wii can be on the list of "sanctioned clients". Then surely this is a way of making the XBMC plugin be on the same list.

    As somebody above pointed out. There is no open source clients now that can play iPlayer content. Only Them that have paid for a device of some sort. Or the BBC iPlayer software itself. But alas that software can't work for everybody. And does not run too well on low end PC's. That is where the XBMC plugin was great. Users was using that plugin with old out of date computers and it was just fine.

    So again. Lets not go mad and just say "NO More". Lets sort this out so that the XBMC Plugin can be on the "sanctioned client". Who do we need to speak to to make this happen?

  • Comment number 23.

    Ubuntu are the only ones shipping the "BBC" Totem plugin. Totem also ships a "BBC iPlayer" plugin, which does all the things that aren't supported by the BBC, and plays back 3GPP (mobile phone) videos.

    I wish it were possible for Open Source applications to integrate fully with the BBC iPlayer, and not have to suffer upstream breakages.

    The point is that the BBC is making it harder for pirates, but not impossible. And breaking legitimate apps that just want to offer a better user experience to users.

    PS: None of the formats you listed are "Open Source". The only open protocol used for streaming is the RTSP one used to stream the 3GPP videos, and then again, both the container format and the audio and video codecs are heavily patented (though available as open source implementations).

  • Comment number 24.

    maybe the BBC software should use FFDshow if its a codec issue.

  • Comment number 25.

    @Bastien Nocera (#23):

    “The point is that the BBC is making it harder for pirates”

    There’s no real evidence that the BBC is even managing to do that. Certainly, while I investigated work-arounds, it took 30 seconds with Google to find things which would allow downloads of the Flash-based streams, and still work, without restriction. There’s been no reduction in the amount of the BBC’s content available via illicit means.

    The only tangible effect is that of making life difficult for everybody else.

  • Comment number 26.

    There is of course one absolutely sure way to get an unrestricted copy of a BBC I player programme and it is unstoppable! Point a high definition camcorder at a high definition TV and press record. Nothing that the BBC can do will ever stop this. (The same way as I shown on a BBC program about cinema piracy that many pirate DVDs are made).

    The problem with the BBC 'making it harder for pirates' is that it also substantially reduces the value of iPlayer for licence payers. Luckily the BBC's actions will perversely see an enormous boost for the sale of pirate DVDs of BBC programmes at car boot sales and the back rooms of pubs - so they are really doing their bit for private enterprise!!!!! The licence payer will unfortunately have to pay a pirate to see the BBC programmes he/she has already paid for in his/her licence - so this is a massive own-goal.

  • Comment number 27.

    So when is the BBC going to take action against other third party streaming services, which are still operational.

  • Comment number 28.

    Wow.

    Presuming that this view is representative (and not a miscommunication/misunderstanding between the blog dept and others at BBC - I imagine this piece was collectively proof-read and OKed to some degree), it's now clear that the BBC at a managerial level not only fail to "get" the subjective high-level issues, they are also quite confused about utterly objective technical matters. E.g. this article is very confused about the term "open-source", and the contributors to this piece clearly have little understanding of the term and hence surely little appreciation of why users of open-source software have raised so many questions. Then there's stuff like thinking "download" and "streaming" are different things. Or mentioning SSL as fulfilling an equivalent role to H.264.

    If that is the case, then I wonder if perhaps the poor grasp of the technology fundamentals is a major contributing factor towards the "poor" decision making on the high-level issues?

    There are a number of eloquent people in the free software community who no doubt you could engage with, who would help familiarise you with the issues (in addition to whatever technical explanations you need to get from the fine technical folk at the BBC). Many of those people, and many less prominent free software users have been trying to engage you for years now, frustrating as it can be when it seems to result in nothing but ever more DRM and other measures to frustrate free software. Worse, we have to listen to condescending justifications from people who clearly do not understand even the relatively inarguable, factual foundations to the issues.

    As for me, it seems clear to me now that the BBC has no wish to allow me to be able to legally watch high-quality streams using free software (and I'll ignore the patent issues with some openly /specified/ formats and codecs as a battle for another day), as you've managed to break get_iplayer.

    Instead, if I wish to be able to watch high-quality BBC material via the internet (e.g. cause I forgot to record it) *AT ALL* using free software, then my only option now is to download Freeview rips using Bittorrent and the like.

    I.e. your position aligns my interests, as well as the rest of a small but significantly more technical-than-average subset of internet users, with those who pirate your material.

    Well done!

  • Comment number 29.

    What I still don't understand is why the BBC discriminates between someone watching iPlayer through a browser, and the same person watching the same content through XBMC *on the same computer*. It's a ridiculous situation to be in that one is ok and one is forbidden.

    If the BBC really is interested in being open then they need to publish guidelines on how an open-source app can implement the necessary requirements to become an "authorized" application for iPlayer content. The BBC is clearly willing to do this for corporations such as Virgin Media, Nintendo and Sony, so they should also provide for licence payers who don't own a Wii or PS3.

  • Comment number 30.

    "If the BBC really is interested in being open then they need to publish guidelines on how an open-source app can implement the necessary requirements to become an "authorized" application for iPlayer content."

    Err... I think the answer is "be closed source", since that's the only way you could plausibly have any sort of stream ripping protection.

  • Comment number 31.

    “Err... I think the answer is "be closed source", since that's the only way you could plausibly have any sort of stream ripping protection.”

    While that is true, what’s the point of stream ripping protection in something like XBMC when there are massively easier ways to download the streams (for the purpose of hanging onto the download) than hacking XBMC to do it?

  • Comment number 32.


    Ian,

    Putting this mildly, you don't have a clue. You are confusing Open Source and Open Standards, and you don't know what an Open Standard is.

    H.264 is not an open standard. Dirac is. H.264 cannot be freely implemented. Dirac can. An Open Standard is any standard, that can be freely implemented by anyone, at any time, without cost.

    Open Source is software development methodology, which is based on the Free Software movement (see http://www.fsf.org%29. It has nothing to do directly with standards, though Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) often implement Open Standards.

    Do some research before you write - it will help you avoid simple errors like this.

    Wayne

  • Comment number 33.

    This is very disappointing, not just that the BBC apparently have no intention of fixing the problem, but also that clearly Mr. Hunter doesn't really understand the issues, and consequently gets a few things mixed up (open source vs. open standards, video codecs vs. network protocols).

    Can we please have a clear statement of policy from someone at the BBC, that would serve as a starting point for a discussion? Either it is the intention to allow open source software to access iPlayer streams (the HD streams, not just the low quality mobile streams), or it is not. My guess is that the latter is the case, but then the BBC needs to come out and say this clearly, rather than making a slew of misleading claims about "open-source" as Mr. Hunter does above.

  • Comment number 34.

    ...open source vs. open standards, video codecs vs. network protocols...

    Those few words have become a point of confusion by the advocates of internet openness and needs to be distanced from what this issue is really about - the content. The content has never been open in the same way that open source software is, and has never been offered to or by the BBC as an open resource. There is a difference between free and open. It is "free" to the end user but has a cost to the BBC who pays for the ondemand rights (offered to us with restrictions), so its not 'open' to be used by everyone as they wish. The limitations imposed on the content have been more rigidly enforced by implementing SWF verification, which I suspect is more a requirement from the rights holders but may have been put in place for other reasons . As it was succinctly put on the iPlayer messageboards..."without DRM there is no Player". This fact appears to be completely lost in the discussion.

    Instigating SWF verification and removing what appears to be the only application accessing content "in the spirit of iPlayer" to me at least, serves three purposes:
    1. It puts a measure on piracy by comparing its downloads/streams via its authorised access points (web, mobile apps etc) and the total of actuals tallied across its own servers and CDN. The exclusion of XBMC leads directly to the volume of downloaders that are not acting in the spirit of iPlayer
    2. It partially safeguards the future monitisation of the content by the likes of SeeSaw and any other potential post broadcast sales channels, BBC Shop, HMV, Amazon etc.
    3. It puts the control of all content, and the platforms that the copyright holders allow it on, squarely in the hands of the BBC.

    We now see specific deals by the copyright holders playing a large role of all in this content control measures. Content available online under the brand iPlayer differs depending on what hardware platform your on e.g. Olympics coverage being excluded from the Wii. The BBC should be negotiating the rights to be offering it on a platform agnostic basis. I don't want to be excluded form certain programmes because I made a certain hardware choice.

  • Comment number 35.

    @duck4cover

    That’s presumably theory of it all.

    The practice is, of course, a very different matter.

    However, the only people who seem to be confused about open source vs open standards are (some parts of) the BBC who vehemently insist they have nothing against open source, and in fact love it, and have no intention of blocking any of it, except by definition that’s precisely what they’ve done and intended to do.

    Your point (1) doesn’t actually make any sense. The unauthorised downloaders (that is, the ones which still work), by definition behave exactly as an authorised one: that’s how they work. Thus, there’s no measure of anything. As far as I’m aware, none of the ones out there hit the CDN without first going through the same path as the EMP SWF (presumably because it’s the most future-proof way of doing it, and requires the least amount of effort). Thus, the numbers don’t give any hint of piracy rates or anything to do with it. All it does show is (assuming the figures are within the statistical margin of error) how many people were watching iPlayer shows via XMBC. The piracy angle really is a dead horse from this perspective.

    SWF Verification, legal threats from Adobe aside, is not really any different from User-Agent filtering/blocking on a web site. In fact, in many respects it’s even simpler, because there’s only a single thing to match on. SWF Verification, despite what people seem to think, is not a DRM system. In fact, because it’s not RTMPE, the transport stream isn’t even encrypted.

    Moreover, nobody making noise about this wants the content to be open for everybody to do as they wish with, they just want the same level of access regardless of platform. They want the BBC (and, by extension, the rightsholders — although the BBC won’t actually tell us who is pushing this, so we can’t make any direct representations except to the BBC), to stop and think about the actual benefits versus downsides before making changes like this, and actually announce the changes before making them—though I realise this would seem to be a novel concept of late.

    As I said in the comment Ian half-answered, the BBC needs to make its position categorical. And people need to tell the Trust what they think.

  • Comment number 36.

    As it was succinctly put on the iPlayer messageboards..."without DRM there is no Player". This fact appears to be completely lost in the discussion.

    It's not a fact, it's a negotiating position, and a weak one. The rights-holders always demand DRM, but when they're simply told they can't have it, they give in. The did it with free-to-air TV in the United States, they did it with Freesat here, and they're beginning to do it with online music sales.

    If the BBC stood by its previous commitments to proper open standards and allowed anyone to make an iPlayer client, in the same way that anyone is (currently) allowed to make a broadcast TV receiver, then we wouldn't have a problem.

  • Comment number 37.

    This is absolutely ridiculous, someone from the BBC needs to (as many people have stated here) make a statement on what has actually been "achieved" by implementing the SWF verification, how it is being measured and what it has actually prevented from happening. Because I for one know that it has stopped nothing but the few legitimate plugins out there (OnlineVideos for MediaPortal and XBMC to name a couple).

    I think that some clear guidelines should be set out on how the developers can become "certified" as this is what they have given so much of their free time to achieve.

    Everyone should also make their feelings clear to the BBC trust using the links a few posts above. Also report this to watchdog/panorama etc. (I notice Panorama are doing a program next week (15th) on internet piracy ...)

    BBC, sort yourself out

  • Comment number 38.

    Quote from Ian Hunter:
    "BBC iPlayer is already available on many, many devices and platforms which are legal and supported and in the coming year we will be adding as many new ones as we can. "

    I followed the link to see the "currently supported" platforms:

    1) Cable TV (Virgin Media) - probably fine if you pay for it. I wouldn't know.

    2) Computers - fine if you're happy sitting at a desk peering into a PC monitor with your family, while your PC whirs noisily away next to you. Alternatively, as another person has pointed out - have you experienced three under-fives vying for best viewing position in front of your expensive laptop? Televisions are found in Living Rooms for a reason.

    3) Games consoles. Probably fine if you have paid hundreds of pounds for one, although I'm told the Wii iPlayer offering is very disappointing compared to the XBMC Plugin.

    4) Home Media Hubs - yes, we're starting to see the picture: Linksys = £99, Netgear = £226. So again, only for the well heeled. (For comparison: original XBOX, on which I run XBMC? eBay: £20).

    5) Mobile Phones. As long as you're on WiFi. Which means, when you're at home. So: fine if you're in your living room next to your television but you dont mind suffering iPlayer on a two inch screen. Useless when you're actually MOBILE because they dont cache the content, so as soon as you have no WiFi, you have no iPlayer. Useless.

    6) Portable Media Players. Fine, probably, but again: hundreds of pounds.

    By the way Ian - with regard to this comment: "..in the coming year we will be adding as many new ones [devices and platforms] as we can."

    Well - what are you waiting for? Contact Dink who developed the XBMC iPlayer plugin, and once you're happy that it doesn't allow content to be ripped etc, just allow Dink to support it for you. And you'll have added another platform. You "can" do it.

    But please dont fob us all off again with a diversionary ramble about "open source" The Register resurrected that gripe; most of us are just dismayed that we're not the people you're trying to hit, those people are still able to commit piracy, and yet we're paying the price. I could cry into my hands at all this! iPlayer is a fantastic solution, and XBMC was a beautiful way to connect. Please give XBMC some consideration. It's not a two-bit platform.

  • Comment number 39.

    Can the BBC please publish some usage statistic's of the iplayer content so they can show that adding the SWF authentication has been successful in stopping unauthorised content usage?

    If us poor saps who happen to have used the XBMC iplayer plugin can see that the SWF authentication content protection measures have significantly reduced content violations and in effect saved the BBC bandwidth and money. Thus improving the iplayer service for the majority (I'm sure XBMC popular as it is wasn't a significant user of BBC iplayer content) then it will go a little way in improving our understanding of the actions.

    You do note that "unfortunately" the XBMC plugin has "stopped working" - so I suggest that after apologising please enter some discussions with developers such as the XBMC plugin creator (a developer who respects the content providers - as did the users) to enable them to continue to offer alternatives to the expensive (PS3, Wii, Virgin cable an iphone/touch!) and impractical (a PC in a spare room isn't my preferred method of watching TV, or the family huddled around a laptop or iphone is laughable as well). I know legal 'solutions' exist to get iplayer content on TV's but many again involve newer tech which again is often expensive.

    This would show that the BBC is not just respectful of the content providers and the large corporations (Apple, Sony, Virgin, Nintendo), but also respects it's viewers as ultimately we are the financial contributors to the BBC.

    Please heed all the comments regardless of their tone, I think all users of the XBMC plugin have A LOT of respect for the BBC content, the BBC and the iplayer service.

    Regards

  • Comment number 40.

    @ 38. At 2:50pm on 09 Mar 2010, Jon wrote:

    "2) Computers - fine if you're happy sitting at a desk peering into a PC monitor with your family, while your PC whirs noisily away next to you. Alternatively, as another person has pointed out - have you experienced three under-fives vying for best viewing position in front of your expensive laptop? Televisions are found in Living Rooms for a reason."

    Just plug your laptop into your TV, problem solved. I do this whenever I've downloaded something on iPlayer that both myself and the wife want to watch.

  • Comment number 41.

    @40 - And if your laptop doesnt have HDMI or you don't have the appropriate cables? What if you don't own a laptop? What if its so old that it struggles to play full screen, especially the HD stuff.

    In these cases there are FAR FAR cheaper options that do not involve simply using the iplayer web interface. Read above before you comment!

  • Comment number 42.

    This is all so stupid. If I record a programme via Sky+ I can keep it for as long as I want. If I record via Freeview, not only can I keep it for as long as I want, but I can watch it on any device that supports MPEG2, or convert it to any other format. So why does it make any difference if I download it over the internet?

    I heard today that this ludicrous policy has led to the excellent get_iplayer being dropped, because the author feels that recent events demonstrate that the BBC feel it uses iPlayer inappropriately.

    Shame on you BBC. Shame on you.

  • Comment number 43.

    "BBC iPlayer is already available on many, many devices and platforms which are legal and supported and in the coming year we will be adding as many new ones as we can."

    You seem to have forgotten to list on http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/where_to_get_iplayer/ the Freestat and forthcoming Freeview HD Televisions, set top boxes and PVRs that can also now run iPlayer.

  • Comment number 44.

    Re "5) Mobile Phones. As long as you're on WiFi. Which means, when you're at home. So: fine if you're in your living room next to your television but you dont mind suffering iPlayer on a two inch screen. Useless when you're actually MOBILE because they dont cache the content, so as soon as you have no WiFi, you have no iPlayer. Useless.

    Though some mobile phones (e.g. iPhone) have av out capabilities, and so with the appropriate cable you can watch iPlayer on the Television, via your phone.

  • Comment number 45.

    #42. At 3:12pm on 10 Mar 2010, Richard Hughes wrote:

    "This is all so stupid. If I record a programme via Sky+ I can keep it for as long as I want."

    That is a common fallacy, in point of fact you have no right to and what is more BSkyB could deign you access at their whim.

    "If I record via Freeview, not only can I keep it for as long as I want, but I can watch it on any device that supports MPEG2, or convert it to any other format. So why does it make any difference if I download it over the internet?"

    Because for Freeview you need to be more or less in the UK, for Freesat you need to be in certain parts of europe, anyone with a suitable proxy IP number can access iPlayer from were they like, be that the UK or Outer Mongolia - were the legal owner of the content might have licence the same of derived content for broadcast or DVD etc.

    "I heard today that this ludicrous policy has led to the excellent get_iplayer being dropped, because the author feels that recent events demonstrate that the BBC feel it uses iPlayer inappropriately."

    It didn't use iPalyer inappropriately, it treated the legal owners of the content (or their agents) inappropriately.

  • Comment number 46.

    Citizenloz: "Though some mobile phones (e.g. iPhone) have av out capabilities, and so with the appropriate cable you can watch iPlayer on the Television, via your phone."

    Have you actually GOT an iPhone? To enable TV out you need to buy the Apple output cable, and then you find that only the "sanctioned" apps are allowed to use it - i.e. only your "photos" and "videos" - dont be fooled that you can output any app to your TV - because you CANT.

    Not to mention that the output is hardly going to fill a decent size TV without one iPhone pixel = 20x20 TV pixels...

  • Comment number 47.

    @46 Jon wrote:


    Have you actually GOT an iPhone?

    Yes, and iPlayer works via TV out - as noted elsewhere on these blogs and on the Apple site.

    Not to mention that the output is hardly going to fill a decent size TV without one iPhone pixel = 20x20 TV pixels...

    It outputs 576p, same resolution as standard definition TV...
    Note sure where you got the 20x20 ratio from...

  • Comment number 48.

    It didn't use iPalyer inappropriately, it treated the legal owners of the content (or their agents) inappropriately.

    Is using the BBC's iPlayer streams by any means other than a BBC supported application or web portal appropriate or legal? Does the BBC's copyright extend to others offering the content on non BBC applications? I guess we won't hear from the BBC for an explanation and the BBC iPlayer T&C's aren't that specific or detailed enough to gauge any wrong doing by XBMC or any other extraneous use. I still suspect its playing by someone else's rules...

    Either that or they've decided to emulate Steve Jobs.

  • Comment number 49.

    @cerebros

    I think perhaps you're missing the "open-source" aspect of this blog entry. Generally put, there are people and companies who would like to:

    a) Make software available that plays BBC content (including the broadcast quality stuff), for BBC licence fee payers

    b) Make the source of that software available to their users on reasonable terms

    and they would like to do BOTH of these at the same time. Software that does is called "Open Source" software or in some cases "free software" (free as in "freedom", NOT "zero cost").

    The BBC did allow makers of software that does b) supported access to low-quality versions of content, but not a). The problem is that the BBC do not seem inclined to allow anyone they agree may do a) to also do b). When people figure out how to do a) without the help of the BBC, the BBC has then gone out of its way to frustrate that software (these recent changes being the latest example of such). It is pretty clear now that:

    - The BBC has no intention of co-operating with free software

    - Likely the BBC views access for free software as being equivalent to access for pirates (hopefully only in technical terms, but given the understanding the BBC appears to have of free software)

    I happen to use free software for a media-centre for my TV. I used to use get_iplayer to retrieve stuff I had missed/forgotten to record, but now I have to use Bittorrent and I have to rely on people uploading rips to the internet - and I am grateful to such people. Further, in doing so my computer may make some of that material available to other people in the UK.

    Here's the important thing to note:

    - When I used get_iplayer the BBC could apply their checks (not perfect, but apparently sufficiently adequate) to ensure that I was in the UK and hence entitled to download the content (presuming I pay my licence fee, which I do)

    - Now that I have to use Bittorrent, the BBC can NOT apply their checks. Instead my Bittorrent software indiscriminately makes the content available to whatever random PCs contact it, whereever they are.

    Now here's the thing, I could in theory modify my Bittorrent software to try add some Geo-IP checks, so as to try enforce "Must be in UK" access controls. However:

    - While I have the technical ability, I don't have the time right now

    - Even if I had the time, I don't have the financial resources to buy access to the same Geo-IP data-sets as the BBC. Further, the BBC likely has used their considerable resources and experience to develop additional IP checks, which I don't have access to.

    So basically the BBC, by shutting off access to iPlayer streams are:

    - encouraging a small, but not insignificant, segment of the UK population to use Bittorrent to acquire content

    - thus *promoting* the use of tools that *spread* their content outside the UK

    - thus *adversely impacting* the effectiveness of the BBC to control access to content (e.g. by applying access checks to get_iplayer).

    The BBC are shooting themselves in the foot, and in making things worse for the likes of me they've made things worse for themselves too.

    Further, the free software community is reasonably technical. There surely could be ways of meeting the needs of both the BBC and the free software community, and if the BBC would only /engage/ the free software community then I am sure they would be glad to lend their expertise in devising solutions.

    Anyway.. Sigh Sigh Sigh.

    I am very disappointed, however I still hope that eventually the appropriate light will go on in the heads of BBC management.

  • Comment number 50.

    Bah, wish I could edit my comment. This:

    "Further, in doing so my computer may make some of that material available to other people in the UK."

    Should say "outside the UK".

    Also, the bit about me not having the time to extend the software is less coherent on 2nd reading. I meant to make an economic point about how free software users potentially could help, even in a world of downloading rips via BT, but that they do not have incentives to do so as individuals even where they have a favourable view of the BBCs' objectives. I.e. the BBC needs to engage with free software developers one way or the other, or else even friendly free software users' computers will be part of BT swarms helping to distribute BBC content generally.

    In short: Once BBC lose control of distribution, they lose the ability to apply their policy. Even where users are friendly to the BBC. So it seems incredibly dumb to me for the BBC to force a set of users to rely on FreeView ripping and Bittorrent.

  • Comment number 51.

    I'm not sure which is more funny - the fact that the BBC don't realise that this decision is making people who pay their license fee no longer have access to this offering, which is known for a fact that each of us pays a premium for; or the fact that the BBC think this will make it harder for people who want to distribute said offerings illegally.

    I have no interest in breaking the law. All I want is to keep programmes I like to watch for 30 days, or until I watch them. Is that really so much to ask? Well evidently, it is. My computer is so old that it cannot handle the new Flash changes. The encryption puts too much of a strain on my computer, and it's impossible to watch such video on it. So, I used a program called get_iplayer to watch programmes. It's a third-party application, but behaves exactly like the real iPlayer; it even deletes programmes after 30 days automatically before you suggest otherwise. Now the BBC has gone out of its way to ensure that people in my position cannot watch programmes any more.

    I'm not asking you to help third-party programmes. I'm not even asking you to acknowledge them. All people in my position want is stability - and for you to not specifically prevent them.

    Is that really too much for a license fee payer to ask?

  • Comment number 52.

    @45

    45. At 3:52pm on 10 Mar 2010, Boilerplated wrote:
    "This is all so stupid. If I record a programme via Sky+ I can keep it for as long as I want."

    That is a common fallacy, in point of fact you have no right to and what is more BSkyB could deign you access at their whim.


    Maybe, technically true, but in practice, I have never had a BBC programme deleted from my Sky+ without me doing it.

    "If I record via Freeview, not only can I keep it for as long as I want, but I can watch it on any device that supports MPEG2, or convert it to any other format. So why does it make any difference if I download it over the internet?"

    Because for Freeview you need to be more or less in the UK, for Freesat you need to be in certain parts of europe, anyone with a suitable proxy IP number can access iPlayer from were they like, be that the UK or Outer Mongolia - were the legal owner of the content might have licence the same of derived content for broadcast or DVD etc.


    But by that argument, there would be no iPlayer at all, because people outside the UK can get content they shouldn't.


    "I heard today that this ludicrous policy has led to the excellent get_iplayer being dropped, because the author feels that recent events demonstrate that the BBC feel it uses iPlayer inappropriately."

    It didn't use iPalyer inappropriately, it treated the legal owners of the content (or their agents) inappropriately.


    No, it didn't. It actively encouraged you to remove programmes which had exceeded their time allowance. It didn't force you to, no, but it was the user of get_iplayer who was making the choice, not the tool itself.

    The point is that (as many people have noted) once a programme is broadcast over Freeview/Freesat, the genie is out of the proverbial bottle, so there's no point trying to put ever-more elaborate restrictions on the legal iPlayer service, because people will just resort to BitTorrent, etc.
    This restriction doesn't stop me keeping programmes as long as I want... it just means I have to be more thorough in making sure I set them to record on Freeview rather than catching up later via iPlayer. It renders iPlayer useless for me.

  • Comment number 53.

    I'll defend the BBC over most things, but not this. Now that get_iplayer is dead, I'll just be back on Bittorrent - what's the point? The content is out there - it's unreasonable for the BBC or the content providers to expect it to stay locked away.

  • Comment number 54.

    Congratulations!
    You created a legitimate alternative to torrents, if on a limited platform. And the moment someone found a way of making it more convenient than torrents, you blocked it.

    Once again, in the interests of reducing casual piracy someone has introduced a measure that makes casual piracy more convenient that the legitimate methods.

    No techno-BS spin-doctoring can change the fact that, for some people, XBMC was used because it was what they already had. It was probably even more convenient than grabbing a torrent, as you could browse to the program you wanted and start it then-and-there.
    You could watch an enture program in probably less time than it would take to download (even via iPlayer desktop...), and all from the same media player front-end that you use for other stuff.

    All of the BBC's PR spin cannot change why people who used XBMC favoured that method. And it cannot undo the bad blood that is being caused.

    Maybe some people will switch to using the iPlayer website, or the desktop client. But there will be those who will seek out "other means" if it's more convenient for them to do so.
    Maybe iPlayer stresses their hardware more than XBMC. Maybe they just want to use their choice of front-end. But the reasons don't matter, they'll use what works for them. If they're not using your "blessed" choice of player already, they're probably not going to switch.

    It is going to be very very difficult to regain mindshare here. An immediate regression might possible be a start, but even that would probably only be a start at this point. And if you want for all the official consultations to finish, well it might just be to late to win people back over at that point.

    Time to start listening to what the viewers (license fee payers) want, ultimately. You need to keep teh public on side, with the carrot not the stick. Make people want to use the legit methods and they'll use then. But you have to support the platforms people want to use, not the ones you want to favour. As if another platform will play a torrented file, and it's a platform people already have, you'd better have that platform on the To Support List ASAFP.

  • Comment number 55.

    It's almost as if the BBC were taking a Microsoft-style approach to its strategic product management and trying to commercialise what is essentially a public service proposition.

    BBC Worldwide's purchase of Lonely Planet sounded a warning bell about this behaviour and the BBC Trust and its commercial competitors are right to be concerned about this "free" production giving it an unfair advantage.

    For that reason the BBC should decouple production from delivery and distinguish between what it produces and what it buys in when it comes to policy on restricting delivery via iPlayer or public feeds.

    Compare the BBC's approach with that of American NPR, another Public Service Broadcaster. They have open data and are sharing the source code for Open Source applications to access those data:
    http://www.androidcentral.com/npr-app-gets-updated-adds-live-station-streaming

    That's what I call public service.

  • Comment number 56.

    You have stopped licence-fee users seeing the content that they have paid for without making a better alternative.

    The BBC should make "doing the right thing" (i.e. legal obtaining of content) easier and then restrict the illegal; otherwise you'll just encourage even worse behaviour (e.g. torrents).

    Please think before you act.

  • Comment number 57.

    VCRs have provided for recording and watching programs 'off line' for more than 30 years. I don't understand what is being achived by blocking facilities which provide equivalent fucntionality using todays technology - unless of course I go out and buy Sky or Virgin.

    Surely, implementation of this strategy is a business decision (or it would be in my industry) which management rather than the technical team should be controlling.

  • Comment number 58.

    I think it's sad that every time "a number of users express concern" about anything, the BBC reply with some stock answer and then completely disengage from the discussion.

    There are many other examples just the same as this thread where an answer is given which many users take issue with and ask for further clarification on, but there is no continued discussion or clarification from any BBC representatives. It's as if the BBC have something to hide.

    Why won't you answers the questions posed in this thread?

  • Comment number 59.

    So I have to buy a new MP3 player as the ones I bought a year or so are not on this list? This is not just about 'open source' it is about canonical formats which ensure backwards and forwards compatibility and avoiding technological churn. Congratulations, you are making more landfill full of pointless packaging and old technology.

    Pleased I did not a Mac or go for Linux on the laptop - but this is just part of the overall BBC craven move towards mediocre conformity. Well we will win the 6music fight anyway.

    A lot of people like me cannot listen on-line at work and downloading was the only way to 'connect' with some of the 'public spaces' your clueless management go on about.

  • Comment number 60.

    This is even worse than I thought. Radio is not sideloadable it appears. So people without computers/travelling or with firewall blocks in place cannot listen. Nice one.

  • Comment number 61.

    So 60 posts later, probably the largest this blog has seen on a single article in a while, still no word from the BBC ...

  • Comment number 62.

    Nope. "La la la, we're not listening".

  • Comment number 63.

    While I understand why the BBC is locking down, it is a little frustrating for users like myself, who had previously been using get_iplayer from www.linuxcentre.net. I don't think that I was using the software to do anything particularly controversial (nothing more than recording for later viewing, as I would previously have done with a VHS recorder), but I am I am forced to download 600mb+ for an hour's worth of content where I would have been downloading around 200mb with get_iplayer. BBC - please offer a choice of formats for download!

  • Comment number 64.

    #61. At 4:16pm on 12 Mar 2010, bushbrother wrote:

    "So 60 posts later, probably the largest this blog has seen on a single article in a while, still no word from the BBC ..."

    Why should they, it's their (or other media companies) content to do with as they please, of course they could reply, by taking down iPlayer and content et al...

  • Comment number 65.

    61 bushbrother wrote:

    "So 60 posts later, probably the largest this blog has seen on a single article in a while, still no word from the BBC ..."

    839 posts so far on http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2009/12/the_hitchhikers_guide_to_encod_5.html , and that is only one of several blogs on complaints about BBC HD Picture Quality (some have had over 1000+ responses)

    And the BBC haven't conceded one inch on that topic. So don't hold you breath expecting them to respond here... not in the way you would like them to at least.

    It seems these blogs are here for the BBC to defend their position, not discuss it and reach any consensus with viewers.

  • Comment number 66.

    citizenloz - BBC HD picture quality is off topic. If people wish to discuss that then the place to do so is the post you have linked to.

    If people wish to discuss how the BBC should respond to blog posts there is an already existing blog post called Social Media and Accountability where they can do that. So that subject is also off topic on this post.

  • Comment number 67.

    66 Nick Reynolds wrote:
    "BBC HD picture quality is off topic"

    I am sure it is, but I wasn't talking about that was I?
    I was refering to whether this was a high was the number of posts on topics.

    You link to the blog on accountability is a good one though.

    As bushbrother highlights @61, the BBC seemingly don't seem to have any when it comes to social media... Post and forget seems to be the BBC's motto around here

  • Comment number 68.

    Viewing content on open source clients is incompatible with DRM (or content protection or whatever moniker you would like to use).
    An open source application to view BBC streams can by its very nature be adapted to store them to harddisk. A closed source application that will only allow you to view streams, if run on an open source operating system, the os can always be adapted to divert the data going to the screen to go to disk.

    So DRM can only work on closed source equipment.

    So the BBC should come clean on its position:

    Would it like to use DRM

    OR

    Would it like to support open source development (specifically on the client side)

    The answer can't be BOTH.

    Anyway DRM is allowing a content provider to decide what happens with data after these have entered my private network and my private device powered by electricity that I pay for!

    An analogy would be:
    I go to the library to borrow a book. The librarian asks me for a copy of my front door key. When I ask 'what for'. He says, "well so from time to time we can pop round to see if you're not copying or otherwise illegally disclosing copyrighted material from the book."

    No one in their right mind would accept this. But when it comes to digital media, most people do.
    Personally I haven't bought a single track of Apple's I-tunes until it dropped DRM. If I could copy a Blue Ray disk to my media server, so I can view it's content throughout the house on varies equipment, I would have bought quite a lot of them (interesting BBC nature documentaries etc). But since they are loaded with DRM I won't touch them with a barge-pole. The only option to get HD BBC content is to download illegally distributed content from newgroups, torrents etc.

    So please keep it open. Don't use DRM. DRM will kill off open source. And these days open source is one of the few areas where the means of production are being put back in the hands of the people!

  • Comment number 69.

    As someone who has just spent hundreds of pounds and many hours setting up a xbmc system, largely to enable me to use the iplayer on my tv, I can't begin to say how furious I am at this, or the way in which the complaints of hundreds of licence fee payers are being brushed aside.

    I wonder how impressed bbc management would be if I decide to withhold my licence fee until I can recoup the money wasted on my now virtually useless media centre?

    The utter contempt for the people who, until now, happily paid your wages is breathtaking.

  • Comment number 70.

    68. At 11:05pm on 13 Mar 2010, Marc Remijn wrote:

    "DRM will kill off open source."

    What utter nonsense, it might stop open source VOD players/PVR type devices but it will not kill off any other computer based video player nor the wider aspects of open source software.

    "And these days open source is one of the few areas where the means of production are being put back in the hands of the people!"

    It's also an area that is abused by those who wish to steal others content.

  • Comment number 71.

    69. At 11:29pm on 13 Mar 2010, jtrent wrote:

    "The utter contempt for the people who, until now, happily paid your wages is breathtaking."

    More utter nonsense. The BBC has not stopped anyone accessing the content, if someone chooses to put themselves outside the means to access the content that is not the fault of the BBC, it's like someone complaining that because they choose only to have a radio in their house and thus they can't access the BBC's TV programmes that some how it's the BBC's fault!...

  • Comment number 72.

    "It's also an area that is abused by those who wish to steal others content."

    Yes, of course. Thanks for that.

    If you're so convinced of that, you should make sure never to use any free software. Oh wait, that's impossible, cause the very fabric of the internet is somewhat dependent on it - including software which the BBC use to help deliver iPlayer, and the network infrastructure that helps connect viewers and the BBC together.

    It's a huge smack in the face to free software developers to then exclude them from viewing popular culture, when they've helped pay for it AND helped provide the software for it.

    I'm so angry I'm almost tempted to licence my software in the future to prevent the BBC from using it in any way (though, such software would no longer be "free software" technically).

  • Comment number 73.

    I'm an XBMC user - it's on an old Xbox in the back room. My *three year old* is the primary user of it, to play her favorite Cbeebies programmes. Or she was... yes, there's a Wii and a PS3 and an Xbox360 in there also, and the TV has freeview, but none of them have the simple user interface that the XBMC plugin had. I don't WANT to run a web browser and spend my days scrolling up and down and trying to drive a mouse pointer with a games controller that isn't suited to it. I just want a list of programmes, with little pictures next to them because she can't read well yet, and "up down and PLAY" keys!

    We've also got two Sky+ boxes and a TiVo around the house, all of which will record the programmes and keep them apparently forever. But those all involve choosing *in advance* what to watch. And have you ever tried to get a 3yo to prioritise what programmes she likes? I'd end up recording everything, running out of disc space, and still not having he one programme she wanted to watch *now*. Not to mention constantly having to keep running backwards and forwards to put the next one on for her - CBeebies programmes are far too short!! XBMC Iplayer was a boon. Now I'm going to have to work really hard to find something to replace it.

  • Comment number 74.

    May I add my voice to those suggesting that the Beeb meet the FOSS developers halfway...

    OK - If SWF verification has to stay on - could the technical leads and legal people PLEASE meet with the XBMC developers, and others as well? Discuss alternate options for the low-power solutions out there, that would allow FOSS media players to be supported and run?

    Several setups preclude high-def full-screen and Flash...

    * x64 installs of Linux - 64-bit Flash is only in beta at the moment.
    * Low-spec Intel Atom on Linux
    * 64-bit Mac

    There may be others.

    How about the following - maybe a fully open-source app isn't as easy to square with other requirements.. but how about something under the LGPL? Maybe a library of sorts in a similar manner to the stuff normally released through Ubuntu's Restricted repository? But not just covering Ubuntu - maybe release it in the following formats...

    .deb
    .rpm
    .tar

    ... for 32-bit and 64-bit solutions?

    Going down the LGPL route would mean you could keep some aspects secure... but as long as you released updates in a timely fashion to Linux distros... maybe even engage with Ubuntu devs on the .deb side and Red Hat to release as .rpm?

    All the majority of people who had been running XBMC want to do is watch BBC content - but not necessarily want to have to buy new kit to do so...

    Fair's fair?

  • Comment number 75.

    In addition to my previous post, as it's the H264 streams that are wanted, any chance that said LGPL plugin/library could offer an API that XBMC etc could use, and supply the high-def streams (H264) to whatever media player is being used?

    In effect - maybe look at what the XBMC client was providing... and offer similar functionality?

  • Comment number 76.

    Re comments @ #74:

    "OK - If SWF verification has to stay on - could the technical leads and legal people PLEASE meet with the XBMC developers, and others as well? Discuss alternate options for the low-power solutions out there, that would allow FOSS media players to be supported and run?"

    What do you not understand about the fact6 tat content management/DRM is incompatible with open source software because any code containing the security measures will either be as useful (secure) as a chocolate teapot in a desert or the software will no longer comply with FOSS licensing.

  • Comment number 77.

    @Boilerplated, on #76...

    Oh really? Please could you explain this, then - http://shop.canonical.com/product_info.php?products_id=244

    That is a playback pack containing licensed plugins for MPEG playback which are completely legal.
    I believe it might also be licensed for DVDCCA stuff as well.

    These are plugins that allow the user to access that media with VLC, Totem, XBMC.. or whatever they want to use as a frontend.

    *This* is what is requested... why should the UI choice be restricted?

  • Comment number 78.

    In reply to comments made @ #77:

    "why should the UI choice be restricted?"

    Because the owner(s) of the content want it that way perhaps?...

  • Comment number 79.

    Umm - IMHO, that's a strawman.

    Take a film like, say, Kevin and Perry Go Large. That's been aired on both BBC and ITV channels. The content owner - Working Title in this case - supply a digital stream on Digibeta; it gets loaded into two different playout systems.

    ITV Player and iPlayer have different user interfaces - the content owners have *no control whatsoever* as to the look and feel of what the consumer sees. The *app provider* does.

    Take it right back to offline players - take it right back to VHS if you like. The hardware manufacturers have control over the transport control interface to the user. Someone could even *build* their own VCR and play the tape if they wanted.

    What difference does it make to a content owner what the play/stop/search/content-selection UI looks like? They want it safe when in transit - I propose this type of model...

    (BBC servers)=======(BBC LGPL plugin)---API---[user's choice of media player app]

    as well as currently

    (BBC servers)======(Flash client + UI in browser)

    The top playback client could also have plugin modules for DVD playback, other video services... which helps when putting together a MythTV-based solution, for instance.

    It's analogous to someone choosing a Panasonic DVD player over a Samsung - as they find it easier to use. Rather than having to get to know different UIs for different channels and sources.

    Along with reduced CPU loads, this is what XBMC for instance put the *user* in charge of. How the application looked on their screen. The fact that they could control the player app with a remote control, and XBMC looked better on a 32in screen than Firefox did.

    The Lesser GPL or "Library GPL" allows for certain IP to be kept secure, but is normally kept to the minimum required. In this case - that would be the authentication and "am I talking to a legit client" stage. All that is needed beyond this is an API and routes in and out. A basic command set that the player can issue (connect to this stream, play, pause, search)...

    This would enable the end-user to make a decision as to what UI works best for them, in the same way as you choose from an LG, Pioneer or Panasonic TV/PVR/DVD player.

    thoughts?


  • Comment number 80.

    78. At 6:33pm on 15 Mar 2010, Boilerplated wrote:

    "why should the UI choice be restricted?"

    Because the owner(s) of the content want it that way perhaps?...


    So, given there are multiple content owners involved, which one determines the UI?

  • Comment number 81.

    Boilerplated,

    DRM is not an effective barrier to pirates. It's only a problem to those who prefer to (or can only) ship and/or use software within the letter of the law. Also, DRM often adds barriers that make the media less attractive to use (artificial limits like time restrictions, or unskippable sections on DVDs, etc).

    What DRM does is push users away from legitimate distribution channels (e.g. BBC iPlayer) and toward the pirated distribution channels. The content providers ends up with *less* control (e.g. BBC can not apply their geo-IP access checks to BT downloads), while in the process helping to breed ill-will toward themselves amongst the audience.

    DRM is a lose-lose situation. It makes media less convenient, while doing nothing to prevent piracy (if you think otherwise, you need to talk more to technical people). It poisons the relationship between the audience and the content makers.

    In short, it's inevitable DRM will fail. The question is whether the misguided faith in it amongst the current crop of 40/50 something media-company managers will also cause those media companies to fail too. The sooner that breed retires and/or are kicked out of the business the better tbh.

    Anyway.

  • Comment number 82.

    Re the clueless rant @ #79:

    Alex, thanks for proving that you understand little and know even less about the issue of legal title to media content. :-(

  • Comment number 83.

    81. At 8:10pm on 15 Mar 2010, Paul Jakma wrote:

    "DRM is not an effective barrier to pirates."

    That's a bit like saying that keys and locks are not an effective barrier to theft (a known fact), but would you willingly remove all the locks from your house so that even the most causal thief can plunder your house, or - to carry your rather silly analogy to it's conclusion - plunder your bank account due to the fact that your bank no longer bothers to never lock the banks front door never mind the safes whilst telling it's depositors that they can no longer be held responsible for the security of their money and deposit box contents...

    "What DRM does is push users away from legitimate distribution channels (e.g. BBC iPlayer) and toward the pirated distribution channels."

    Only the criminal element...

  • Comment number 84.

    A good writeup on DRM from the consumer's perspective - http://wiki.openrightsgroup.org/wiki/Digital_Rights_Management

    For the record, the infringing-use scripts didn't even stumble when SWF Verification was switched on; if someone is going to rip content and republish, they'll not lose sleep over faking their identity to look like legit clients. The people just using a lighter-weight solution for non-infringing purposes, however, WERE affected.

    This is what causes the anger in legit customers.

    Oh - and re the UI issues... the BBC, Arquiva etc (the broadcasters) control what is seen on the catchup clients - not Kudos, or Working Title, or Tiger Aspect (the content providers)...

    WHat if I, for example, was wanting to put together a unified playback client for a specific purpose? Why not work with open-architecture people?

  • Comment number 85.

    Boilerplate,

    You like analogies, but your continued analogy to theft is itself flawed.

    With theft of property the rightful owner has their property taken from them and can no longer enjoy it. This is not the case with copyright infringement. Further, or perhaps partially because of this, copyright is far far from an absolute right (far more so than property rights anyway) and there are quite a few protected uses of otherwise copyrighted material that do not infringe copyright. Copyright infringement historically was a civil matter, though more recently large media companies have managed to co-opt the state to carry out their actions for them and criminal penalties sometimes may attach. Finally, copyright governs creative material which becomes part of our shared human culture - and such material nearly always has built on the culture that went before it. Hence, again unlike property, copyright is only a temporally limited right which is lost automatically after some period of time.

    I say this because you have denigrated the view of others for not understanding the legalities of title. However by using this "copyright infringement is theft" analogy it would appear you too are guilty of the same lack of understanding.

    So to answer your analogy, it does not apply. Like many arguments by analogy, it becomes nonsensical if you try to stretch the analogy too far. Copyright infringement simply is not property theft.

    That said, if we stick solely to matters of efficacy (i.e. we exclude your attempt to equate copyright infringement with property theft), then the answer is simple:

    - locks are effective protection against all but professional intruders, so people use them

    - DRM is not effective at all, because only a very very few people need to break through the DRM (and it will always be technically possible to do so, by the nature of DRM and by the history of it). Once those people have the unDRMed material on the internet, everyone else can download it.

    We know that many normal, generally law-abiding people are happy to download "pirated" material. That's just a fact you can't deny. I would argue that people are happy to do so because large media companies have managed to alienate many people and have fostered feelings of hostility towards themselves through anti-customer policies, such as deployment of "Digital Restrictions Management". Funnily enough, customers don't like it when you try take advantage of a technology-shift to charge them the same or more for *less* - they'll feel shafted; they'll become hostile to you.

    Further, the penalties in the upcoming DEB will not be a deterrent either. As I've been arguing for a while on other forums now, popular peer-to-peer filesharing technology at the moment does not make any attempt to disguise the roles of participants. However, various technologies exist which do so, and those technologies will be adopted with things like DEB.

    Anyway.

    PS: I see from the fact that you are continuing to reply here that you are still using free software. I would ask you either retract your earlier slander against free software users and developers or that you cease your use of free software (direct and indirect) - i.e. withdraw from the internet. Wouldn't want to be a hypocrite, now would we?

  • Comment number 86.

    In reply to comments @ #84:

    "Oh - and re the UI issues... the BBC, Arquiva etc (the broadcasters) control what is seen on the catchup clients - not Kudos, or Working Title, or Tiger Aspect (the content providers)..."

    No they do not, the OWNERS of the content do, via the sale of rights (to broadcast), of course it's correct in stating that the BBC now try and negotiate 'all platform' rights but that doesn't mean that the owner of the content can't and doesn't set conditions on such sale of rights.

  • Comment number 87.

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

  • Comment number 88.

    85. At 09:33am on 16 Mar 2010, Paul Jakma wrote:

    "Boilerplate,

    You like analogies, but your continued analogy to theft is itself flawed.

    With theft of property the rightful owner has their property taken from them and can no longer enjoy it. This is not the case with copyright infringement."


    OK then, lets modify the analogy slightly, your employer is stolen from (because in your world keys and locks are banned), come pay day you recive nothing more than a note stating taht because the income generated from your work was stolen you will not be receiving your wages. That is exactly what copyright theft does, it steal the income from the rightful owner of the work.

    "- DRM is not effective at all, because only a very very few people need to break through the DRM (and it will always be technically possible to do so, by the nature of DRM and by the history of it). Once those people have the unDRMed material on the internet, everyone else can download it."

    You make a very good case for the non availablility of such work, not the removal of any control over copying/downloading, or perhaps you just think taht the people who make the original should just do so for free and live off the social...

  • Comment number 89.

    Boilerplate,

    You havn't modified your analogy at all. However, let's look at in a business context. Are you seriously suggesting that it is better to withdraw a work and receive 0 sales, than offer it for sale and receive x sales with y pirated copies?

    Note that my argument would be that DRM increases y at the expense of x. Experience elsewhere (iTunes, Amazon) with DRM music -> MP3s seems to back this up.

    Further, studies show that those who download the most music also spend the most on it. I suspect this would be generally true across media (e.g. downloading movies v spending on cinema) - the greatest "consumers" of media also spend the most on it seems very plausible.

    Basically, it seems very short-sighted business proposition to penalise your best customers.

    However, again, your argument is hugely flawed. While it may be relevant to private media companies, it seems to have escaped your attention that we are discussing the BBC and the BBC is funded via a general levy. The BBC does not lose any money if licence fee payers download otherwise illegitimate copies for the purposes of time-shifting (at least, not from that licence fee payer - the BBC do lose control over further distribution though, and such copies may end up outside the UK with non-licence fee payers - but the BBC could easily address this by removing the restrictions on iPlayer access that cause licence fee payers to resort to "pirate" distribution channels).

    PS: I wonder who complained about my post.

  • Comment number 90.

    I can't find a breakdown of BBC Worldwide's revenue, so it's hard to find how much of their revenue comes from reselling TV shows in their original form (i.e. excluding remakes for USA) on DVD at home and for broadcast abroad. Hence it's hard to estimate what impact file-sharing of BBC content might have on BBC Worldwide revenue. If anyone knows of figures and other good reporting on this topic, that'd be really useful.

  • Comment number 91.

    Here's the simple basic economic/business argument as to the futility of DRM:

    Regarding the technology:

    - we can be reasonably sure someone somewhere will always manage to crack DRM schemes (NB: unlike physical DRM for games consoles, cracking software DRM Will never require things like mod-chips, so it will always be generally possible, so long as general purpose computers are used as media players).

    - We know that network file sharing can be made relatively anonymous. We know a variety of technology already exist in this space and we know these can be applied to file-sharing. The only thing missing is that they have not yet been integrated with the most popular file-sharing system, BT. So it's almost certain that criminalisation will simply drive the technology to make it near to impossible to identify file-sharers.

    If we can assume those technological arguments, then the following economic/business arguments I would argue are consequent:

    - media companies will always have to compete with free versions of their files, this means they must add value over the free versions if they are to make sales

    - DRM by definition applies restrictions, by definition it /removes/ value as perceived by end-users

    - Ergo, adding DRM makes it *even harder* for the media company to compete with the free pirated versions.

    You can argue these things are not right, that they are wrong, criminal whatever. However I submit these are the *realities* that media companies will have to operate in in the future, whether they like it or not.

    I don't actually have a fully-formed opinion myself as to whether file-sharing is right or wrong. I know though that I wish I hadn't been forced to return to it for timeshifting-by-internet for BBC TV.

    NB: I do not hide behind a pseudonym. I have the courage to put my real name to my opinions, as most respondents here do too. People are free to research and see what my affiliations, interests and hence probable biases are.

  • Comment number 92.

    As a producer of content who has seen my own livelihood impacted by illegal copying, I am all in favour of the BBC or anyone else increasing DRM and removing potential 'loop holes' that might exist as a consequence of open source access (or in any commercial products for that matter).

    If that means the content is only available via certain mechanisms, which are still widely available, and even free (like iPlayer on various devices), but removes some options that a minority would like, then that is unfortunate, but so be it.

  • Comment number 93.

    @ 91 Paul Jakma wrote:

    NB: I do not hide behind a pseudonym. I have the courage to put my real name to my opinions, as most respondents here do too. People are free to research and see what my affiliations, interests and hence probable biases are.

    Unfortunately I have no idea whether names used here are the real name or the poster or not. I have no way of telling whether a genuine Paul Jakma made that post, or whether it was boilerplated using a 2nd pseudonym in order to argue with himself. :-)

  • Comment number 94.

    @90 Paul Jakma wrote:

    "I can't find a breakdown of BBC Worldwide's revenue, so it's hard to find how much of their revenue comes from reselling TV shows in their original form (i.e. excluding remakes for USA) on DVD at home and for broadcast abroad."

    Try http://www.bbcworldwide.com/annualreviews/review2008/BBC_Home_Entertainment.aspx

  • Comment number 95.

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

  • Comment number 96.

    Citizenloz,

    You say you have lost money to illegal copying. If DRM would decrease your revenue further again, as there is strong evidence to suggest[1], are you still in favour of it and why? If that is your position, then that does not seem logical.

    Also, your logic re what the BBC should do seems faulty:

    "Because I have lost money to illegal copying, the BBC should adopt DRM"

    The 2nd clause does not follow from the first by any obvious means, and you have provided no reasoning to persuade anyone of it.

    FWIW, I am a primary producer of copyrighted works, and derive income from them. Though in a different sphere (software).

    1. Refs:

    O'Reilly and e-Books: http://toc.oreilly.com/2010/01/2009-oreilly-ebook-revenue-up-104-percent.html

    EMI, iTunes, etc: http://arstechnica.com/old/content/2007/06/emi-says-drm-free-music-is-selling-well.ars

  • Comment number 97.

    Another one: http://www.pcworld.com/article/139484/drmfree_music_boosts_online_album_sales.html

    If anyone can find more recent and/or comprehensive examples, that'd be great.

    Meta: Does it really take the moderators all day to review my comment?

  • Comment number 98.

  • Comment number 99.

    Can we stay on topic please? I think we are drifing a little. The subject is BBC iPlayer content protection, not DRM in general.

  • Comment number 100.

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

 

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