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The BBC's approach to combating online piracy

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Najma Rajah | 13:59 UK time, Tuesday, 6 July 2010

The passage of the Digital Economy Act (DEA) through the Houses of Parliament earlier this year highlighted the potential threat of online piracy for the creative industries. The legislation primarily focused on one approach to preventing online piracy: legal action against those who illicitly use peer-to-peer file technology to exchange unlawful copies of copyright material.

However, as has been apparent from the conversations on the BBC Internet Blog and elsewhere, other solutions also have a role to play such as the use of content protection technologies, development of new business models and reforming copyright law so that it is simpler to make legal alternatives to pirated content more widely available in easier to consume and more convenient ways.

So I thought it would be useful to take a step back and bring all these different strands of the debate together by summarising the BBC's broad approach to combating piracy in the digital age.

Piracy can manifest itself in many forms. For example, in addition to illicit use of file sharing technologies, streaming of whole channels over the internet and services which allow unauthorised access to BBC iPlayer by internet users outside of the UK can also pose challenges. It is important that the BBC takes a consistent approach to tackling all forms of online piracy. If we didn't, there would be a risk that dealing with one type of piracy might simply encourage interest in other types.

The principle of universal access lies at the heart of our overall approach to halting online piracy. A key objective for the BBC is to ensure that its content is available on as many platforms as possible for the benefit of licence fee payers. This suggests that the single most effective thing that the BBC can do to address piracy is to provide attractive legal alternatives - for example, by offering live TV and radio streams or by enabling licence fee payers to watch licence fee funded content on BBC iPlayer.

But in order to do this we need to need to balance many factors including value for money, market impact and our commitments to rights holders and the third parties involved in making our programmes, not only BBC Worldwide (as has been suggested on the BBC internet blog), but also actors, writers, photographers, musicians, sports rights holders, our partners from the independent sector and foreign studios.

The second element of the anti piracy jigsaw is promotion of copyright awareness and education. Over the longer term, online piracy can most effectively be tackled by changing viewers' attitudes and behaviour. This won't be easy as at the moment very little is known about who the most prolific online pirates are or what motivates them. Furthermore although it makes sense for rights holders to collectively undertake information campaigns about the impact of piracy on the creative industries, it can be difficult for rights holders who often have slightly different problems and priorities to agree coordinated action. This is something that has been recognised by government and in the future Ofcom will be required under the DEA, on an annual basis, to provide the Secretary of State with a description of the steps taken by qualifying copyright owners to inform, and change the attitude of, members of the public in relation to the infringement of copyright.

The third element is enforcement of anti piracy legislation. The BBC in the past has pursued businesses offering live or near live online streaming of BBC channels - for example TV CatchUp and Zattoo. However, for the first time, the Digital Economy Act provides opportunities for rights holders to pursue persistent offenders. As we have always made clear it is important that any legal solutions are both targeted and proportionate.

The final element of the BBC's wider strategy against piracy in the digital age, and the aspect that has prompted discussion on the pages of the BBC Internet Blog, has been the BBC's use of technical content protection. Earlier blogs have spelt out the rationale for activity in this area, so I won't repeat the arguments here. However, it is worth adding that since we last posted on this subject, Ofcom has concluded that we have struck the right balance between the interests of consumers and the interests of broadcast rights holders.

Looking ahead, the discussions are unlikely to abate for the foreseeable future. The implementation of the DEA will undoubtedly continue to provoke extreme views on both sides about how best to deal with the problem of online piracy. However, I hope as a result of this blog, the way in which any interventions by the BBC contribute to addressing piracy will be clearer.

Najma Rajah is Senior Economic Adviser in Policy and Strategy.


  • Comment number 1.

    "our commitments to rights holders and the third parties involved in making our programmes"

    This is the main problem I have with your policies. You commission the programmes, you write the contracts, yet all this time after iplayer launched Series Catch Up is still not across the board for everything made here.

    If you find something good on BBC3, but its already on episode 4, the legal choices are limited. Most of the stuff will never be on dvd, and a whole series repeat may never happen. I don't think its all that shocking that people will turn to alternative sources.

  • Comment number 2.

    @Steve - There's a 'value for money' issue there as well though - making shows available outside the seven day catchup probably costs a fair amount in rights.

    A better solution may be for more shows to be made available through services like iTunes and SeeSaw so those of us jumping in half way through can pay for the rest of the series - as long as its only around 99p it should be fine.

  • Comment number 3.

    I don't really see how its the BBC's role to combat piracy. If people are doing illegal things then the police should be sorting that out.

    Copyright is a legal problem, not a technical one therefore the solution should be legal rather than technical. Attempts at technical solutions usually end in inconveniencing legitimate users and having little effect on actual criminals.

  • Comment number 4.

    The Digital Economy Act is a terrible law, written by people with no understanding of how the Internet works. It won't do anything to reduce piracy. Similar schemes in other countries merely had the effect of increasing piracy.

    I'm shocked that the BBC think it's part of their remit to combat Piracy and educate the populace about Copyright infringement. This explains why the Panorama documentary about the DEA was so one sided. I thought the BBC were meant to be impartial?

    I pay the BBC Licence Fee which funds your programming, so what's the difference between me downloading a programme I missed via BitTorrent and the old-fashioned method of taping it via my VCR? After all, I've already paid for it, so surely I should be entitled to watch any BBC show how and when I want?

    Infamously, the BBC misguidedly wiped many classic episodes of certain shows in the 1960s/1970s. If it wasn't for members of the public infringing Copyright and using early video recording equipment to tape these episodes for posterity, they would have remained lost forever....

    The fact that both Labour and Tories used images from the BBC series Ashes to Ashes without permission during their election campaign shows how confused the situation is. Why would anyone listen to our Government about the evils of Copyright infringement, when they're guilty of exactly the same thing?

  • Comment number 5.

    I have to say, this answers near to nothing for me - many words, no information.

    Also, this blog entry closes saying that OfCom has already approved the BBCs' approach. However that was with regard to the DVB-T2 EPG "encryption", where the BBC was required to make the scheme available on non-discriminatory terms such that it was implementable by open source software! If the BBC take the view, as this blog concludes, that this is the right balance, then where are is the non-discriminatory licensing for access to iPlayer for 3rd party clients?

  • Comment number 6.

    Please can we drop the nonsense about 'license fee payers' The BBC is for all the people who happen to be in the UK. The license fee is a 'charge' on "accommodations" which have TV sets installed (usually households but also hotel rooms, pubs etc.) The license fee is held in trust by the BBC Trust for services provided within the BBC's Charter and other documents. People on this blog will be familiar with the periodical reviews of services which the Trust conducts.

    On the catch up I note that there are some old series of MSN.. by that not catch up. My view is the iPlayer should be privatised (may be the Trust thinks this too), and should take payments and look after rights. The right to a free view should be confined to 'broadcast reception' and of course the recording for personal use as at the moment from that reception. Thats what you have paid for.

  • Comment number 7.

    mdfifteenhundred - "After all, I've already paid for it, so surely I should be entitled to watch any BBC show how and when I want?"

    Sadly you have not "paid for it" in the way you suggest. Paying the licence fee does not mean you "own" the programme - it's not like buying a DVD. In fact paying the licence fee gives you the entitlement to "watch" BBC programmes not "own" them.

    In addition the BBC does not own all the rights to all its' programmes.

    For example Spooks is an independent production which is broadcast by the BBC. Once it's been broadcast on BBC ONE the independent company which makes it then sell it to other broadcasters (so you will see repeats of Spooks on commercial channels) and sell it on DVD. Your licence fee does not buy you the right to download Spooks for free and keep it for ever.

  • Comment number 8.

    @Nick Reynolds

    So in the good old days, when I taped Spooks on my VCR, I was a filthy pirate and never realised it.

  • Comment number 9.

    Dave - probably not if you didn't distribute it widely to other people.

  • Comment number 10.


    So recording a programme from broadcast TV and keeping it for private is probably not piracy, but watching it on iPlayer and keeping it is piracy?

  • Comment number 11.

    Paul - if you download something from BBCiPlayer after a certain point of time it expires and you can no longer watch it. See this extract from BBC iPlayer terms and conditions.

    "The period of time during which you may watch or listen to BBC Content using BBC iPlayer may vary. This is because of agreements which the BBC has with owners of rights in parts of BBC Content. For this reason not all BBC Content will be available for you to watch or listen to immediately or download to watch or listen to later. If you download BBC Content it will be automatically deleted from your device once this period of time has expired."

    So watching it on iPlayer and keeping it outside the period of time would be a breach of the terms and conditions people sign up to.

  • Comment number 12.

    I'd much have preferred this article if it made a distinction between breaking territorial restrictions, personal archiving, breaking DRM for interoperability, unauthorised redistribution, and unauthorised resale. These are all very different activities.

    Instead, it resorts to the emotive, unhelpful, and inaccurate term of piracy for everything. (And how! Every other sentence uses some variant of the word.) As a result, it doesn't really tell us anything useful, except that we are all pirates who need educating.

    It's offensive and patronising, to be honest.

  • Comment number 13.

    Maybe instead of trying to convince people who use "alternative means" as "just another catchup service" to change their ways, you just make yours more widely accessible?

    Torrents were around before iPlayer. They are (largely) platform independent. And they have a lot of traction.

    "But those methods are illegal," you say. Well no… kidding.
    But they work. And that's where the decision-makers keep missing the point. You're trying to compete against a very usable system with a more restricted one.

    I have multiple methods of playing back video content. They work rather well, thankyou very much, and some of them are either connected to my TV or they are portable. Two or three of them even support DRM - I know the Xbox 360 and iTunes/iPod do, I'm not so sure about the PSP. For whatever reason, many suggest politics, these are not supported platforms.

    Oh, and any TV-connected platform the BBC decides to support these days tends to be streaming, not download. Some of us prefer to queue up downloads over night or when out, and not when at home doing other things. Sometimes internet connections go flaky. And ironically, as I was considering responding with that point my router died(this was copy-pasted to a USB stick so I can post from work…) so even if I had a PS3 or Wii, I'd be sunk right now. (And the computer does not live anywhere near the TV) But strangely, if I'd torrented a show last night (or last week) my viewing would be uninterrupted. Strange, huh?

    Heck, my favoured portable media player (the PSP has a much better screen than my iPod, and a better battery life than my not-supported-anyway early-Android phone) doesn't even have a mobile internet connection.

    I like the idea behind the iPlayer, I really do. And it's obviously working well for most people. But for some of us it cannot compete with any other method as it refuses to work with how we already watch stuff. Or it is only supported by the gadgets we chose not to buy. or it is dependent on an internet connection for content we wish to view without one.
    Maybe it's time you started to figure out how to make our way of viewing work for you. As some of us… simply dislike restrictions that have absolutely zero technical merit.

    Oh, and if you don't like people accessing iPlayer internationally, or sharing shows online, here's an idea. Global same-day releases. it's the only way you'll make a dent in it. In these days of instantaneous global communication, nothing else is acceptable. being able to talk to people anywhere on the planet is cool. If torrents allow people to chat about the same show on the same week regardless of where they happen to live, fantastic. THAT is the point of technology.

  • Comment number 14.

    Has the BBC done any studies on the piracy rates of media delivered on various platforms?

    It is inferred the reason the BBC only provides HTML5/H.264 streams to Apple products (and apparently now PS3?) is because it is comparatively easier to root an Android phone than an iPhone. Once either phone is rooted it becomes a comparatively simple task to save the stream for later copyright infringement.

    I would hope this technical decision was driven by hard data about the rooting rates on the two platforms combined with data about how many users with rooted phones use this power to infringe copyright. Can anyone at the BBC point me at these numbers?*

    There has to be a reason why the BBC only supports 1.8% of the total Android ecosystem with iPlayer but as far as I can tell 100% of the Apple eco-system.

    * Of course the arguments about numbers are a little pointless as it only takes one person to break the DRM before the cat is out of the bag. Back in the days before the iPlayer came to PS3 (for which I'm grateful) I would occasionally download** missed episodes of Doctor Who which were typically available within hours of broadcast.
    ** Diligently deleting them after viewing of course!

  • Comment number 15.


    I understand that. I guess I'm somewhat interested in what is to happen in the future, when on-demand IPTV and broadcast TV inter-mingle, and the lines between them become blurred (if not disappear). I know the details of that future havn't yet been worked out, however if iPlayer is indicative of it, then it follows that the public will lose their long-standing rights to record TV from the BBC. Would you agree with that statement (given the conditional "if .. is indicative")?

    I really don't agree that the public shouldn't be able to record TV, fwiw.

  • Comment number 16.

    Alex, re DRM, let it be axiomatic in this discussion that DRM is completely pointless, as all the empirical evidence points to this. It would be nice if we all (the BBC particularly) could agree that reality exists.

  • Comment number 17.

    @13 Tiggs:

    Bravo, hit the nail on the head there. The reason I use iPlayer so much is because it's much more convenient than any other means of obtaining the media. If it ceased to be so I would go for the more convenient method. Sure it grates slightly I can't watch iPlayer on my PC but my PS3 is connected to the TV and (thankfully) has a decent internet pipe behind it.

  • Comment number 18.

    Paul Jakma - comment 15. I've no idea. And it would interesting to explore if people actually do have these "rights" at the moment. Are these "rights" actually written down anywhere clearly (are they written down in legislation?) or is it just a matter of interpretation?

    Comment 16. I think if you read the blog post correctly then the BBC (if there is such a hive mind, which there isn't) would disagree with you. The BBC uses content protection so why should it do something it thinks is pointless.

    People in this debate often state opinion as though it were fact. "DRM is pointless" is not a fact it's your opinion. Of course it depends what you mean by "pointless".

  • Comment number 19.

    @Nick any chance for a comment about studies on piracy rates?

  • Comment number 20.


    On 15: yes, it's a very interesting question. Suspect it will become more and more of a hot topic over the next decade.

    As for comment 16, yes, I realise the BBC is enamoured of DRM. Re the futility of DRM, I don't think it's opinion though. I think it really is fact, in so far as the point of DRM is to prevent copying. As a fact it should be:

    a) Easy to find examples consistent with this fact

    b) Impossible to find examples that contradict

    For a, you need only look at discussions on this blog and others (e.g. your own Nick).

    As for the "point" of DRM, I would suggest this is trivially measurable: Is the work publically downloadable using unapproved file-sharing tools (where "work" == work sourced from a DRM protected media, or a work of equivalent quality to work available on DRM protected media)? It's hard to fathom that there are any other meaningful metrics, but would be open to listening to any.

    Anyway, let the BBC cling to its faith (and I mean that very much in its religious sense) in religion. What matters is:

    When will the BBC specify how Free Software clients are to have access to iPlayer, including how to follow its restrictions? Given that the BBC in this blog say the DVB-T2 EPG DRM is the kind of balance it seeks, when will the BBC apply the principles established there and approved by OfCom be applied to iPlayer 3rd party access?

    If the protocol is to be that I must contract with the BBC to provide you with a TLS cert signing key and agree to whatever measures, so that I can use the HTML iPlayer, then I can do that. Please give me the contact details!

  • Comment number 21.

    DRM is pointless, if its purpose is to stop mass copying.

    The content that it is suppose to protect is available on torrent sites so it's freely available illegally.

    Legally, I can watch it on my PC.

    I have an SD card recorder to which I can record programmes and play video files and a portable media player that can play video files but I can't use either of these devices to play video legally because of DRM.

    The purpose then seems to be to penalise legal users and encourage piracy.

  • Comment number 22.

    Gah, I meant "cling to its faith in DRM", obviously.

  • Comment number 23.

    I'm borrowing some content from a post from my own blog earlier this year...

    "The alternative is not legal. But it's convenient, accessible, and doesn't have the same barrier to entry.

    The thing is that the moment you drop your barrier to entry (DRM) then people don't need to visit whatever torrent aggregation sites are popular and active on any given week.
    But the problem with this is that the people who mandate the barriers honestly think that merely being legal is enough of an incentive. Even if it restricts someone's choice of player.

    Well here's the real choice you give people by locking the content down. If people don't like the restrictions, they go one of two ways.
    They acquire it anyway. You lose. Or they just don't watch your content at all. You still lose."

  • Comment number 24.

    Paul Jakma wrote:

    let it be axiomatic in this discussion that DRM is completely pointless

    Whether it's pointless is probably a matter of opinion, but the evidence certainly suggests that it's ineffective. The prevalence of Blu-ray rips and programmes from Sky HD out there indicates that the stated goal of preventing copying and redistribution is not being achieved.

  • Comment number 25.


    Agreed 100%. However, let's just take it as given that DRM is a futile exercise and try avoid getting into a discussion about it. The BBC management have bought into the DRM snake-oil (philosophically and/or for external relations reasons..). They've probably have invested much internal political capital, and so they're not going to change their mind from arguments here. Further, the BBC probably has contracts with content suppliers that require some fig-leaf of DRM (or maybe not - the BBC is doing its best to keep such details secret) - and those are not going to be easy to re-negotiate in the short/mid term, even if BBC management were struck by bolts of enlightenment.

    So, let's try avoid getting bogged down in discussing the futility of DRM here. Let's try focus on what the BBC, even with DRM, *should* be doing in order to minimise the impact of DRM on those members of the public who very much wish for unambiguously legal access to BBC content. Let's try focus on how the BBC can persuaded to accommodate 3rd party access (by carrot and/or by stick).

    I.e. what is the protocol for members of the public to be able build devices to access BBC content via IPTV?

    E.g. How do I get my own root CA added to the list of CAs the BBC recognises for access to its standards based HTML version of iPlayer, so that I can watch it on the computer attached to my TV?

    Finally, in another dimension and as a much longer-term project. Given the BBC makes much use of Free Software, is there any viable way that licensing of that software can be used to put pressure on the BBC? E.g. could Free Software developers be persuaded to modify their licences so as to require that those using their software and who offer public services, do not bar access to those services from Free Software clients - on pain of losing the right to use such licensed free software? What other ways are possible?

  • Comment number 26.

    "unambiguously legal access to BBC content." - obviously, I mean with their own software.

  • Comment number 27.

    Tiggs - you miss a third option - "people use legal means to watch your content - you win"

    Paul Jakma - on the backstage mailing list when this was discussed a while ago someone (and I'm afraid I can't remember who as the backstage mailing list is so difficult to find stuff in) said that changing Free Software licences in the way you suggest would break one of the principles of Free Software i.e. that it should be free and open to all.

  • Comment number 28.


    You miss my point. I'm talking about the people who will not stand for the restrictions.

    Because some just won't. And not all of them will torrent, they just won't watch. And the BBC loses when that happens.

  • Comment number 29.

    Nick, I think you're right: restrictions on the fields of endeavour in which software can be used are generally considered to be against the principle of freedom, and would certainly be counter to the Free Software Definition. The downside to such freedom is that it does mean that people might use your software for war, or porn, or gambling, or whatever else makes you uncomfortable – or even to lock out users of Free Software.

  • Comment number 30.


    Yes, you're right - that's a general principle of free software. However, there is another principle which overrides it: that the greater freedom must sometimes be served by restricting individual freedom.

    E.g. with the rise of cloud computing, it became possible to make services available publically using Free Software, but without actually distributing the software. Thus the copyleft licensing was not triggered, and hence such users could make proprietary modifications. As a consequence, the Affero GPL came into being. The AGPL adds a new restriction on usage, requiring that its source be made available to anyone interacting with it over a network. The classic example is how copyleft licences like the GPL restrict the individual freedom to distribute proprietary modifications.

    The point here is that as the world and the use of Free Software within it evolves, so the licences can adapt to deal with perceived challenges. I don't know whether anything can be done, but I'll certainly be encouraging people to think about the problem of organisations discriminating against free software, while profiting from its use.

  • Comment number 31.


    Would you have contact details for the dept within the BBC responsible for co-ordinating new additions to the list of SSL CAs for approved HTML video iPlayer clients?

    Free software users can each sign a contract to say they'll honour the BBCs restrictions. The BBC gives them access using TLS auth, with a client cert from a BBC CA. The BBC does this for no charge, given the precedent for the DVB-T2 EPG, which this blog says is the approved BBCs' strategy. We're all happy.

    How do we make this happen?

  • Comment number 32.

    Why was threedaymonk's comment removed? It was on-topic, insightful, polite, etc. Apparently it was removed for being spam! ???

  • Comment number 33.

    @ 18 Nick Reynolds:

    "it would interesting to explore if people actually do have these "rights" at the moment. Are these "rights" actually written down anywhere clearly (are they written down in legislation?) or is it just a matter of interpretation?"

    People do have these rights - I'm slightly surprised that you are unaware of them. See the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 s70 (Recording for purposes of time-shifting): "The making for private and domestic use of a recording of a broadcast or cable programme solely for the purpose of enabling it to be viewed or listened to at a more convenient time does not infringe any copyright in the broadcast or cable programme or in any work included in it."

    So yes, the BBC is going down a road which will remove from licence fee payers an existing right firmly established in law - that of recording their TV programmes to watch at any time of their choosing. People should be able to record any programme broadcast on iPlayer to watch when they want to. The fact that you are preventing them from legally doing this is pretty objectionable, given it is preventing them from exercising a legal right purely on a technicality of the method of transmission.

  • Comment number 34.

    If I use iplayer-dl (instead of an iPhone) to download a TV programme, and then delete it within the period of time stipulated in the terms and conditions, is that legal or illegal?

  • Comment number 35.

    Nick, I suspect precise principle you're referring to are principles 5 and 6 from the widely respected DFSG: "No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups" and "No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor".

    I don't think it's entirely obvious that a "non-discrimination against Free Software clients in otherwise public services" clause would per se go against those principles. Needs more thought though, obviously.


    PS: what's happened to the "preview" button? And also, what has happened to threedaymonk's comments? He can't even post even more!

  • Comment number 36.

    It seems rather contrary to the BBC's core purpose that they're spending so much effort on restricting the flow of information. Surely the BBC was founded on the idea that information is valuable to EVERYONE in society?

    Newspapers may only provide news directly to their buyers, but the value of that news spreads outward for all of society, and the benefit of newspapers is for everyone. They don't try to prevent people repeating their news to non-customers.

    The BBC is in the unique position that it could be pushing to open up this information, and make it more widely available across boundaries. Something commercial broadcasters would have no incentive to do. But instead they seem to be fighting even harder to restrict things.

    BBC's own content should be broadcast DRM free and worldwide, and the BBC has enough clout that they could probably insist on this and I doubt many producers would object. Even a lot of 3rd party content (such as the mentioned Spooks) should be available worldwide for a limited period. No reason the BBC couldn't work out a way to do that at all.

    The BBC should never be on the side of restricting access to information.

  • Comment number 37.

    @Up Your Ego

    "making shows available outside the seven day catchup probably costs a fair amount in rights"

    I'm sure it does...for existing shows. For everything new the BBC should have had a policy in place since the launch of iplayer that no series catchup=no bbc contract. The problem is that the arrangement between the bbc and its content producers has become far too cosy and totally divorced from commercial reality. The BBC has the upper hand, they need to grow a pair and demand more, if the producers don't like it they can sell to channel 5, and see how much they get from a company that doesn't have a 3 Billion piggy bank.

  • Comment number 38.

    The problem with all these discusses about ‘piracy’ is they focus on the Internet whereas the fact is that ‘piracy’ has existed since the first recording device rolled off the production line.

    There seems to be this view that ‘piracy’ is carried out by young people over the Internet. Well I have news for you piracy is carried out by people of all ages and social backgrounds across many different mediums. People copied records/tapes long before CDs were even thought of. As has been pointed out some TV programmes only exist at all because people ‘pirated’ the content.

    The idea that downloading a TV programme from BitTorrent is in anyway different than recording it to tape at time of broadcast is absurd. People record broadcast programmes and keep them indefinitely, give copies to their friends and family (something that has probably increased since DVD Recorders became popular).

    The thing that these blinkered ‘rights holders’ have got to get into their heads is that the average person has absolutely no respect for copyright whatsoever. I know pensioners, middle-aged types, and teenagers who all download music, TV and films off the Internet and copy DVDs and CDs and usually all done using pirated software to boot.

    The technology may change but the philosophy of the public never will, if one way of copying is denied to them they will find an alternative.

    The whole anti-piracy movement is being driven by media companies who totally blind to the global reach of technology feel that they should control when and how something should be made available. They are finding that this is not acceptable to the public but King Canute style keep fighting it.

    If they really want people to be legal then they need to release things worldwide simultaneously and make it available easily and conveniently and without playback restrictions, which surprise surprise is exactly what Bittorrent does.

  • Comment number 39.

    "I'm sure it does...for existing shows. For everything new the BBC should have had a policy in place since the launch of iplayer that no series catchup=no bbc contract."

    This. I can't believe they don't do it already.

    My friend recorded Dr Who and posted it to me on a DVD. Does that mean I'm an evil pirate? Why can't I access it anyway, it's a BBC produced and funded show, which means that they have total control over the rights. They could surround it with adverts and make even more profit from their overseas operations if they really want.

    Since I paid my license fee for a number of years, and would be happy to still pay it if i had the option, I can't help but feel that I contributed to the development of some of this content, and yet it's unavailable to me now.

    Yet the BBC website is also content created by the BBC, funded by the license fee, and yet I'm able to access it. But sometimes not the video clips, even though they contain the same content as the written story.

    Doesn't anyone at the BBC see how arbitrary this is? How much needless (and ineffective) work and money is going into implementing arbitrary restrictions?

  • Comment number 40.

    PS/ This whole regional restriction thing is dumb anyway. If the BBC offered spooks on it's iplayer, and NBC offered it on their site, and NHK offered it on their site in Japan, then the audiences for each country would naturally gravitate to the site that they know.
    I can't seen many japanese people going to the BBC site if it was available to them in their country.
    Then we could just forget this whole regional restrictions thing, and all the DRM and systems and legal hoops, and just put it up on every broadcaster's site, and give everyone access, and get advertising revenue. And everyone wins (except the DRM companies) and no one loses.

  • Comment number 41.


    IIRC, taking things like Dr. Who and making them available internationally via some kind of commercialised iPlayer, is one of the things BBC Worldwide wants to do.

  • Comment number 42.

    “So watching it on iPlayer and keeping it outside the period of time would be a breach of the terms and conditions people sign up to. ”

    Nobody signed up to those conditions. They're just there — you'd have to go to court to try to prove them worth the pixels they’re displayed on, just like any other terms and conditions (it's not like people even have to agree to them to access the service, for a start).

    The BBC would be in breach of its contracts if it left programmes up for longer than the availability window, and there are almost certainly other strings attached (not that the public will ever know, because commercial confidentiality is always cited), but to find against an individual who kept a downloaded copy of a program which they could have PVR'd from a free-to-air source and done the same with no complaints from anybody? Good luck with that.

  • Comment number 43.

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

  • Comment number 44.

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

  • Comment number 45.

    Just re-reading the article and I find it ironic that you say:
    "If we didn't, there would be a risk that dealing with one type of piracy might simply encourage interest in other types. "

    Yet the result of things like adding the authentication layers to the streams, that had the (intential or otherwise) effect of locking out third-party plugins and players such as XMBC, just encourages people towards casual piracy.

    (Hint: If they were using another player front-end, there was a reason for it. Maybe it's preference. Maybe it's hardware location. Maybe other players work better than iPlayer on their hardware. Doesn't matter, you're not going to change those preferences.)

    Thing is, the third-party solutions at least had a good chance of streaming-only and/or timed deletion. The torrents that people turn to otherwise do not.

    So, here's the thing. Embrace the third-parties. Encourage the self-builds. Seek out very available platform. Bring an official iPlayer (downlaods, not just streaming) to every possible viable platform. At that point, once people can get to your content your way on their equipment, you remopve a lot of the justification for casual piracy. And then (and only then) can you complain when people still favour torrents over iPlayer.

  • Comment number 46.

    I can't see anywhere in the terms and conditions which say you're not allowed to keep stuff you've downloaded from iPlayer. The bit you quoted only says that it'll be "automatically deleted from your device once this period of time has expired." It doesn't say any about circumventing this automatic deletion.

    Also, those terms and conditions seem to have mutually recursive definitions for "BBC iPlayer" and "BBC Content". In fact, the definitions are so vague they could include this blog as part of iPlayer.

  • Comment number 47.

    Have you accidentally broken your own intended iPlayer improvements with piracy protection systems ?

    BBC announced its improved iPlayer explaining in paragraph 9 of that announcement ... "This new adaptive bitrate system, coupled with Adobe's upcoming Flash 10.1 release with H.264 hardware acceleration, should give better quality, less jerkiness and lower CPU usage on PCs equipped with a graphics cards that support H.264 hardware acceleration - see ... [labs.adobe.com] ... for technical details."

    Presumably this was then scuppered by BBC security "enhancements" The newly released final version of software FlashPlayer v10.1 failed to live up to promises of allowing hardware acceleration on iPlayer. Of course there could be some other reason but the BBC seems determined not to comment. So I am thinking the lack of comment is because one department of the BBC broke the planned improvements of another.
    Someone at Adobe (apparently an engineering manager) blaming the BBC saying "Yes, we have narrowed down the problem with the BBC. They are working on it, but no eta on a solution.-chris"

    Any comments BBC, Adobe, or any other anyone else with information.
    The BBC did suggest the iPlayer DRM may be part of the problem, but surely BBC DRM uses Adobe Air technology and would be compatible with Adobe FlashPlayer software.

  • Comment number 48.

    It still boggles me today why ‘on-demand’ catch-up services like BitTorrent ever where, or shockingly still are, illegal.

    Why has this great invention not received the praise it should be getting?

    I pay for my satellite TV, as such I pay for my TV shows, why is it wrong in any sense that I can’t, by law, have a little freedom to watch my purchases where and when I want by downloading a copy?

    To do so I have to pay again and obtain it from a separate legal service, or be refined to watching it when I have an internet connection available.

    Where is the logic in that?
    I am a criminal, a thief and a pirate if I choose to watch a program on a train journey when I don’t have a HSPDA connection?

    I am proud there are still some countries in the world, like Spain, and Canada who are starting to stand up for their citizens rights.

    Why not team up with ISPs to allow distribution of content via methods such as BitTorrent.
    How can you fail to see the mass advertising this will give you, not just money wise but also self promotion of TV shows.
    Also the saving in expenses of distributing the content?
    Let your audience do it for you, as they so willingly are.

    This way you have some control over which countries can legally watch the content and only to those who have paid the TV license, like I have.

  • Comment number 49.


    You have hit the nail on the head with regard to copy protection and other mechanisms for controlling how end users can use (in this case) iPlayer content.

    As far as the unauthorised use of this content is concerned, there are two types of "offender". First there is the end user who merely wants to use the content on their own terms. Second there are the "professional" pirates and prolific file-sharers who, despite having different reasons, are intent on spreading the content to as wide an audience as possible.

    The first type is relatively harmless to the BBC those who provide its content, the second isn't.

    So, by making it difficult to use iPlayer content (I cite the extermination if XBMC and BeebPlayer here), the BBC is actively encouraging people to turn to the real "bag guys" for the programmes they want.

    The bottom line is that there will always be people who have the skill and motivation to rip any BBC programme and distribute it via BitTorrent, etc, irrespective of whatever content protection the BBC attempt to implement.

    All the BBC is doing, particularly with its actions against XBMC and BeebPlayer, is angering legitimate users of its content (i.e. licence payers) and encouraging them to turn to other, more nefarious, sources of BBC content.

  • Comment number 50.

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

  • Comment number 51.

    More should be done in the war against online piracy. Tell me, would you walk into a sony music office and steal all their cd's they have their... no... so why do it in cyber form.? It is the same crime just in a different format

  • Comment number 52.

    As I see it the main reason for the BBC not wanting content on eg. Youtube is because they want to sell the rights overseas.

    However, when you're talking small clips (given that Youtube is restricted to 10 mins maximum) where is the harm provided someone doesn't put up the whole programme?

    Surely if anything, it servers as a rpomotional soundbite for the BBC and makes it more likely that other countries WILL be interested in purchasing and airing BBC programmes.

    I think one of the best things the BBC could do would be to set up their own Youtube HD channel and show selected moments from a wide range of programmes to not only serve as a watch again source for those who missed them but also as a world wide advertisment for BBC and BBC HD.

    As for iplayer, yes the BBC maybe be putting whole programmes up but given that its restricted to UK ip's anyway, where's the harm?

    I don't think that when Dave above suggested he paid his licence fee that he was ever suggesting that he purchased the rights or ownership to the programme, more that he should simply be as entitled to watch it on the internet as he was over broadcast.

    Finally, I don't see why the time restrictions are there on iplayer. Does the BBC really think they'll no longer get DVD sales if we can watch it on iplayer again and again? My experience of buying DVD / Blu Ray is not influenced by having the film on my sat box. For me I only buy if I regard the film as something special and then I buy only to get superior picture and sound. Thats something that still holds true even on BBC HD because as good as the picture / sound may be, they're never as good as on disc.

  • Comment number 53.

    BTW one last aside, why no Commonwealth Games Laser Show in the closing ceremony on iplayer? I wanted to link my friends to this only to discover that despite excellent BBC HD coverage of the laser show, it had been ommitted from the selection of Commonwealth Games Clips.


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