BBC's use of Windows DRM attacked by open source advocates

The BBC's upcoming iPlayer service is being targeted by the UK's Open Source Consortium. The iPlayer in question is a BBC service that will allow viewers to watch any show that they have missed for up to a week after it airs on television. BBC Trust has decided to require DRM on the downloads: the shows will expire after a few days. The BBC chose Microsoft's DRM to protect the downloads, which means that Mac and Linux users are excluded. This didn't sit well with the Open Source Consortium, which has just written a letter to the BBC.

"This action from the BBC effectively promotes one operating system vendor at the expense of others. It is very disturbing that the BBC should be using the license payers' money to affect the operating system market in this way. Imagine if the BBC were to launch new digital channels, but only make them available on a certain make of television—there would be uproar," said the group's CEO, Ian Roberts. The BBC has already expressed its support for the Mac and claims that something will be done as soon as possible (which will probably involve a RealPlayer system).

News source: Ars Technica

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BBC should just use Flash video (cross-platform) when it comes to streaming over the web site.

I think they want the users to be able to use portable devices, hence the move. They should, at the very least, offer support for both Apple and Microsoft "products."

Is there any standard for DRM video on the Linux platform?

Can I just say, bring a Briton myself, the BBC web site really ****es me off because at one time, most or all of the video content on there was only available in RealPlayer format, by far one of, if not, the worst type of digital media in the world! Recently however they have put almost al their video content available in Windows Media format which is much much better.

But that's what their site is using at the moment. Look at their sister site, CBC, and almost every other corporate site out there. They're all using Flash player, a much more reliable and user-friendly format.

Windows Media Player enbedded on a web site is slow, petulant, bad tempered, lives in a permanent state of PMT and hardly ever words! And when it does decide to work, the picture is UP-SIDE-DOWN! I don't get sound half the time! And when the sound does work, I get no picture. It constantly tries to "buffer" when steaming, and I get the entire video in stuttering-pausing-every-2-seconds mode for the whole duration. And then when you go to replay it from the start, it seems as though it's deleted all the content you;ve just downloaded and starts a fresh new download, thus making it play, once again, in stuttering-pausing-every-2-seconds mode!!! AGGHHHHHH!!!!

Come on BBC, update your site! FLASH PLAYER is the way forward!

Well, for many motherboards, the manufacturers' sites are so awful that it's Windows users who take the longest
(Disclaimer: I am mostly a Windows user)

what i find funny is that after all the crap on the net about DRM and companies moving away from it, why would anyone still choose to use it nowdays

"Imagine if the BBC were to launch new digital channels, but only make them available on a certain make of television—there would be uproar"

Not if 90% of homes had one make of TV, and the difference between that make and other makes was format.

Hence, some companies supporting Blu-ray vs HD-TV. Would there be uproar if BBC only released in one format?

I think BBC should release in a format available to all systems, since they can, but maybe they opted Windows DRM because they think hey need DRM and chose one format to trust.

I'm just saying the open source consortium should choose less forced analogies

I think selling DVDs is different - that's a product you buy, the iPlayer is something free. As such, the TV analogy is better (but clearly not perfect as you point out), as the watching something on the TV is something you are paying for with your licence fee (like watching on your computer is), while buying a DVD is not.

i thnk those 10% that couldn't watch it woudl be extremely angry adn cause a bit of an uproar. everyone shoudl be able to play everything independant of who makes their devices. this was an unthought out comparison.

whatever way you look at it DRM is BAD for the consumer, the only people it benefits are the corporations

isn't all DRM proprietry, thats why everyone hates DRM, if it wasn't propriety then the issues with DRM wouldn't exist and this whole conversation would not be happening

Why is it Apple's fault? They don't have to open FairPlay if they don't want to - its their own system and their own software. Apple have never suggested anyone should use FairPlay, so I can't see how it gives the BBC headaches...

Microsoft's format is proprietary too...

considering how many different brands of TV people own thats a pretty bad analogy...

anyway, how would open-source DRM work? surely if its open source then you can edit the DRM to always validate? (this is a geniune question, i'm actually curious as to how it could work)

It wouldn't be Open-source or GPLd, You don't have to use that license to ship code that runs under unix/linux. Infact there are, or should be, loads of apps/code for *nix that is closed. A cross-platform DRM option would be the same idea really. The ones who make the DRM used for Windows can make it for *nix also.

Either way, they can bitch all they want about this, the BBC owns those shows, it can use DRM if it wants to or not, if you don't like it, then don't use it. Go d/l the episode you missed off of a torrent side, wait for the DVD or something. Better yet, don't use DRM services at all, show them that people don't want DRM. Maybe then this won't be a problem.

GP007 said,
It wouldn't be Open-source or GPLd, You don't have to use that license to ship code that runs under unix/linux. Infact there are, or should be, loads of apps/code for *nix that is closed. A cross-platform DRM option would be the same idea really. The ones who make the DRM used for Windows can make it for *nix also.

Either way, they can bitch all they want about this, the BBC owns those shows, it can use DRM if it wants to or not, if you don't like it, then don't use it. Go d/l the episode you missed off of a torrent side, wait for the DVD or something. Better yet, don't use DRM services at all, show them that people don't want DRM. Maybe then this won't be a problem.

Anyone in the UK with a TV pays a licence fee that pays for the BBC. As such everyone has an equal right to view the content.

eAi said,
Anyone in the UK with a TV pays a licence fee that pays for the BBC. As such everyone has an equal right to view the content.

I have no idea how free to air TV works in the UK but i know in Aus the consumer does not pay a cent, advertising pays for it all, i fail to see how they can "charge" a licence fee for free to air, unless of course the bbc is not free to air, are you saying a fee is put on the price of a TV set or is it payed for in taxes of some sort. I just want to understand how you actually pay this "fee"

whocares78 said,

I have no idea how free to air TV works in the UK but i know in Aus the consumer does not pay a cent, advertising pays for it all, i fail to see how they can "charge" a licence fee for free to air, unless of course the bbc is not free to air, are you saying a fee is put on the price of a TV set or is it payed for in taxes of some sort. I just want to understand how you actually pay this "fee"

If you own a TV you must pay a TV license, The BBC is not free-to-air, it is paid for by the TV license, The BBC do not have any advertising, all the other channels in the UK (ITV, Channel 4/5 etc are free-to-air as they have advertising)

I also heard something about the BBC trying to get the law changed so that you need a license if you watch TV over the internet.


I havent paid a license for years tho :P

If you pay a TV license for the BBC, that's like me paying for my SatTV monthly, or infact, it's like my tax money going to the govermant TV stations, which here, DO have advertising even though they're paid for by tax money.

That though has little to do with the DRM issue, you pay the fee to watch the shows ON YOUR TV, not your PC. It'd a different device even if it can be used in the same way. I don't like DRM either, but the content can be DRMd if they want to do so, since they own it to start with.

Now, my original post still holds, they can have a working cross-platform DRM player so people who use *nix can view these files just like they can on Windows. It doesn't have to be open sourced or GPLd, You'll just have to go and d/l it like you do with the iPlayer for Windows.

The TV license you pay doesn't cover your PC from the way I see it. So arguing that because you pay you should be free to watch these shows on your PC also, holds little water. Plus this is a on-demand service, that in itself is different, and I don't know one station/service provider who has that for free either.

Yes DRM is evil, but the fact is, you have to pay for things, the tV station can charge you a fee, or they can try to make money from ads, either way, money needs to be made or you get no new tv shows to watch.

Colin-uk said,
If you own a TV you must pay a TV license, The BBC is not free-to-air, it is paid for by the TV license, The BBC do not have any advertising, all the other channels in the UK (ITV, Channel 4/5 etc are free-to-air as they have advertising)

I also heard something about the BBC trying to get the law changed so that you need a license if you watch TV over the internet.


I havent paid a license for years tho :P

Now i see, although i am still confused as to how you actually pay the license?

Or perhaps they could not use DRM? All the content they're protecting is available free over-the-air and its all already on the internet in superior quality too!

Compare these two screenshots I took, one in the iPlayer, the other from a standard ~350MB torrent I downloaded (both resized to full screen):

iPlayer: http://misc.opencoding.net/doctor_who_iplayer.png
Torrent: http://misc.opencoding.net/doctor_who_illegal.png

Notice the aspect ratio is wrong on the iPlayer version too!

I'm generally supportive of the BBC, but they need to get rid of the DRM - it took me almost 3 hours of messing around with Windows system files to get the iPlayer installed.