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UK's Freeview HD To Go DRM 169

Posted by kdawson
from the for-some-values-of-free dept.
gbjbaanb writes "The BBC has been granted provisional approval to introduce copy protection for Freeview HD after they resubmitted an amended plan. Quoting from Ofcom's statement: 'In view of the fuller submission provided by the BBC, Ofcom is currently minded to approve its request for a multiplex license amendment subject to consultation responses, on the basis that in principle, content management is a justified objective which ensures that the broadest range of HD content is made available to citizens and consumers.' However, it's not too late yet — you can submit your comment and tell them you'd like to be able to record broadcast HD TV. I'm sure the 'content providers' will continue to sell content to the BBC, ITV, etc., if this is not implemented. They'll still take our license fee money (or advertising) and sell us the content, but refuse to let us record or copy it, hoping we'll go out and buy the DVD/Blu-ray as well."
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UK's Freeview HD To Go DRM

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    So, if we can still comment, anyone have a link to do so?

    • by MacWiz (665750) <gzieman54@NOSpam.gmail.com> on Sunday January 24, 2010 @06:24AM (#30877112) Journal

      This ought to work: http://www.bbc.co.uk/feedback/ [bbc.co.uk]

      • by jonbryce (703250) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @07:04AM (#30877252) Homepage

        That will just go in the Recycle Bin. The correct place to complain is here
        http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/content_mngt/howtorespond/ [ofcom.org.uk]

        • by RDW (41497) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @09:50AM (#30877852)

          Before replying, bear in mind that you're writing to Ofcom (an independent regulator), not the BBC itself, and first check out the full proposal at:

          http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/content_mngt/condoc.pdf [ofcom.org.uk]

          The devil, of course, is in the details (which the Ofcom summary glosses over). The BBC is proposing an 'amendment' to 'Condition 6' of the current Multiplex B licence (which Ofcom has to approve). This might more accurately be described as a complete reversal of that Condition. EPG data will no longer be freely available, but encrypted. The decryption keys ('Huffman code look-up tables') will only be provided under a licence that mandates that the HD box manufacturer implements DRM, to be applied to any content that the broadcaster flags as 'protected'. It looks like the the BBC intends to require a level of DRM for most of its HD programming ('The BBC indicates in its proposal that it intends to apply the multiple copy state to the majority of its HD content.'). The even more restrictive 'managed copy' flag will be used when required; an 'unrestricted copy' flag is also available, but it doesn't look like it will get much use.

          The issue of Open Source implementations is also dealt with in a deeply misleading way:

          'The licensing terms for Open Source software typically require that this software is made freely available to others to use, which may be incompatible with and the licensing terms of the BBC's Huffman Code look-up tables. This issue appears to have been addressed by HD Freesat receivers that use Linux Open Source software and implement similar content management technologies'

          This only 'appears to have been addressed' if you don't actually understand the issues. An HD box may well be running a Linux kernel, with proprietary software on top of it, just as MacOS runs on a FOSS XNU kernel. What the current proposal would block is any fully Free/Open Source implementation of a Freeview HD system.

  • Whoever thought this would end differently needs to have his head examined.

    Twice.

    At an Ofcom licensed specialist.

    • by MacWiz (665750)

      I wouldn't worry too much.

      Our summary says, "in principle, content management is a justified objective." While this may or may not be true, the reality is that "content management systems" (aka DRM) never work. Someone will crack it immediately, flushing another $5-6 million down the drain.

      • by abigsmurf (919188)
        Sky's encyrption is pretty rock solid. It occasionallly get broken but they simply issue a new key.

        All the BBC would need to do is revoke compromised keys (and issue new keys to affected devices via over the air firmware upgrades).
        • by Znork (31774)

          Mainly because it's not worth it, people bypass the whole problem by just downloading instead.

          For any serious attempt I'd expect a record and post-process approach would work fairly well, with or without key sharing.

      • by Ed Avis (5917)
        One of the arguments I plan to make is that it's simply not up to Ofcom or the BBC to decide whether restricting home recording is a 'justified objective'. Copyright, being a tradeoff between competing interests, is essentially a political rather than technical question, and any changes to copyright law need to be made by Parliament, not sneaked in through the back door with technological restrictions. (I responded to the earlier consultation, and so did many others, which meant Ofcom said 'no' to the BBC
        • by Ed Avis (5917)
          Silly Slashdot comment form ate my link, here it is: http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/content_mngt/howtorespond/ [ofcom.org.uk]
        • by gilgongo (57446)

          any changes to copyright law need to be made by Parliament, not sneaked in through the back door with technological restrictions.

          Well yes, but the depressing thing is that what's being discussed by Ofcom is a set of contract terms between the broadcaster, their audience and the content providers. Copyright law will not (can cannot) be changed by this, the rights holders will still be the rights holders, etc. The crucial point is that in almost all jurisdictions on earth, contract beats copyright, so in this debate copyright might seem like the the issue, but it's not.

          • by Ed Avis (5917)
            Indeed, but *in effect* what they are trying to do is change the copyright balance. Not by modifying copyright law - that would involve debate in Parliament and all sorts of other nuisances - but by other measures that end up having the same effect, but without the legitimacy or oversight (or any serious attempt to consider the public interest). It is this which is overstepping Ofcom's remit.
      • There is no proper encryption as the programmes will still be available for free and unencrypted. With a smart receiver connected to the internet to access a program guide it won't be a problem. What it will do is screw up the functionality of simple receivers that want to record and display program information. It will prevent competition in the receiver market and make using unlicensed boxes awkward and unreliable.

  • by jez9999 (618189) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @06:38AM (#30877160) Homepage Journal

    They'll still take our license fee money (or advertising) and sell us the content, but refuse to let us record or copy it

    They won't be taking my 'licence fee money'. I don't pay that anachronistic tax. I encourage everyone else to do likewise.

    • by Spad (470073) <slashdotNO@SPAMspad.co.uk> on Sunday January 24, 2010 @07:02AM (#30877240) Homepage

      Yes, because the quality of television (And radio, and internet services) provided by ITV is soooooo much better than the BBC.

      I can't wait until The Natural World becomes The Real Natural World, in which a series of barely cognizant social rejects are dumped into the middle of the African plains to see how they cope with being hunted by an incredible array of nature's creations. Actually, that would probably be quite entertaining for a while, but not as a *replacement* for decent, intelligent, educational television.

  • It's already DRMd (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DrXym (126579) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @06:41AM (#30877166)
    I have a Freesat HD PVR. HD content is encrypted to the box (you can back it up but it won't play anywhere else). Some content is even flagged and won't even transfer. It must be part of the Freesat conformance requirements. Stuff is broadcast in the clear, so in theory I could use a generic DVB-S2 recorder but then I lose other Freesat features like the EPG.
    • Re:It's already DRMd (Score:4, Informative)

      by TheThiefMaster (992038) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @07:05AM (#30877256)

      Freesat != Freeview

      • by DrXym (126579)
        I never said they were. However Freesat is a joint venture between the BBC & ITV and already implements a form of DRM. Therefore I do not understand why people thought Freeview would be any different, especially when it has more stakeholders.
        • Re:It's already DRMd (Score:4, Informative)

          by TheThiefMaster (992038) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @08:32AM (#30877550)

          You said "It's already DRMd". Except "it" isn't. Freeview at the moment isn't DRMd. If you meant to say "The BBC already uses DRM, e.g. FreeSat, which is a similar service to FreeView, so I'm not surprised." then you should have said that. Instead, you talked about the two as if they were the same thing, which is why I said "Freesat != Freeview".

          I don't think the DRM matters one way or the other. It will be broken, probably quite easily, and then the issue will go away again.

          • by DrXym (126579)
            It as in HD content, as in BBC content. It as in Freesat which is a joint venture between the BBC & ITV. Freesat only offers HD content from the BBC & ITV at present.

            As for DRM being broken, this depends how it is implemented and what built-in resilience / healing capabilities it has. If it's some unique key buried in each STB that scrambles the content, then perhaps. If its full broadcast encryption with keys cycling every second combined with occasional over the air changesthen probably not. Eve

            • If they were going to use DRM, they should tie the key to your TV license. That way, you have to have a TV license to watch the content. Unfortunately that would involve uniquely encrypting the content for every viewer, which just isn't practical, especially for over-the-air broadcasts.

              Instead they'll implement some crap system where the key is hidden in the device somehow. Someone will get it out, and then they'll be free to decrypt anything and post it onto the net.

              • Agreed - and this makes it pointless in the first place. They'll spend a bunch of time and a chunk of cash implementing this encryption, and more money maintaining it (licensing OEMs to build decoders, etc), all of which will be passed on to the consumer.

                The thing that annoys me most though is that whilst the encryption will make no practical difference to most people here since we'll know how to get around it, it makes Linux/FOSS a second class citizen to proprietry solutions. For example, a machine pre-
    • That makes me quite glad I bought an unencumbered DVB-S PVR. It was much cheaper than what you would pay for a freesat box and records to any USB media. Plus every freesat receiver is crippled in a variety of other ways (they make it illegal to receive any other stations than the ones approved by the BBC for example)

      But what they intend to do with terrestrial TV is what they've been doing on Satellite for a long time. No standard receiver can understand the EPG data so I have to input everything manually an

  • From the article: " I'm sure the 'content providers' will continue to sell content to the BBC, ITV, etc., if this is not implemented."

    My guess would be 'no' actually - they'll happily sell non-HD versions, but I doubt they will sell HD without the DRM.

    Hey, if the summary writer can speculate, so can I.

    • by williamhb (758070)

      From the article: " I'm sure the 'content providers' will continue to sell content to the BBC, ITV, etc., if this is not implemented." My guess would be 'no' actually - they'll happily sell non-HD versions, but I doubt they will sell HD without the DRM.

      Indeed the price would go up for the HD version, and they'd happily tell the BBC and ITV "Sorry, but Sky [an entirely encrypted pay-TV channel] are offering lots of cash with built in DRM. Cya." The BBC has already been out-bid on many popular programs by Sky -- they plucked 24 from the BBC after season 2 when it had built an audience; same for Lost; they plucked the cricket from Channel 4; ... If you're keen to tie the BBC's hands behind its back in content negotiations, the result won't be "more for fre

    • by RockDoctor (15477)

      From the article: " I'm sure the 'content providers' will continue to sell content to the BBC, ITV, etc., if this is not implemented."
      My guess would be 'no' actually - they'll happily sell non-HD versions, but I doubt they will sell HD without the DRM.

      And would this matter?
      What I'd like to know is when we're going to get a proper EPG and HD recording for Radio 4? In mono, of course. Why bother paying for bandwidth and electronics for an ear you don't use?

  • by westlake (615356) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @07:02AM (#30877238)

    I'm sure the 'content providers' will continue to sell content to the BBC, ITV, etc.

    The BBC has co-production and distribution agreements with private and public corporate partners all over the world.

    The BBC's resources are not unlimited. It has only so much money to buy product, only so much money to produce product.

    The BBC brand name is worth only so much. The BBC has to offer its partners protection in the UK market.

    • by DaveGod (703167)

      Also:

      BBC produced content is sold Worldwide, making a tidy contribution*. Most of this is broadcast to the UK well before internationally, so (for example) an American TV exec would naturally be concerned that any show they were interested in licensing might just be all over the torrents well in advance.

      * Though this is quite difficult to determine, since while the Annual Review [bbcworldwide.com] indicates dividends paid of around £70m in 2008-09, there's presumably a lot of scope for costs shared with the BBC (i.e. t

      • The signal is still unencrypted, meaning anyone who has the patience to push in the numbers can use a receiver like mine, copy it to their computer, and throw it about all over the internet.

    • The BBC still has a duty to serve the public, and definitely should not be dictating the tech market. Being the richest public funded network in the world they are always the stronger negotiator and in many other countries the public broadcaster fulfill similar obligations to broadcast free. And while they do show a few purchased U.S. shows, the majority of productions are in-house. It's competitors show the majority of foreign shows on UK TVs.

  • RTFATWL (Score:5, Informative)

    by Spad (470073) <slashdotNO@SPAMspad.co.uk> on Sunday January 24, 2010 @07:11AM (#30877270) Homepage

    If you Read The Fine Article That Wasn't Linked [ofcom.org.uk] on the Ofcom website you'll find interesting tidbits such as:

    1.4 The BBC's proposed content management approach would require Ofcom to grant an amendment to its multiplex licence, subject to Ofcom's approval of specific proposals, to allow the BBC to restrict the availability of programme listing information for HDTV services only to receivers that implement content management technology.

    1.9 The content management technology required to be implemented in receivers under the BBC's proposals would permit unrestricted recordings of HD content onto digital video recorders (DVRs) but would enable broadcasters to control the copying of this content onto other devices and its distribution over the internet. The HD content would only be accessible on other consumer devices which support the same content management technologies as those used in HD receivers.

    In essence, if you use a receiver without support for this DRM tech, the only thing you're going to lose access to is the Programme Listing data - it's the BBC's way of placating the drooling media execs with as little direct impact on consumers as possible. Now that's not to say that someone in the government won't make it impossible to buy receivers that don't support this in the UK, but that's what China is for.

    Full PDF is here [ofcom.org.uk]

    • it's the BBC's way of placating the drooling media execs with as little direct impact on consumers as possible.

      Unfortunately the people the BBC are trying to satisfy will never be satisfied. More and more little restrictions will be add, and this same argument will be made each time.

      Let Sky handle the drooling media types, they'll feel right at home there.

    • by jimicus (737525)

      In essence, if you use a receiver without support for this DRM tech, the only thing you're going to lose access to is the Programme Listing data - it's the BBC's way of placating the drooling media execs with as little direct impact on consumers as possible

      ICBW but don't most DVRs depend on program listing data to know when to record?

      • by jrumney (197329)
        Yes, but you can get program listings from other sources, so it is not likely to impact DIY DVR solutions like MythTV.
    • by gbjbaanb (229885)

      are you sure? 1.9 says that they can prevent copying of content (not listing data). Whilst the paragraph says 'unrestricted coying onto DVRs' it also says "would permit". ie, they'll be able to prevent that for high-worth content, like a movie the producer didn't want you to record.

      Later in the spec, they say there are 3 modes of protection allowed: unrestricted (fair enough, I imagine a lot of general TV would fall into this category, stuff like all those cookery or property shows), limited-copy (which all

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by RDW (41497)

        'Later in the spec, they say there are 3 modes of protection allowed: unrestricted (fair enough, I imagine a lot of general TV would fall into this category, stuff like all those cookery or property shows).'

        It's a bit worse than that - the BBC says 'it intends to apply the multiple copy state to the majority of its HD content' ('multiple copy state' is the less restrictive level of DRM, but still DRM).

        'I think the implementation is designed to DRM the listings data (as the programmes themselves cannot be en

        • by gbjbaanb (229885)

          As usual, the people hurt by the DRM will be all the (millions of?) legitimate users

          Amen.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by RDW (41497)

      'In essence, if you use a receiver without support for this DRM tech, the only thing you're going to lose access to is the Programme Listing data - it's the BBC's way of placating the drooling media execs with as little direct impact on consumers as possible.'

      An built-in EPG is pretty fundamental to the way we use DTV boxes today. Any manufacturer that chose not to sign up the DRM would have to provide its own (which would need a net connection).

      'Now that's not to say that someone in the government won't ma

      • by wagnerrp (1305589)

        Someone mod the parent up for pointing out what is actually going on here!

        As mentioned, the ONLY thing being lost here is the program guide. HTPC users will still be able to use a plain old DVB-T2 card with their MCE or XMLTV guide data without so much as a hint of lack of functionality.

  • B@st@rds ! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Wowsers (1151731) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @07:17AM (#30877292) Journal
    If they roll this out to the satellite transmissions of BBC HD as well, Arrrgghhh!

    I bought a Analogue / DVB-T / DVB-S combi-card that can decode DVB-S HD transmissions, and of course a HD pc monitor* to watch / edit on. I know that the BBC and ITV are pushing people for the "Freesat" service, their locked-in satellite box... they get a cut from the sales you see. I suspect vendor lock-in is one reason they want to scramble the transmissions.

    Having a FTA card allows me to watch from whatever terrestrial or satellite I can pick up from. Using Linux as well to do it is no mean feat, some HD channels have changed the spec on how to receive their signals, and it messes with the audio stream (BBC-HD implicated).

    Having the Freeview HD signal scrambled is not a great loss, the bit rate for terrestrial HD is as predicted appallingly low and unwatchable. The problem is the masses will look at that bad picture and think it is acceptable, because they've not seen anything else, ie. the satellite HD signal (which has also had it's bit rate downgraded recently). The same thing happened with the roll out and push for Freeview terrestrial digital television, the bit rate has been dropping all the time, it is pretty bad, analogue beats it hands down for picture and audio quality.

    For a supposed free to air channel (subject to paying the BBC tax), the BBC have acted appallingly. For a regulator of UK television that was started up by the current corrupt government, they are acting exactly to type, bought off by corporate interests instead of viewers interests.

    * Strangely the pc Full HD monitor costs less than a regular HD-TV, even though the size is the same, and the pc monitor deals with a higher refresh rates than a regular TV does.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by teh kurisu (701097)
      I have a Humax Foxsat HD Freesat receiver, and it can pick up any satellite channel as well. There's a 'Freesat mode' that can be turned off. I don't see why you'd want to though.
    • by makomk (752139)

      They already have done. It was cracked within months by the developers of PVR software.

  • [...] on the basis that in principle, content management is a justified objective which ensures that the broadest range of HD content is made available to citizens and consumers.

    Here is a lesson for us all, on how to talk and act, if you want to push something trough that everybody hates: You state the exact opposite of what it will do. Which is of course, what everybody will want. And you get it across not only without the blink of an eye, but in a way that makes others feel like this is in fact reality, so that they start to believe it too.

    Today’s wars are not fought with machines and deaths. They are fought with ideas / mindsets / realities, and people that you don’t have to kill, but instead make your “best friends”, so that they fight on your side.

    I say, we as hackers (actually more “crackers”) should become the masters of that! Hack the human mind! As an extension of social engineering. But for good things!
    Psychology, social dynamics, true leadership and rhetorics. Those are the key skills.

    Hmm... I should make a RPG out of that, to train my army... Muhahahaha ;)

  • by Skapare (16644) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @08:51AM (#30877618) Homepage

    ... Linux users that cannot view the DRM broadcasts won't have to pay the license fee?

  • Vote with your feet? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ledow (319597) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @09:09AM (#30877672) Homepage

    Don't like it? Don't watch it. Don't buy the equipment. Don't support it. Seems pretty simple.

    Up until a year or so ago I was a TV licence payer in the UK - then I discovered that not having a TV didn't make any difference to my viewing habits i.e. there was nothing but shit on and the stuff I did want to see I could get other ways *legally* which, for the most part, didn't involve giving corporations money - BBC iPlayer etc. aren't subject to the license because that only covers having the capability to watch the programmes on British TV as they are broadcast - so you don't need a TV license, but get the same programmes.

    And the things that are worth watching, I buy a DVD of (which I then rip, of course, but seeing as I "own" it, that's my decision). I paid for Sky until it became a million channels of crap, ten minute advert breaks and re-re-re-re-re-peats of programmes. I paid for a TV licence until the same thing happened and I realised I could just watch on iPlayer / ITV Player / 4od without (most of) the crap any time I liked. Why *pay* for something you disagree with? Voting with your feet is the most powerful commercial incentive for a large corporation... if you don't buy, say, a DAB radio, then they won't want to support it (that's what happening with DAB at the moment). It's the same thing. Stop giving your money to people you don't like... you don't go to buskers on the streets and say "I'll give you a pound, but only if you improve the way you play and correct the second note in the third stave..."... you either like it and pay for it, or you don't. And the news is that millions of people *will* pay for it (HD seems to be an addiction even amongst my techie friends that I just don't understand).

    Come on, people, if you have such ideals, take a sacrifice for them - stop watching and supporting media/hardware that is DRM if you feel so strongly about it.

    • by jez9999 (618189) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @11:03AM (#30878286) Homepage Journal

      then I discovered that not having a TV didn't make any difference to my viewing habits i.e. there was nothing but shit on and the stuff I did want to see I could get other ways *legally* which, for the most part, didn't involve giving corporations money - BBC iPlayer etc.

      Wait until a 'net licence fee' is announced. It WILL happen as long as the BBC continues to garner so much support on its past laurels, rather than its current behaviour.

      • What's wrong with that? Do you think that shows made by the BBC are free? Or that the staff there work for goodwill and free stationary?

        Consider all of the shows you watch on BBC channels / iPlayer. Count them over a month, make a note. Check the cost of the DVD on Amazon / LoveFilm etc. If you get less value out of the BBC than buy buying / renting the DVDs of the shows you watch, then you should get rid of your TV aerial. It just makes economical sense.

        I watch maybe 9 or 10 different shows each week on
        • by jez9999 (618189)

          Then, by all means, go ahead and pay for it. Just don't ask me to. And no, I don't give a shit about or consume any BBC programmes.

          • I'm not asking you to do anything. I'm stating my opinion.

            I'm interested in what "current behaviour" you're referring to, though. Your tone suggests something insipid.
  • Free-As-In-BBC (Score:2, Interesting)

    by flaptrap (1038180)

    I thought publication copyright expires someday, when the publication goes into the public domain - as in, free - but apparently following that law does not work for the copyright holders, or the government offices doing the broadcasting to the public.

    I'm sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Citizenry, your copyright law has expired.

    Good thing the stuff they show on TV is tailored to be of interest to the widest (read: dumbest) audience and a waste of time to those who enjoy writing computer software or, say, reading.

  • Now a lot of things Steve says are pure marketing noise, but he was right on the money back in 2003 [rollingstone.com] when he said:

    The problem is, is that that has nothing to do with technology. And so when the Internet came along, and Napster came along, they didn't know what to make of it. A lot of these folks didn't use computers -- weren't on e-mail; didn't really know what Napster was for a few years. They were pretty doggone slow to react. Matter of fact, they still haven't really reacted, in many ways. And so they're

  • Once they implement DRM, the BBC becomes just another commercial company. This should mean the TV licence goes away, however I bet nothing will change.

    I also expect the BBC are already planning a tiered service they can charge extra for, that allows you to once again record shows like you (legally) can now for free.

    I also imagine that whatever DRM they choose will assume/require Microsoft Windows for PC-based solutions, so us Linux/Mythbox users are screwed by the BBC yet again.

The meat is rotten, but the booze is holding out. Computer translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

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