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Television Your Rights Online

BBC Wants DRM On HD Broadcasts 267

NickFortune writes "The EFF's Danny O'Brien has pointed out that the BBC has asked a UK regulator for permission to add DRM to their high-definition broadcasts. Apparently, this is at the behest of content providers. 'BBC is proposing to encode the TV listings metadata that accompanies all digital TV channels with a simple compression algorithm. The parameters to this algorithm would be kept secret by the BBC: it would ask manufacturers to sign a private agreement in order to receive a copy. This license would require the implementation of pervasive DRM in the equipment they build.' Ofcom, the regulatory body in question, has detailed the proposal asked for comments, but the window closes today."
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BBC Wants DRM On HD Broadcasts

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @01:20PM (#29442645)

    a simple compression algorithm. The parameters to this algorithm would be kept secret by the BBC

    My GOD! Hackers will *NEVER* figure this one out!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lorenlal ( 164133 )

      And I'm completely sure that all the legitimate home watchers will have no problem with their existing HD digital TVs requiring a decoder, and it'll do so much good cause you can just put your freaking DVR in after the decoder right?

      Or will this force the Brits to have to shell out for a new TV?

      Yea, solid idea. The DMCA thinks this is a bit too much...

    • by CodeBuster ( 516420 ) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @02:19PM (#29443593)

      My GOD! Hackers will *NEVER* figure this one out!

      That is not the point. The intent here is to create a "protection mechanism" via "technical device" (however ineffective) which serves to trigger the portion of the DMCA law (Britain probably has equivalent legal language now due to copyright "normalization" treaties) which makes circumvention without permission or fair dealing (which requires a specially granted exemption from Library of Congress here in the United States) unlawful. In other words, it doesn't matter that they locked the door with chwing gum and rubber bands, you still "broke in" according to the letter of the law and they can still sue you. In these cases the "protection mechanism" is only there to create enough of a speed bump to trigger the anti-circumvention laws, NOT to present a real technical challenge to hackers.

      • by BeardedChimp ( 1416531 ) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @03:04PM (#29444353)
        I've been following the BBC's internet blog for quite a while (it's pretty good) and their engineers always come across as hating DRM and if they had the choice they wouldn't use it at all.
        A few months ago one of them said they were pushing to keep any content produced by the BBC DRM free and that it was only because of licensed content that they employed any DRM at all.
        Based on this I'm guessing this is the upper echelons of the beeb looking to push this.
      • by JTL21 ( 190706 ) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @04:11PM (#29445389) Homepage

        Actually there is no legal impediment to accessing the fta video and audio.

        The only restriction is on accessing the metadata and that is only that the BBC claim it is a breach of their copyright in the compression tables.

        The DTLA say that manufacturers of DTCP products MUST NOT apply DRM to FTA content. BBC are trying to argue to DTLA that content is protected and to Ofcom that it is fta.

        Request to Ofcom is very misleading in several ways. E.g. The D book version with content protection requirements has not been agreed. Major bust up with Samsung and Sony opposed to BBC. Broadcast meant to start 2nd December but spec and broadcasting license not sorted shows the mess the BBC is making.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      a simple compression algorithm. The parameters to this algorithm would be kept secret by the BBC

      My GOD! Hackers will *NEVER* figure this one out!

      The real killer, however, is that it probably isn't quite trivial to install the circumvention software on the actual TV set. So, even when it is cracked, as well as in the meanwhile, the majority of HD TV owners are going to have to shell out for new hardware.

  • Fools (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The people who pay the BBC certainly don't want this, and it certainly doesn't add anything of value. Stop this now, BBC. Is it silly season with legislation all of a sudden?

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Stop this now, BBC. Is it silly season with legislation all of a sudden?

      Nope, looks like third millennium will be all silly season.

  • Who is this going to thwart? People recording and burning discs and the ones that would have easy access to the workarounds when they inevitably hit the market.
  • Bad summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by yoriz ( 979805 ) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @01:39PM (#29442943)

    BBC uses a simple huffman compression to reduce the volume of the EPG data. By that, they violate the DVB standard and thus are contemplating whether they should ask for licensing fee and treat it as a proprietary extension to the standard, or whether they should publish all details and ask for it to be integrated in the DVB standard.

    • Re:Bad summary (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @02:26PM (#29443705)

      Wrong. Read the actual letter. The compression algorithm used is freely available. The compression look up tables have been tuned to specifically work well on the EPG data and as such are copyright the BBC.

      The BBC is suggesting that they be allowed to only give the tables to STB manufacturers that honour the DVB equivalent of the broadcast flag which prevents copying recorded programs off PVRs. Thus giving STB manufacturers a choice: allow the user to copy shows off the box, or allow the user to have an EPG, but not both. Guess which one 99.9% of consumers actually want.

  • by mattbee ( 17533 ) <> on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @01:42PM (#29442983) Homepage

    Just from the summary, this sounds like the BBC are proposing a tiny, insignicant technical change to their metadata broadcast and presenting to rightsholders as a complicated and cast-iron DRM solution. Of course it's nothing of the sort, will probably never get implemented, and if it were, sounds like it would be trivial to work around (if only by getting your listings data from an external source, of which there are several!) So I think this is just singing a song the rightsholders want to hear; I'm pretty certain nobody technical at the BBC gives a hoot about implementing DRM, and would see it as an unwelcome obstacle to doing their job.

    • Actually, the metadata (program times, etc) can be downloaded for free, in machine-readable form, from one of the BBC's own websites: they also supply the data from all their rival broadcasters. So programs like mythtv get this data for free.

      There's a disclaimer that it's for personal use only: I think they are at the same time providing the data feed free to everyone, and also selling it to Microsoft for use by their media player program. I hope they're charging Microsoft a lot of money for it.

  • by ewhac ( 5844 ) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @01:42PM (#29442985) Homepage Journal
    Forgive my Yankee naïvate, but doesn't the BBC have a mandate to serve the public interest, since they're funded in large part by compulsory license fees charged to all television owners? I'd be interested to know how they're justifying this request to regulators and to the fee-paying public.


    • by abigsmurf ( 919188 ) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @01:53PM (#29443157)
      The BBC is only required to broadcast to the British public free of charge, not to provide their titles for free (hence they charge for DVDs and such).

      They also don't exclusively show content they have full rights to. For example sporting events, Hollywood movies and so on have restrictions on how they can show them.
    • It's not compulsory unless you watch live TV. Using your TV for games consoles or playback of pre-recorded content (DVDs etc.) doesn't require a license.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Shimbo ( 100005 )

      I'd be interested to know how they're justifying this request to regulators and to the fee-paying public.

      Since Ofcom _are_ the reguator, you can do the former by reading the letter.

      In the end it's whether the content providers are bluffing, and really would refuse bids from the BBC for premium events if they refused to go along.

  • Uhm - No, thanks. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wild_quinine ( 998562 ) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @01:48PM (#29443069) Homepage
    The BBC is paid for by license payers - not taxpayers, but it's a similar arrangement. I'm not even sure they should be allowed to sell DVDs back to us in the first place, since we're the ones who paid for them to be made, but I absolutely draw the line at letting them digitally protect the content I paid for. They can digitally protect it when they're footing the damn bill.

    Obviously this doesn't apply to third party shows they buy in, but for their own stuff, absolutely no protection at all, thanks.

  • Get stuffed BBC (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Wowsers ( 1151731 ) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @01:58PM (#29443223) Journal

    First the BBC expects me to put up with rubbish SD quality digital television called "Freeview", analogue TV picture and audio is being deliberately degraded to make Freeview look good before the analogue switch off. Then as soon as a few* people** watch the "test" transmission from satellite of some BBC content in HD, they want to cripple it.

    Go f-off BBC, like others, I pay a huge amount in a compulsory BBC tax every year for a progressively worse service and worse programming content. Freeview (digital tv) being pushed by the BBC is rubbish, DAB (digital radio) also being pushed by the BBC is also rubbish, now you want to turn HD into cr@p.

    BTW, we don't want the HD channel wasted with hundreds of hours of pointless Olympics in 2012, shove that cr@p on your Freeview instead.

    * Seriously, there can't be many with HD satellite in the UK....

    ** I got my Linux box to work with watching satellite HD. Ironically Windows is very problematic with HD and numerous flakey video watching / recording applications (even the paid stuff).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by smoker2 ( 750216 )
      The BBC does not expect anything from you. Freeview is just the trading name for DTV Services, which is owned by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Sky and transmitter operator Arqiva. Most of the channels are produced by independent companies. Also, most of it isn't SD, unless SD means 15 Mbps @ 1024*768. I rate SD as 800*600 or lower. Old shows are low quality, but that's because they're old. You're just a troll. What we actually have is higher quality video, and more choice. What did we have before, 5 channels ? N
  • by colinnwn ( 677715 ) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @02:02PM (#29443279)
    First I am a little surprised that the British TV market is big enough, TV manufacturers would be interested in dealing with the code, regulatory requirements, and litigation risks to failure, of a single network's DRM request, just to sell TVs in that market. Though now that every TV basically contains a computer, rather than custom silicon, perhaps the code requirements are minor.

    Second, is BBC the only supplier of TV programming in the British market (aside from satellite)? If there are other minor networks, that want to specify their own DRM or just don't want to participate, I'd think the TV manufacturers would be apoplectic.
    • Well, firstly the UK has 65 million citizens. That's pretty big actually. About 1/5th the population of the United States.

      Secondly the UK was the first country to deploy digital TV anywhere in the world. So TV [set top box] manufacturers are used to dealing with this market. A lot of the finnickey details of how it works were hammered out during the initial UK deployment experience.

      Thirdly, no, the BBC are not the only supplier of TV programming in the British market. There are two major competitors platfor

    • First I am a little surprised that the British TV market is big enough, TV manufacturers would be interested in dealing with the code, regulatory requirements, and litigation risks to failure, of a single network's DRM request, just to sell TVs in that market.

      Ignoring the actual topic, (I don't think it will happen for entirely other reasons), your post shows a remarkable *insert-your-country-here*-centric view of the world. You don't think a country with the 6th biggest GDP in the world and 60 million inha

      • Point taken, but I think it is less USA-centric (in my case), than more dismissive of outliers. If I was a TV manufacturer, there would be 3 or 4 markets I would fall all over myself to cater to, the US, China, India, and maybe Japan. Without reviewing my CIA world factbook, those countries have such high populations, or income and decent population, that I want a piece of that market.

        The rest I'm not going to turn down, but my tolerance for excessive expensive regulatory requirements would be low. Grante
        • I don't really think that's how big corporations work. You sell into every market that you can, and if (as a CEO) you don't have the brainspace to handle more than the big big markets, you have underlings that specialise. You set up a local branch to deal with the local issues if it means getting millions of more sales... Frankly, it's not just legally required, it's also polite to deal with regional customers in a local way!

          Do you think that Britain pioneered digital broadcasting because the manufacturers

    • by DaveGod ( 703167 )

      Second, is BBC the only supplier of TV programming in the British market (aside from satellite)? If there are other minor networks, that want to specify their own DRM or just don't want to participate, I'd think the TV manufacturers would be apoplectic.

      The TV content providers on "terrestrial" (the analogue, "free" broadcast) are:
      BBC (public service)
      ITV (commercial)
      Channel Four (public service, but funded by adverts)
      Five (commercial)

      There are, by my count, up to* 48 additional "free" channels on digital

  • by lattyware ( 934246 ) <> on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @02:04PM (#29443315) Homepage Journal
    The BBC's content is our content. Give it to us unmolested please. It's not like people are not going to let the BBC show their series unless there is DRM there.
    • If you read the letter, it's clear that this non-"solution" is being proposed exactly because the rights holders are refusing to allow their HD content to be broadcast without some kind of DRM. I'm pretty surprised anyone agreed to some kind of nonsense like hiding Huffman tables, but as this is being used only as a stick to make the set top box/TV manufacturers implement stronger client-side DRM, who knows, perhaps it will actually discourage casual piracy. Or perhaps the BBC will have to change the no-enc
  • Content providers (Score:3, Informative)

    by RalphSleigh ( 899929 ) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @02:07PM (#29443379) Homepage

    Given the Beebs previous actions with the iplayer, I am going to believe for now this is only because the content providers have requested it. The BBC does sometimes show imported shows like The Wire, Heroes, etc. The makers of these shows are probably reluctant to let the BBC broadcast them in HD without any sort of copy protection*. This is the same problem that made them use DRM on the iplayer, first windows only and now the adobe stuff. (They had the cross platform air application out the same day adobe released air, and even published a news story on their website talking about how some people had broken the windows DRM they were using and what the program was called hint hint nudge nudge.)

    *because then us Brits might put them on bittorrent, instead of downloading the American ones that are released months/years earlier. The only time I ever saw a show from here first was some of the last Stargate SG1, because Sky (a UK satellite TV outfit, not free or unencrypted) didn't have the mid season break. Look at the channel ident from any torrent to get a good idea of where it aired first.

  • Clarification (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Spad ( 470073 ) <> on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @02:16PM (#29443553) Homepage

    I'm not entirely sure what the actual reasoning behind this is. It seems as if:

    • The rights holders won't let the BBC and other free-to-air networks broadcast their stuff in HD without DRM
    • None (or very few) of the current Freeview/Freesat (DVB) hardware supports their DRM
    • In order to get the DRM-compatibility out there ASAP the BBC have come up with the idea of trivially encoding their EPG data and then requiring hardware manufacturers to implement the DRM if they want a license to use the "keys" to the EPG data (Note that this is not the same as the EPG data being protected by the DRM)

    It's a clever idea but I can only assume that some or all of the non-terrestrial networks operating in the UK have already agreed to the demands of the rights-holders, otherwise the BBC (and other free-to-air networks) could simply refuse to do anything about it - after all, the content providers aren't going to get very far if they refuse to allow their stuff aired on any networks because none of them will broadcast it with DRM in place.

    As a license-payer I can't say I like it, but with the info I have I can't see that the BBC has much choice in the matter; either they and the other FTA networks agree to broadcast some or all HD content with DRM or the idiot content providers won't sell shows to them any more.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jimicus ( 737525 )

      Great. There's only one minor problem I can see with this.

      All the millions of cheap no-brand freeview boxes which are produced with a different chipset and firmware from one week to the next and the manufacturer lost any interest in supporting it years ago. I know the DVB standard allows firmware updates to be sent over the air, but how often does that happen with the cheap & nasty boxes?

  • by charliemopps11 ( 1606697 ) on Wednesday September 16, 2009 @02:40PM (#29443947)
    These large media companies better learn quick that they are not going to save their industry by making it harder to access their media. As it is now, to get media I have to buy equipment, have it installed, get the dish pointed correctly... it cuts out during storms. Cables isn't much better. The force me to order channels in "Packages" so 90% of the channels I get are either espn (dont want) or home shopping network. I have absolutely no option to get rid of these channels. When I want a DVD they delay the release for months, but will release it in other country's first. I can't order it from those countrys becuase of my DVD players country code. Then they release 1 version of the movie... wait 6 months and release an extended version of the movie... then wait another 6 months and release a directors cut and then even a "Series" pack where you can get all the sequels. OR... I can go to a torrent site... click on the movie. 8hrs later I have the full, directors cut, with all the extra features, in english and I don't have to drive anywhere. Talk about a service I'd be willing to pay for. Oh wait, they wont let me pay for it. Morons.
  • I would have never found the best documentary series ever produced by man, Horizon [].

    I have learned more from watching those documentaries than going to formal schools and reading books and articles ever did. The learning, the layout and deconstruction that they provide, should be accessed freely by all of mankind. It would be a crime to lock up these wonderful programmes under DRM or similar so that people can not freely view them. They are the best most unbiased and impartial, yet still captivating, program

Things are not as simple as they seems at first. - Edward Thorp