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BBC's Plan To Kick Open Source Out of UK TV 302

Posted by samzenpus
from the how-can-you-have-any-TV-if-you-don't-eat-your-meat? dept.
bluec writes "Generally speaking, the BBC isn't allowed to encrypt or restrict its broadcasts: the license fee payer pays for these broadcasts. But the BBC has tried to get around this, asking Ofcom for permission to encrypt the 'metadata' on its broadcasts – including the assistive information used by deaf and blind people and the 'tables' used by receivers to play back the video. As Ofcom gears up to a second consultation on the issue, there's one important question that the BBC must answer if the implications of this move are to be fully explored, namely: How can free/open source software co-exist with a plan to put DRM on broadcasts?"
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BBC's Plan To Kick Open Source Out of UK TV

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  • Strange question (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @11:23PM (#30541458)

    How can free/open source software co-exist with a plan to put DRM on broadcasts?

    It's simple, really.

    Someone develops an Open Source DRM software solution, and the BBC uses it.

    It's no different from a closed source DRM solution, except that since it is OSS, it may have a stronger encryption system since it can't rely on security through obscurity.

    "Open Source" means a lot of different things to different people, but the basic concept is that it is the software which is free. How the users use the tools isn't part of the equation. So a good OSS DRM solution is a boon for some users (and a bane for their users). But either way, FOSS is not at all at odds with DRM.

    • Re:Strange question (Score:5, Informative)

      by Brian Gordon (987471) on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @11:31PM (#30541508)

      In an open-source solution you can download the source and a debugger and see exactly which bytes you need to patch to break the DRM.. Finding 09 F9 was hard when hackers had a 15MB memory dump to scour, but it wouldn't be hard at all with the full source code. You don't seem to realize that an "encryption system" needs to store its key (or a method of obtaining the key) in the source or else the client can't view the content at all.

      You can do some Bad Things like using a weird memory manager that puts instructions in unpredictable places but that only increases headaches all around and is still breakable.

      • by gzipped_tar (1151931) on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @11:47PM (#30541586) Journal

        Encryption strength depends on the key, not the algorithm. You can study the source of GnuPG all you want, but you can't break the encryption without the private key.

        And DRM fails because of neither the key nor the algorithm. It fails because some greedy clods don't know heck about the basic principles of encryption, one of which being that you can't encrypt and not-encrypt at the same time.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Mad Merlin (837387)

          Encryption strength depends on the key, not the algorithm.

          Actually they're both important. For example, XOR encryption is remarkably weak in most cases. Especially based on your further comments, I think what you really meant to say was:

          Encryption strength depends on the secrecy of the key, not the algorithm.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by gzipped_tar (1151931)

            XOR, just like ROT-N, isn't really encryption at all, I think.

            And yes, secrecy of the key is a necessity, but not all. Weak keys can be guessed. Strong keys add to the difficulty of breaching its secrecy by guess.

            But all these are trash-talk WRT DRM. Those who want DRM are blinded by the doublethink of giving you something while not giving you it. They borrow things from encryption technology but refuse to face the fact that encryption is intended to defeat tampering or eavesdropping, not DUPLICATION -- nei

          • Re:Strange question (Score:5, Informative)

            by selven (1556643) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @06:28AM (#30542860)

            XOR encryption isn't weak. It's just extremely vulnerable to a plaintext attack. Where that isn't an issue (eg. one time pads), it's the best algorithm out there.

          • For example, XOR encryption is remarkably weak in most cases.

            That really depends.

            If you repeat a password cyclically ("hunter2hunter2hunter2...") and XOR it onto your plain text, you're doing a polyalphabetic substitution cipher. Those were broken around the first world war (IIRC); google for "Kasiski Test" and others.

            If you use a random byte (independent of every other byte) at each position of the key stream ("%Nb2a#!\nF..."), XOR is the perfect cipher. By observing the cipher text, you have no better idea about what the plain text is compared to what idea you would have if all you knew was that the plain text was there*.

            If you use a block cipher (DES, AES, etc.) to encrypt "n+0", "n+1", "n+2", etc., for some random initial offset n, and concatenate the byte blocks of encrypted numbers, you have in some sense a simulation of the perfect XOR encryption; if the block cipher is strong, this is strong as well (maybe if the block cipher can be broken in O(t), this can be broken in O(sqrt(t)), but if t is superpolynomial, so is sqrt(t)). [This is known as "Counter Mode", and you can use it to protect your ssh sessions. It has a bunch of nice properties compared to other Modes Of Operation, but that's beyond today's cryptography lecture.]

            * Say we have a residents meeting at my dorm, and someone suggests we buy a Wii for our basement lounge. Later, I see an encrypted message between the dorm chairman and SomeWiiShop.dk. I know my dorm chairman is not a gamer, so my natural assumption is that she's acting on the request for a Wii. Since I also know about the applications of cryptography (for transactions in e-trade, but not the shopping pages), I assume she's bought a Wii (plus maybe some games and controllers). This is all without decryption. The "perfect security" of XOR is saying that I can't improve my guess by trying to decrypt---not that I can't have a good guess before trying to decrypt.

        • by Carewolf (581105)

          Encryption strength depends on the key, not the algorithm. You can study the source of GnuPG all you want, but you can't break the encryption without the private key.
          And DRM fails because of neither the key nor the algorithm. It fails because some greedy clods don't know heck about the basic principles of encryption, one of which being that you can't encrypt and not-encrypt at the same time.

          No DRM fails because it is technically impossible. Yes, this is because some greedy clods who don't know heck about th

        • All the DRM I know of involves you having both the encrypted data AND the key on your system, with an obfuscated piece of software controlling the two. I think this is the problem that the summary tries to describe: if all DRM relies on an obscure implementation to hide the key from the user, how can you build DRM in an open source application.

          I don't think it would be possible to build a DRM system that didn't involve having the decryption key on the users hardware, but you talk of it like an implementatio

      • Re:Strange question (Score:5, Informative)

        by Kevinv (21462) <(kevin) (at) (vanhaaren.net)> on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @11:55PM (#30541632) Homepage

        > an "encryption system" needs to store its key (or a method of obtaining the key) in the source or else the client can't view the content at all.

        This is untrue for an "encryption system". It is generally true for a DRM system.

        GPG, PGP, many open source projects implementing encryption systems such as AES, DES, etc... have no qualms about their source being public. Because the keys do NOT need to be included in the source.

        DRM system such as DVD encryption however requires the player to be able to decode the disc for playback, but they don't want the user to be able to playback on non-certified devices. This means the player has to have a key to decode the files. Keys don't need to be stored in the source, but the source would reveal how the key was used. It would reveal implementation problems that could make breaking the DRM easier.

        • Satellite receivers solve this with smartcards. Then there's government and/or industry collusion to make sure the readers aren't available on the open market for open source solutions to use.

          • Which of course is why we get our smartcards replaced every couple of months, and new pirate cards are advertised without a few hours of each update. To say that the satellite companies have "solved" this problem is perhaps a slight exaggeration. It would be true to say that they have reduced it to a problem that they can justify ignoring...

      • by Pastis (145655)

        In an open-source solution, you can download the source, read it, modify it and recompile it.

        - if (playBackAuthorized())
        + // if (playBackAuthorized())
              play();

        In a true Free Software solution, you can even redistribute binaries.

        No need to patch bytes ;)

        • by beelsebob (529313)

          Except that's not quite how it works:

          - key = magicallyGetKeySomehow();
          + key = bytesGrabbedOutOfTheMagicalPlace;
          play(key);

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by wizardforce (1005805)

      If you can read the source code of a program, the function can be modified and thus a hypothetical open source DRM program could be engineered to decode the media wtihout implementing DRM's limitations. Which is much of why DRM is so disgusting. Not only does it severely limit what someone can do with their legally bought media, it also must be proprietary in order to hide the key from the user themselves.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by WhatDoIKnow (962719)
        That would apply to DRM on recorded media like a CD or DVD or one-way communication like old fashioned conventional broadcast TV. I don't know about the UK, but US cable providers, for instance, could certainly implement a DRM system that used for example public/private keys or some other type of separately delivered encryption key. Simply reverse-engineering such a system would not by itself allow playback of the encrypted stream.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by wizardforce (1005805)

          At some point there's going to need to be decrypted data at the device its self and once that happens it's game over.

    • Re:Strange question (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Virak (897071) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @12:16AM (#30541700) Homepage

      I don't think you quite understand. The only thing DRM has is security by obscurity. When you freely hand out both the ciphertext *and* the key to whoever asks, you can't have anything else. And if it's open source, you don't get even that. So no, you're not going to see any open source DRM systems any time soon.

    • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Thursday December 24, 2009 @12:41AM (#30541774) Journal

      It's no different from a closed source DRM solution, except that since it is OSS, it may have a stronger encryption system since it can't rely on security through obscurity.

      You're operating under two assumptions that exec-types often do:

      First, you assume it has something to do with the strength of the encryption. It doesn't. DVD CSS was pathetic, it's true, and can easily be brute-forced on modern machines -- but the original crack was someone obtaining the keys. Blu-Ray (and HD-DVD) were cracked not by finding some flaw in the algorithms used, but in finding the key (09 F9 ...).

      Second, it is always security through obscurity. In order to play the movie, you need the key. In order to copy the movie, you need the key. Thus, in order to play the movie, you need the same thing you'd need in order to copy the movie, and there is no way around that. All DRM around audiovisual content is crackable. This is a flaw inherent in the nature of DRM. It is something which will never be improved.

    • by drsmithy (35869) <drsmithy.gmail@com> on Thursday December 24, 2009 @12:51AM (#30541812)

      How does DRM help the BBC provide their services to the taxpayer, better ?

      • by westlake (615356) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @02:25AM (#30542184)

        How does DRM help the BBC provide their services to the taxpayer, better ?

        The BBC partners with other prduction companies and distributors world-wide.

        International syndication and home video sales draws in big money and big talent. That's the benefit to the taxpayer.

        Small Island
        Adapted from the award-winning 2004 novel, this mini-series stars Naomie Harris (Pirates of the Caribbean, White Teeth, 28 Days Later) as Hortense, a young ambitious Jamaican woman thrust into the grit of 1940s post-war London. A Ruby Television production in association with AL Films for BBC, coproduced with WGBH and made on location in Northern Ireland with the assistance of Northern Ireland Screen.


        Sharpe's Peril
        Sharpe's Challenge
        Shot entirely in India, these two installments of the award-winning series, Sharpe, star Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings, Troy, Golden Eye) as Bernard Cornwell's title character. Sharpe's Peril is a Celtic Films Ent./Picture Palace Films/Duke Street Films co-production in association with Harper Collins. Sharpe's Challenge is a Celtic Films and Picture Place production.

          BBC WORLDWIDE ANNOUNCES DRAMA CO-PRODUCTIONS WITH WGBH/MASTERPIECE FOR EMMA AND CRANFORD 2 [pbs.org]

        Dougray Scott, Joely Richardson, Brian Cox, Vanessa Redgrave, Eddie Izzard and Jason Priestley star in The Day Of The Triffids, written by Patrick Harbinson (ER, Law & Order). This epic, apocalyptic and futuristic two-part drama is a co-production between Power and Canadian producer Prodigy Pictures for BBC One The Day Of The Triffids attracts all-star cast to BBC One [bbc.co.uk]

      • by Alsee (515537) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @03:20AM (#30542364) Homepage

        Because US TV and movie studios claim they won't accept the BBC's money if they don't.

        Giggle snort.

        -

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Opportunist (166417)

          Could that mean the BBC would not get swamped with shallow sitcoms and pointless shows?

          How do I press against using DRM in the BBC?

      • by williamhb (758070) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @03:34AM (#30542402) Journal

        How does DRM help the BBC provide their services to the taxpayer, better ?

        Because one of its services is its support for British programme-makers and independent production companies. Those companies rely partly on revenue from DVD sales and international sales for their survival. So, the BBC's DRM isn't just "because the nasty big-wigs in Hollywood want us to", but also part of their remit to foster artistic industry in the UK. If Kudos, Tiger Aspect, Hat Trick, etc, say they need DRM if content is to be broadcast in better-than-DVD quality, that matters.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          If you think this is about piracy, then you are mistaken. It's about ensuring that the boxes used by people are "licensed" - that they only do exactly what they are supposed to do. The encryption is only there to stop companies from selling boxes which do what the customer wants, and not what the corporation wants. The license will specify the software functions available, and hardware will refuse to run software without the correct digital signature. It's the same power grab that's going on right across IT
    • by nedlohs (1335013) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @01:03AM (#30541880)

      If it is truly FOSS then I can modify the software to, as well sending the decrypted video to the output device, write it to a storage device in unencrypted non-DRMed format.

      Hence the DRM is completely useless and pointless and there can be no FOSS media players that respect DRM.

      • by selven (1556643)

        All non-software DRM is vulnerable to the "redirect the screen and speaker output to the hard drive" exploit.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Perhaps I'm missing something, but it seems like the article is suggesting that all media boxes that run on open source software will be unusable with any kind DRM because, in general, DRM solutions need to be closed. Setting aside whether or not that's correct (see other responses for discussion of that) it seems to be oblivious to the fact that open source players are perfectly capable of using closed-source codecs provided they can license use of the relevant binary blobs. Furthermore, proprietary video

  • strange headline (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @11:24PM (#30541468)

    Maybe it's a nitpick, but the headline "BBC's Plan To Kick Open Source Out of UK TV" to me sounds like someone is against open-source software, and has conjured up a scheme, the primary purpose of which is to harm it.

    From the article, though, it seems more likely that the BBC is worried about copyright infringement, and as with many companies, the only sort-of-half-assed solution they can think of to combat it is to introduce some DRM, and the only even-more-half-assed solution they can think of to make it hard to crack the DRM is security-through-obscurity. That's incompatible with OSS, as Cory Doctorow points out, but I think out of a misplaced attempt to use security-through-obscurity, not out of an actual antipathy to open-source vs. proprietary software as licensing models. Who knows if they even realized that: 1) lots of open-source software is used in conjunction with receiving TV broadcasts (and not just by warez groups); and 2) their scheme would therefore harm an important segment of the public.

    • by GIL_Dude (850471)
      Do you have a suggestion for a non half-assed solution to prevent copyright infringement? If so, you could probably make quite a bundle on your idea. It's all well and good to point out the flaws of said systems - but what we need is someone who can point to how this stuff should be done and help the industry to do it right. At this point in time, it is hard to see how content providers could continue to spend the resources to creative expensive (some would say quality, others would say cruddy, but few woul
      • by delinear (991444)

        "Do you have a suggestion for a non half-assed solution to prevent copyright infringement?"

        How about something along the lines of: you'll never fully eliminate copying and in many cases copying has been demonstrated to have positive benefits (exposing a wider audience to your product, allowing people a try-before-you-buy service, etc), while DRM and other prevention techniques have been shown to have many disadvantages and cause issues for legitimate customers (rootkits, WGA issues, software installation bu

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by selven (1556643)

      DRM means that you give the ciphertext and the key to the customer but prevent him from getting the key. Obscurity is the only security you have.

    • the only even-more-half-assed solution they can think of to make it hard to crack the DRM is security-through-obscurity.

      But... but...

      DRM is security by obscurity.

      Here's how DRM works: I encrypt the movie, such that a given key k is required to decrypt it. To play the movie, you need to decrypt it first.

      Then, I give you the key. I don't want you to decrypt-and-save, or decrypt-and-share-with-your-6-billion-best-friends, but I want you to decrypt-and-play.

      This "works" by putting a "Play" button in the playback software which does the decrypt-and-play, and not putting in a "Save" button which does the decrypt-and-save.

      But if

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @11:26PM (#30541480) Journal
    Let me preface this by just notifying the reader that I am in no way condoning or endorsing BBC's actions. I think they suck and are nothing but evil. However, I find an overlooked argument that Doctorow chooses not to address.

    Now, generally speaking, the BBC isn't allowed to encrypt or restrict its broadcasts

    Where is it written that the BBC isn't allowed to encrypt or restrict its broadcasts? Is that a law I'm unaware of?

    the licence fee payer pays for these broadcasts, and no licence fee payer woke up today wishing that the BBC had added restrictions to its programming.

    I think that's a false statement. I would bet there are some of the population wagering that if the BBC could encrypt the signal in some way, then they could better control one of the few revenues they have (aside from the taxpayer). That being DVD sales and sales to a vast amount of the world--namely everyone who is not British.

    This might conflict statements about wanting to encourage open source but make no mistake about it, the BBC does not have to support open source. Does it suck? Most certainly. Should you complain about it? Of course. But the logic here isn't just the desire to control the set top boxes or some ultra evil GNU/GPL destruction campaign. No%2

    • by Alsee (515537)

      Where is it written that the BBC isn't allowed to encrypt or restrict its broadcasts? Is that a law I'm unaware of?

      Exactly. TV broadcasts are legally required to be in the clear in the US as well. Public broadcasting licenses require the broadcasts to actually be public. For example you can broadcasts personal chat on CB frequencies, but a TV station cannot use its frequencies to transmit the station owner's chat to his buddies.

      That is why the TV and movie studios have been pushing in the US for a "broadcas

  • Dirac (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @11:32PM (#30541510)

    However, the BBC would like to collaborate with the Open Source community, academics and others to produce an Open Codec [bbc.co.uk]

  • by drfreak (303147) <dtarsky@NOSpAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @11:33PM (#30541520)

    DRM does not depend on a particular programming paradigm, nor does Open Source. PGP is a great example of open source security which remains secure. The challenge really lies in the implementor, who needs to enforce security while not falling back on closed-cource obfuscation to achieve the task.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @11:39PM (#30541544)

      DRM absolutely excludes open source, Free-with-a-capital-F-as-in-Freedom software. My freedom is restricted if I am not permitted to modify the software (e.g. to write to disk instead of screen).

    • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @11:50PM (#30541612)

      PGP has a much easier task, though: it only needs to ensure that people with the key can decrypt content, while people without the key cannot. DRM schemes need to ensure that the same person can only decrypt given content for certain purposes, and not for other purposes.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MightyMartian (840721)

        And thus DRM ultimately is, at best, security through obscurity (by obscurity, in this case, burying the key and hoping it's obfuscated enough that a hacker can't pull out the key). The problem is simple. They want to control how you use their data, but no too much. It would certainly be trivial to set up a public-private key system for content, particularly for downloadable content. But they want their cake and eat it too, they want to protect their rights, as they perceive it, but still keep their exi

      • Which is why DRM is ALWAYS breakable, were as PGP isn't necessarily. DRM is security theater at it's best. Nothing more.

        Ultimately, DRM will accomplish nothing other than to frustrate some users, limit others and on good days, go unnoticed. It will NEVER stop people from copying content. It never has, and it never will.
    • by evilviper (135110) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @01:44AM (#30542028) Journal

      DRM depends on proprietary software. You are encrypting a file, then giving the user the key to decode it, while telling the program in question to decode the file, but only allow it to be used in one of a few ways (eg. display PDF, but don't print).

      Such a system is untenable with proprietary software (just need to find the right memory address), and absolutely impossible with open source software, as you can simply remove the line in the program that tells it what actions not to allow. (See xpdf). With proprietary DRM systems, the companies just hope it's difficult enough to decipher the compiled code of the proprietary programs, that it takes a while before someone finds the right spots in memory to probe/change, and publishes the details... Then, they make trivial changes to the DRM system, and call it a new, "fixed" version that everyone should start using quickly (before someone figures it out).

      The only thing DRM can do effectively, is to prevent the first opening of the file. After you send that first key (eg. via server), no matter what the DRM involved, the user can (trivially) strip the DRM off, and do whatever they want with the unencrypted file.

      If that is what you want... I would suggest using public-key encryption to protect the file instead of a commercial "DRM" system. Either PGP or SSL (keys in combination with a password) can make absolutely sure only the intended recipient can make use of the file, even if others obtain copies of it. If you are expecting any more control over what others do with the file, you are simply denying reality.

  • by Joce640k (829181) on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @11:37PM (#30541538) Homepage

    All the best encryption systems publish their source code. Real cryptographers don't trust closed source.

    • by green1 (322787) on Wednesday December 23, 2009 @11:47PM (#30541590)

      Real cryptographers don't try to keep the intended recipient of the message from being able to access the encryption key either. The problem is that DRM is a flawed system, you can't stop the intended recipient of a message from doing what they like with your message after they receive it... in the end they will find a way to break your system, and the fact that you had to make it possible for them to decrypt it means that you can't rely on them not being able to decrypt it.

  • I know this site has a OS bent but

    Why if 3 1/2 Billion pounds of money why is the content ALL just simply available to those who should OWN it.

    It does make 700 million selling the stuff, insultingly back to us either in DVD/CD or via other freeview channels.

    ...and the most watched show on iplayer is top gear.

    I understand the need for tax but not for this

    • by Spad (470073)

      Because the BBC itself only owns a relatively small proportion of the material it broadcasts; most of it is owned by 3rd party production companies who put their own restrictions on what can be done with it.

      • by delinear (991444)
        I keep seeing this same argument but it makes me wonder, aside from huge US producers (and there doesn't seem to be a lot of that on the BBC, it mostly goes to the commercial channels), who these companies are that they can wield such power over the Beeb. They're mostly small companies that would probably kill for the opportunity to get their output on the BBC, especially at a time when the BBC seems to be going against the grain of failing TV channels. I suspect this is a much-used smokescreen thrown up by
      • by jimicus (737525)

        My understanding (and I hope someone will correct me if they know I'm wrong) is that it's not as simple as "most of it is owned by third party production companies".

        There is a lot which essentially boils down to how the television industry works. When the BBC makes a show of their own, it's not just "they own it, they can do what they like". Quite often the writer is essentially a freelance who gets royalties but continues to hold copyright on the script - therefore there's a contract with the writer whic

  • by FrankDerKte (1472221) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @12:09AM (#30541686)

    Although this is /. and people are more interested in technical questions, for me the really interesting question is: How can they encrypt the "metadata" on broadcasts – including the assistive information used by deaf and blind people ?

    I mean, this basically means all of the broadcast can be copied and used in any way imaginable except for the part of the broadcast which is important to the handicapped ? This sounds sort of immoral to me.

    • by ZERO1ZERO (948669)
      Well yes. I think that's kinda the point of TFA.
    • by jimicus (737525)

      I mean, this basically means all of the broadcast can be copied and used in any way imaginable except for the part of the broadcast which is important to the handicapped ? This sounds sort of immoral to me.

      It sounds sort of illegal to me, they'd essentially be forcing everyone who's deaf to go out and buy a new Freeview box which supports their encryption. IANAL, but I'd have thought this would fly in the face of the Disability Discrimination Act. Unless they also encrypt the EPG, that way everyone would have to upgrade if they wanted to actually be able to use the features which are the whole freaking point of digital TV.

  • I have no issue with open source players being given a API that allows them to make use of precompiled bits that allow decryption. Hell even put some sort of identifying information into the recorded bits to keep people honest. Not everything has to be open source. If I pay for a TV broadcast then I expect to be able to play it back on the media player of my choice. However, I will not agree to anyone trying to tell me I can not play it on my blackberry, xbox, iphone, because they've not been paid to al

  • by Anonymous Coward

    will the Doctor Who christmas special (part 1) still be on tonight?

  • by Lord Byron II (671689) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @12:22AM (#30541728)

    Since when is FOSS mutually exclusive with DRM? You can use FOSS to sell software, make money, create DRM, and write Windows programs. These aren't activities we normally think of when it comes to FOSS, but they are generally allowed.

    • by nedlohs (1335013) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @01:40AM (#30542008)

      Yes you can have an open source DRM library and so on. What you can't have is an open source media player that respects DRM usefully.

      Either the user can modify the software doing the DRM to not obey the restrictions the DRM says it should in which case it isn't respecting the DRM. Or the user can't modify the software like that in which case it isn't FOSS.

      • by timmarhy (659436)
        DRM can work by requesting a key authorisation generated by the license each tv user pays in england. DRM only values when the vendor loses the ability to control the activation keys.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          And then someone with the source code to the DRM decoder can comment out the portion of the code which outputs the video and audio, and in its place add code to output to the hard drive.

          Whether you're using ROT-26 or the most sophisticated techniques available, open source DRM is not possible because "decrypt something and display it on screen" and "decrypt something and write it to the hard drive" are not actually different things.

          • by timmarhy (659436)
            is it worth explaining how hard you fail?
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by jimicus (737525)

              The AC doesn't fail.

              If you look at it from a very high level, the process of decrypting video is essentially identical on everything that's ever done it:

              Step 1 - Decrypt the data stream.
              Step 2 - Plug the output of step 1 into the input of a suitable decoder algorithm (eg. MPEG4).

              There's no reason Step 2 couldn't be "write the output to a hard drive" and then read it back and pass it through your codec at a later date.

              The only way open source DRM like that can work is if there are no such thing as TV capture

  • If the law (or the regulations applying to the BBC or whatever) prohibit encryption, said prohibition should apply to the entire signal as transmitted by the BBC over the air.

  • outrage machine. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by timmarhy (659436) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @01:04AM (#30541882)
    i see nothing of any plan against open source, nor any reason the BBC MUST address your open source concerns. how about the open source people try working with others instead of going on the attack immediately?
  • Take a good look at the "Palladium" toolkit, renamed "Trusted Computing". This is precisely what it was designed for: hardware specific encryption, with cautious escalation of privileges to run secured hardware with secured software. Its proprietary design broke down under virtualization, for reasons that would have been spotted much faster with an open source approach, much as the old "Clipper Chip" and "SkipJack" tools were discovered to be "flawed" because you could use your own keys to encrypt, rather t

    • The iPlayer streams. It takes about 0.5 seconds for your TV programme to start playing. That's certainly a lot faster than waiting many hours for something to download over BitTorrent. The iPlayer has been enormously successful, so much so many ISPs are complaining and want the BBC to pay them for all the extra bandwidth.

      • _Now_ it streams. It was originally designed to do something like Bittorrent live, so that you shared bandwidth with your neighbors from a BBC provided list of seed servers, in their proprietary setup. It apparently didn't used to, before the lawsuits that led to the move away from the DRM burdened Windows Media Player technology and using more open formats, suitable to Macintosh and Linux systems.

        Just because a lot of people watch Iplayer doesn't make it "successful". Does it make money for the BBC? Does i

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 24, 2009 @03:50AM (#30542458)

    This is pretty unfair to the BBC. It should be made clear that the BBC probably isn't the one that's pushing for this. It's more likely that the BBC is being leant on by other content providers (like US networks) that it licences shows such as Heroes from, as well as movies it screens. It offers these on it's iPlayer service, so it's hardly surprising that it's being pressured into this.

    • by datajack (17285)

      This consultation is about the infrastructure of by far the biggest broadcast TV network in the UK. The BBC have a massive amount of power here should they choose to use it.

      Play by the rules or have very little exposure in the UK. Simple as that.

  • The problem isn't that the BBC is planning to 'block open source', it is that the BBC is planning to block open access. It's a subtle but important difference.

    The BBC is different from almost any other company, it is a bizarre mash-up of private and public sector and as such it's primary concern is not profit but value to British citizens.

    The first question that should be asked (and the one I think OFCOM asked the first time around) is 'how does this benefit the British consumer?'. It is quite clear that th

  • by Budenny (888916) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @06:07AM (#30542804)

    At the moment in the UK, subscription to the BBC is compulsory, as a condition of being able to have a TV. And if you watch TV without subscribing, you will be hauled before a magistrate, fined, and maybe imprisoned. People are imprisoned all the time for doing this.

    What we need to do is make it voluntary. Everyone should be able to subscribe to the channels of their choice, or not as the case may be. Then, when subscription to the BBC is voluntary, we can just stop arguing about it and let them do what they want. If we don't like it, we would cancel our subscriptions.

    This is so simple and obvious, its very difficult to understand why everyone doesn't support it automatically. What possible case can there be for making subscription to one particular broadcaster compulsory, and enforced by criminal law sanctions? Its totally nuts. We don't make subscription to one particular newspaper a condition of being able to read the press. We don't make subscription to one particular web site a condition of being able to have Internet Access. What is the problem here?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by s7uar7 (746699)

      And if you watch TV without subscribing, you will be hauled before a magistrate, fined, and maybe imprisoned. People are imprisoned all the time for doing this.

      Sorry, but that's bollocks. The maximum penalty is a fine of £1000 + costs. You may go to prison for not paying the fine, but that's the same for any offence. No one has been sent to prison for not paying their TV licence.

  • by FuckingNickName (1362625) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @07:42AM (#30543028) Journal

    The analogue system was stable, open, technician-friendly, and degraded gracefully. A 30-year-old analogue set still works today, except in regions where the analogue signal has now been switched off.

    The digital system opens the doors for tweaks to be made with protocols to add "features" or restrictions, each of which will require buying a new STB/TV every few years. It is already the case that many Freeview systems from half a decade ago need replacing - do not even dream that the majority of manufacturers are going to provide firmware updates.

    Yes, we can now admit 6 to 8 channels where previously only one could be transmitted on a particular frequency, but the large majority of the channels are dedicated to repeats and/or excreta. It is hard to find and apply good writing and production talent, and not worth the time and money when the number of viewers is spread so thinly over so many channels. And do not be fooled into thinking that the number of potential channels will increase as the art allows! Two large chunks of the broadcast TV bandwidth are to be reallocated, i.e. what the people own will be sold off.

    All you have gained is the potential for HDTV, but this could already have been run as a separate service alongside analog. What is more, it distracts from the original purpose of TV in the UK as a public service broadcasting medium, not an eye candy broadcasting medium.

  • by horza (87255) on Thursday December 24, 2009 @09:33AM (#30543372) Homepage

    The BBC is both producer and distributer. Maybe it should be split into "BBC TV" and "BBC Production"? After Dirac leading to a Windows only iPlayer I think we can dismiss their 'research' department.

    The license could pay basic infrastructure costs for "BBC TV" running the distribution infrastructure (transmitters, etc). If they want to play the silly "ratings war" games they are playing, then they can buy up foreign commercial pap and be allowed to play a couple of adverts before and afterwards to pay for it. This would mean tax payers money isn't being sucked abroad for rubbish reality tv shows.

    Most of the money goes into "BBC Production". This produces content as per their remit. This then goes to to "BBC TV" and is played for free, or is licensed to foreign TV stations. As soon as it is broadcast it is then put up for free on the BBC torrent site unrestricted. It is not even worth blocking foreign IPs, getting more private worldwide viewers will put pressure on other TV stations to license the content from the BBC.

    Just food for thought, I am sure there may be problems with this I haven't thought of.

    Phillip.

I'd rather just believe that it's done by little elves running around.

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