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BBC Activates DRM For Its iPlayer Content 282

oik writes "The BBC has quietly added DRM to its iPlayer content. This breaks support for things like the XBMC plugin as well as other non-approved third-party players. The get-iplayer download page has a good summary of what happened, including links to The Reg articles and the BBC's response to users' complaints."
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BBC Activates DRM For Its iPlayer Content

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  • And then dropped their service. Hitting them in the pocketbook is the only hope to stop DRM. Act today!

    • by VMaN ( 164134 ) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @04:00PM (#31649786) Homepage

      I don't think its optional. If you have a TV, you pay for BBC etc, like in Denmark.

      ooooor am I getting it wrong?

      • by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @04:07PM (#31649848)

        They'll let you off if they visit and you don't have any receiving equipment set up, i.e. no cable or satellite box in your home, and no antenna connected. There was talk of them changing the licence fee so that anyone who could use the iPlayer (i.e. anyone with flash and an internet connection) would be billable though.

        • My plan is to get rid of my TV and only have a big ass monitor to hook up consoles onto and I do only watch DVDs and the one or two shows on the iPlayer every so often. Then I'll quit paying the licence

          I'm sure there are others that do this and they want to force people to pay but once I make the switch, until I'm forced to pay I won't. I just don't use their services enough to warrant and I don't like the idea of supporting East Enders.
          • by broeman ( 638571 ) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:06PM (#31650296) Journal
            I don't know how they are doing it in the UK, but already several European countries (e.g. Denmark, Germany) also charges for an Internet connection as well. They actually found a way to tax access to the Internet, with the reason that you have the possibility to use the state radio/television online services. Many have been wondering if binoculars will be next (watching TV from your neighbor could be a possibility of use as well).
            • If you don't have a TV or don't watch live streaming broadcasts then you don't need a licence. Of course it is hard for either side to prove that you do or don't watch live streaming broadcasts but as far as I know as long as you don't have a TV you're going to do pretty good at getting out of it.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Zenzay42 ( 1150143 )
          In Denmark they're a bit more strict. They've recently decided that you must pay license if you have ANY means of recieving TV. That means; if your mobile phone can recieve TV then you gotta cough up the money - whether you use it or not.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by auric_dude ( 610172 )
          You need one if you watch tv live otherwise not. http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/check-if-you-need-one/topics/technology-top8/ [tvlicensing.co.uk]
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by L4t3r4lu5 ( 1216702 )

          anyone with flash and an internet connection

          Good luck explaining to a "TV License Enforcement Representative" that you browse using Lynx.

      • by growse ( 928427 )
        Nope, you pay the fee if you watch or receive TV broadcasts as they are broadcast. Ownership of a TV doesn't come into it. It's actually very difficult for them to legally force you to pay it, as they'd have to take you to court with sufficient evidence that you watched or received TV as it was broadcast whilst not having a license.
    • by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @04:01PM (#31649802) Homepage Journal

      Only the people who read this website actually care. DRM will never die because users are used to putting up with inconvenience and absurd costs for their media. Customers just accept anything, be it overpriced cable TV service(you pay a monthly fee, then you also have to pay per view), or an extremely disruptive level of advertising in programs.

      • by Hurricane78 ( 562437 ) <deleted.slashdot@org> on Sunday March 28, 2010 @06:42PM (#31651166)

        Bullshit. They will care, as soon as someone switches the DRM server off. Which already happened more than once, and created massive anger, especially among Joe Sixpack types, who sued. As soon as (tabloid) newspapers notice these events, they will warn about the DRM fraud schemes. Which the Joes will read. Resulting in mass-avoidance.

        The normal guy on the street luckily still thinks that he owns what he buys. Even if it’s information (e.g. movies). So if that what he thinks he owns, goes away in any way, he will sue for fraud/theft/etc, avoid them, and tell his friends to avoid them. Simple as that.

        It’s the natural rule of maximum efficiency. As soon as buying DRMed stuff becomes negative compared to the other choices, it dies. Period. (The trick is to offer better choices. But that’s already in the works, as artists leave their publishers droves, as soon as they can get out. To then do their own thing, and get a multiple of the money they got before.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Unfortunately, you're dead right. One of the DRM advocates on the BBC Blogs comment thread comes over very much as being afraid that caving to the "FOSS preachers" will result in the withdrawal of content from the content providers.

        Or, to put it another way, is willing to put up with a reduction in freedom as long as all his (her?) favourite programs are available for viewing.
        And then in the same paragraph, will accuse FOSS advocates of being "selfish".

    • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @04:17PM (#31649932) Journal

      I stopped paying the TV license when they introduced MS DRM on iPlayer originally (I haven't had a TV for a while, but I kept paying the license fee because I thought the online news was valuable). I'm absolutely disgusted by this. The BBC streams HD H.264 unencrypted over the air. It's absolutely ludicrous that they should DRM the online streams. If you want to pirate their content, just stick a DVB-T card in your computer, grab the streams, and upload them (optionally after transcoding). This is exactly what happens - you can get anything on iPlayer from various torrent sites at a higher quality from the OTA broadcast. So why are they adding DRM? There is absolutely no legitimate justification for it.

      The BBC is a large organisation. They should not bow to pressure on this issue - if content is not available DRM free then they should refuse to license it at all, even for terrestrial broadcast.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by click2005 ( 921437 ) *

        The BBC streams HD H.264 unencrypted over the air.

        They have been trying to get permission to encrypt that too.

        • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @04:59PM (#31650216) Journal
          No they haven't - and they can't because it would break millions of deployed set-top boxes. They have been asking for permission to encrypt the channel guide metadata, but they weren't able to provide any rational justification for needing to.
          • by LordVader717 ( 888547 ) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @06:10PM (#31650874)

            Um, yes they have. Their first priority was to apply DRM to the metadata, but they requested OFCOM to review whether encryption should be allowed. Read their original request.

            While it first did indeed look as if OFCOM would stop the BBC's treacherous plans, they have since softened and it currently looks as if DRM is well on it's way.
            http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/feb/09/ofcom [guardian.co.uk]

            and they can't because it would break millions of deployed set-top boxes.

            The BBC has a few sneaky tricks up their sleeve for that. They would start by applying it to all HD channels.
            And then they'll do what they did to encourage people to switch to digital receivers in the first place: launch new channels and water down your previous service so much that everyone upgrades. As long as they still show the news they're still doing their job right?

            • by ydrol ( 626558 )

              And didn't I read somewhere that you cant record/timeshift Freeview HD? As all of my TV watching is timeshifted , then that's no use to me at all. I was thinking of getting a Panasonic P42G20 with HD Freeview tuner, but it all sounds a lot less appealing than I first thought. Until you can timeshift Freeview HD I wont be buying any equipment.

    • Whoosh (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Colin Smith ( 2679 )

      And then dropped their service. Hitting them in the pocketbook is the only

      I agree fully. But then, the government unfortunately doesn't, and they have guns.


      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Culture20 ( 968837 )

        I agree fully. But then, the government unfortunately doesn't, and they have guns.

        And they made sure the peasantry didn't.

        • Re:Whoosh (Score:4, Insightful)

          by jabithew ( 1340853 ) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @04:37PM (#31650062)

          Even if we had guns, we're not exactly going to launch an armed insurrection because the BBC has asked someone to stop running an open-source iPlayer client.

          Hell, the Yanks couldn't be bothered to get another revolution together for the PATRIOT act, let alone a TV licensing spat.

          • Hell, the Yanks couldn't be bothered to get another revolution together for the PATRIOT act, let alone a TV licensing spat

            They are much more likely to have a revolution if someone stopped them watching TV than if Bush or Obama had declared themselves king and abolished elections.

          • The straws add up. Eventually it only takes one to break a camel's back.

            The French peasants had it rough long before they rebelled, it was a bunch of little things, and a few big ones, that eventually ended up with a lot of people loosing their heads.

            Eventually people will say "Enough", and seek change, if they get it without the use of force great, but if not they will still get it, it will just be messier.
        • And of course the only way to kill people is with a gun. You can't use a knife, a club or an improvised bomb or anything like that.

        • Hahaha. Second amendment for the win!

    • by selven ( 1556643 )

      It's a tax supported public service (which, of course, only makes their DRM even more despicable). You can only opt out by not watching any TV channels.

  • Stupid (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gilesjuk ( 604902 ) <<giles.jones> <at> <zen.co.uk>> on Sunday March 28, 2010 @03:58PM (#31649774)

    A stupid decision given the BBC broadcast DRM free mpeg2 over the airwaves. A £30 USB TV card will let you record broadcast quality TV, so why do they feel that lower quality net streaming is a risk?

    • by Aladrin ( 926209 )

      How much does it cost them if you download a torrent of a show that someone taped from 'the airwaves'? Nothing.

      How much does it cost them if you watch the show online using their bandwidth? Not nothing.

      That's a pretty big difference.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )
        Nonsense. It costs them exactly the same amount when you watch a show online whether it is DRM'd or not. In fact, the lack of DRM reduces their bandwidth usage - you can download the file and watch it more than once, just as you can record shows from TV.
        • The difference is that broadcast TV is 'broadcast' while watching something online is 'unicast'. I don't know how much it costs to run a broadcast television station, I assume it is a lot. Once you have it up and running though, one more person tuning in and watching a show isn't putting any extra strain on they system, while one more person watching something online is putting more strain on their servers.

          Now, I really highly doubt they are doing this just to annoy people into watching shows over broadca

      • How much does it cost them if you download a torrent of a show that someone taped from 'the airwaves'? Nothing.

        Try millions and millions of pounds. Terrestrial broadcast for an entire country isn't cheap.

    • I believe, in addition to the usual blind-spot media execs seem to have about DRM, that there's an element of getting control over the client viewing platform. E.g. the BBC are developing a set-top-box for internet TV (Project Canvas).

  • by Paul Jakma ( 2677 ) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @04:09PM (#31649858) Homepage Journal

    There's a long discussion on this on a BBC blog [bbc.co.uk].

    Also, bear in mind that when the BBC says "Rights holders require us to implement DRM" that the BBC potentially is being obfuscatory, because the rights holders it's talking about may in fact be companies the BBC owns in part or in full. I.e. the BBC might be trying to hide "We want DRM". E.g. see this post from Anthony Rose [bbc.co.uk] giving BBC Worldwide as the prime example of the DRM-requiring rights holders.

    Finally, this is from a comment I left on the linuxcentre blog:

    BBC Trust is running a consultation [bbc.co.uk] on the BBC strategic review. One of the key questions is regarding platform neutrality. It is very important that people fill in that survey and let the Trust know how important open ly specified access is. In particular the following is important for platform neutrality:

    * BBC Ondemand should *not* be built on proprietary, single-vendor technologies, such as Adobe Flash.
    * BBC Ondemand should be built on multi-vendor, open, non-discriminatory standards, such as HTML5 video.
    * The BBC should *not* be in the business of dictating which ondemand client implementations may access iPlayer and which may not.

    These things are important both for free software, but also more generally for a healthy market. It is not in the public interest for the BBC to become the king-maker of client device implementations. Please take the time to let the Trust know your views on platform neutrality and how the current situation is bad for the greater public interest.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Please, PLEASE do not suggest that HTML5 is an adequate solution to this problem. It is not. HTML5 is shaping up to be one of the biggest fuck-ups we've ever seen. The major vendors cannot and will not agree on standard codecs. It won't happen.

      The only solution is for the BBC to offer their videos for download in completely-open formats. We're basically talking two options here:
      1) As an Ogg container holding Theora-encoded video and Vorbis-encoded audio.
      2) As a Matroska container holding Theora-encoded vide

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Paul Jakma ( 2677 )

        As per the other /. story on H.264 v Ogg Theora, I'm of the opinion that the codec issue should not be conflated with the delivery platform issue [slashdot.org].

        Also, note "such as HTML5" does not exclude any other specifications, including any the BBC might openly specify itself.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by bhtooefr ( 649901 )

        The video tag isn't canvas. It's just a different kind of embed that directly accepts a URL for a video.

        That video can be H.264, or it can be Ogg container, Theora video, Vorbis audio. Actually, it can be anything, but those are the two primary formats.

        (Opera on *nix can use any video format for which there is a GStreamer codec installed.)

    • BBC owns the rights to many programs that they then sell to other markets.

      For example the currently very popular "Life" series is a BBC program but the Discovery channel has bought rebroadcast rights.

      If you can stream the iPlayer in the US because a player includes no DRM then the Discovery channel can sue the BBC for breaching their exclusive distribution rights.

      This is true of all of their programs. It's the BBC's responsibility to extract as much profit as possible from foreign markets. It's part of ho

      • No one is arguing that the BBC not apply their geo-IP checks, as they were doing with XBMC and get_iplayer clients all along.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by zmollusc ( 763634 )

        Duh, put it in the contract. Don't sell _exclusive_ broadcasting rights of something you still broadcast yourself. Next intractable legal conundrum, please.

  • Works for me (Score:3, Informative)

    by gilgongo ( 57446 ) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @04:14PM (#31649908) Homepage Journal

    I'm a bit confused by this. TFA is talking about how the author of get_iplayer is ceasing development of it in protest at the BBC's DRM actions (the clue being in the title "get_iplayer dropped in response to BBC’s lack of support for open source"). It doesn't say get_iplayer doesn't work any more, or that the BBC have prevented its use.

    Indeed, I just installed it (on Ubuntu) and it appears to work just fine - I have a nicely encoded file of some quite funny children's programme that's apparently completely free of any DRM.

    • Re:Works for me (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Paul Jakma ( 2677 ) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @04:22PM (#31649962) Homepage Journal

      Do you have rtmpdump installed by any chance?

      The BBC make available low-res streams. Totem supports these. My understanding is the higher-res streams now require rtmpdump installed to access, which is a tool that's hard for distros to ship due to anti-circumvention laws. E.g. Adobe have tried to use the DMCA to take down rtmpdump.

      I.e. my understanding is that the BBCs' move only frustrates those who must shy away from all legal risk. It doesn't really stop anyone - DRM never does.

      • Re:Works for me (Score:5, Informative)

        by Paul Jakma ( 2677 ) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @04:30PM (#31650014) Homepage Journal

        Oh, rtmpdump implements "SWF verification", a silly little Flash DRM support scheme, which is what the BBC have enabled on iPlayer recently.

      • Re:Works for me (Score:5, Interesting)

        by gilgongo ( 57446 ) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:12PM (#31650350) Homepage Journal

        I've not got rtmpdump installed to the best of my knowledge (at least, there's no file containing that name on my system). I've just tried this:

        get_iplayer --get --modes=flashvhigh 859

        Which gets a pretty large (670Mb) Flash file containing a 45-min episode of Top Gear which I assume that's hi-res (it looks it).

        So again - works for me using a pretty much default install of Ubuntu 9.10.

        • interesting. does "strace -e open -f get_iplayer --get 859 |& grep rtmp" say anything? has it been built with patches to enable SWF verification support in some way?

          It definitely appears broken on Fedora, where get_iplayer does not support SWF verification enabled RTMP streams.

          • by gilgongo ( 57446 )

            "strace -e open -f get_iplayer --get 859 |& grep rtmp" says nothing at all. I'm using v2.41 of get_iplayer if that's any help.

            I notice a comment in the source that says:

            # rtmpdump/flvstreamer version detection e.g. 'RTMPDump v1.5' or 'FLVStreamer v1.7a'

            I have flvstreamer installed - would that be a clue?

            • Yeah, flvstreamer is a fork of rtmpdump with the SWF verification stuff removed. My understanding is that flvstreamer shouldn't be sufficient - unless someone patched that to add back in the DRM-support bits?

              Are these get_iplayer and flvstreamer packages shipped in Canonical hosted repositories? What patches are applied in the packages?

        • Re:Works for me (Score:4, Interesting)

          by PybusJ ( 30549 ) on Sunday March 28, 2010 @07:39PM (#31651594)

          I've not got rtmpdump installed to the best of my knowledge (at least, there's no file containing that name on my system).

          Do you have a file flvstreamer (which is a fork of rtmpdump used by get_iplayer)? If so it's the same thing, and if it works on the BBC's streams then it's been patched to get around Adobe's verification, so is a copyright circumvention device.

  • by Spad ( 470073 ) <slashdotNO@SPAMspad.co.uk> on Sunday March 28, 2010 @04:20PM (#31649952) Homepage

    They haven't "activated" anything, there have always been restrictions on the content available via the iPlayer, both downloadable and streaming - thanks mostly to all the spanners in the "content" industry demanding time limits and (more reasonably) geographic limits.

    I have to say I'm torn here; on the one hand I understand that while a lot of the content on the iPlayer is owned in whole or in part by the BBC, there's a lot that isn't and they have to play nice with the owners of that content - in this case preventing 3rd party applications from downloading or re-streaming their content outside of the above limits - but at the same time, as a licence fee payer, I want the BBC to play nice with me as well.

    The BBC do a pretty good job when you compare the iPlayer to offerings from other media organisations, but I'd rather lose a few imported shows to the commercial networks if it means they can be less restrictive about what they broadcast.

    • The high-level usage restrictions the BBC had as policy have not changed.

      The BBC *have* changed the format of the service. It now uses SWF verification [wikipedia.org]. If you don't believe me, believe the BBC [bbc.co.uk].

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      I have to say I'm torn here; on the one hand I understand that while a lot of the content on the iPlayer is owned in whole or in part by the BBC, there's a lot that isn't and they have to play nice with the owners of that content

      That they make no effort to separate out what's theirs and what's not indicates to me that they want the restrictions, that they are actively working against open standards, open source, and open (non-DRM) files. The BBC wants the restrictions on the content they own, and lie whe
  • with a Halicrafter's shortwave receiver and a HUGE loop antenna.
    plus NPR broadcasts the BBC every night, (not sure if NPR does that nationwide)
  • I use the OS X app iPlayer Downloader occasionally, to grab programs I missed and will want to see in a few days. Some of the content refuses to download, but others download just fine still.

  • The BBC are suckers. They fell for the first layer of negotiating tactics: providers said they wanted DRM. The BBC took this as an absolute not an initial position. Hardly surprising nowadays given the level of piracy: citizens being fleeced every which way. But still sad, that the BBC is in effect saying: "You must own a Dell computer to access BBC content!" or in other words shackling their information to third-parties who don't actually give a fuck about the BBC or UK citizens. Way to show your publ
  • by lkcl ( 517947 ) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Sunday March 28, 2010 @05:47PM (#31650646) Homepage

    http://trac.xbmc.org/ticket/8971 [xbmc.org] adds support to use librtmp which supports RTMPE including SWF Verification and Adobe's so-called "Secure" Token authentication.

    it's worth repeating that there is absolutely zero security of any kind in Adobe Flash RTMPE. everything can be obtained publicly; or is "magic constants", or is simply a complex chain of algorithms, the result of which is merely an increase in CPU usage, heat generated and money wasted, along with the dangerous illusion of security.

  • What a bunch of BLITHERING BOBBLEHEADS. Now I know what the "BB" in BBC stands for. I'm in the US and I actually sent them money over the years, because they're the best news organization out there. Not any more. And their goddamn web and streaming is built on goddamn open source, and then they do this. Their mission is to provide news and accessibility to all (well, all in GB), and they do this.

    I'm adding what I would have sent them to my contribution to the Pirate Party.

"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor