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Save the BBC from Draconian Restrictions Management

Homer's picture

After discovering that the BBC is considering implementing DRM for its forthcoming HD service, I felt compelled to write yet another letter of complaint, this time to OFCOM:

To: High-Definition_DTT[AT]
Subject: BBC's HD Service Encryption

Dear Sir/Madam,

With reference to your request for comments regarding the BBC's proposal to encrypt the programme information stream of their forthcoming HD broadcasts, I wish to register my concerns.

I find it wholly unacceptable (and quite ironic) that a service I am forced to pay for, simply because I own a television set, is now proposing to limit my ability to view their broadcasts.

Either I am licensed to view BBC content, or I am not. If I am, then it should be none of the BBC's concern what method I use to view that content. If I wish to use equipment officially "endorsed" by the BBC, or if I wish to use a self-built PVR running my own choice of software, I should be able to do so without the BBC imposing restrictions on my activities, but their proposed DRM system will indeed impose such a restriction.

This restriction will also compel me to purchase equipment manufactured only by certain companies, which I feel is also in violation of the spirit of the BBC's charter of impartiality. Is it right that the BBC should essentially endorse products in this way?

I would also question the effectiveness of DRM systems in general. My understanding is, that due to the BBC's charter prohibiting the encryption of the actual data streams, it is only the programme information stream that will be encrypted, and there are methods of circumventing this to access the content directly, thus completely defeating the object of this futile exercise. Should BBC license payers' money be wasted on such ridiculous measures?

To the best of my knowledge, every DRM system ever implemented has been circumvented in one way or another. The DVD consortium's CSS DRM was broken very soon after its release. Sony's Blu-Ray AACS and BD+ DRM systems have now both been broken. Apple's FairPlay DRM was circumvented by software called QTFairUse and others. Microsoft's WMP DRM system was circumvented by software called FairUse4WM. Even the BBC's iPlayer service has a loophole that enables people to obtain unencrypted versions of the content. Wasting time, effort, and license payers' money on a system that has failed before it's even begun, is probably not the best use of resources ... especially when at least part of those resources are coming from my pocket.

And beyond considerations of costs and practical restrictions, I find DRM technology deeply sinister and cynical. Self-appointed corporate "police" monitoring and restricting my activities, is not something I find appropriate for a public institution such as the BBC. Copyright law is a perfectly adequate protection for television programmes - it isn't for the BBC nor its "content providers" to assume the role of a private judicial system, seeking to further inflate its bulging coffers, by squeezing every last drop of blood from its already heavily taxed customers. Consumers are already expected to pay multiple times, to be "licensed" to view exactly the same content, each and every time they acquire that same content in different formats. The very last thing we need is the BBC adding to this blatant exploitation with yet another instrument of extortion.

The fact is that those who would most likely violate copyright law, are those who will have the least difficulty and moral dilemma circumventing any technological measure used to enforce those copyrights, and those who will be most inconvenienced by these measures are ordinary people who simply want to view the content in a perfectly legal manner, but without the Draconian restriction proposed by the BBC.

I respectfully submit these concerns for your review.