Defective by Design

News reports and response from the BBC's Ashley Highfield

Submitted by PeterB on Wed, 2007-08-15 03:40


Read the protest report

"This is the problem we have. The executives in charge at the BBC don't champion open access. In 2003 the BBC came under the same sort of pressure to encrypt their digital satellite broadcast - they stood up to Murdoch and Sky and Hollywood and all rights holders, and won. These BBC/Microsoft guys want DRM because it gives lock-in to Windows - simple really. If the BBC doesn't stand for the public good - and DRM is not in the public good - then what is the BBC for?"

Chris Williams from the Register reports "Brown contrasted today's BBC's acceptance of Windows Media DRM for iPlayer with the organisation which in 2003 battled for and won the right to broadcast its channels over satellite without encryption. The Free Sofware Foundation is against all DRM."

Also present at the protest was the Green Party's chief spokesman Derek Wall. He said people who argue that the Windows-only iPlayer lock out will only affect a small number of people are "rather foolish".

John-Paul Kamath at Computer Weekly reports. "Protests were mounted at BBC television centre in London and at BBC offices in Manchester on Tuesday 14 August.

The Free Software Foundation said that the BBC had developed its iPlayer at a cost to TV licence fee payers of £130m, but that it had been developed exclusively for Microsoft's operating system and with Microsoft Digital Rights Management."
Read the full report


Steve O'Hear at last100.com comments
, "FSF Executive Director, Peter Brown — who had flown in from the U.S. to attend the event — was quoted as saying:

BBC values have been corrupted because BBC Executives are too closely associated with Microsoft. BBC values have been corrupted because the iPlayer uses proprietary software and standards made under an exclusive deal with Microsoft. BBC values have been corrupted because license fee payers must now own a Microsoft operating system to download BBC programming. BBC values have been corrupted because license fee payers must accept DRM technologies that spy and monitor on the digital files held on their computers. We are here today to help BBC Director General Mark Thompson, clean up this DRM mess, and to encourage the BBC Trust to reverse course and eliminate DRM from the BBC iPlayer.

Pretty strong stuff. Whether I’d go as far as to say that the BBC has been corrupted, I’m not so sure. But I certainly wouldn’t disagree with anybody who argued that after 4 years of R&D and millions of pounds spent, picking a windows-only platform with so many restrictions, simply isn’t good enough. In all that time the BBC should have shopped around for a more flexible solution or developed their own in-house. "
Read the full report


Nik Fletcher from Download Squad was at the protest and provides audio and a transcript of our chat
. "We're really here to put pressure on the BBC Trust and the executives who advise them within the BBC. Those executives unfortunately have very close relationships with Microsoft, to the extent that the guy who's managing the iPlayer development and rollout is in fact an ex-Microsoft executive, Erik Huggers."
Read the full interview


BBC's Backstage reports
, "It was a very wet morning but that didn't stop around 20 people turning out to let the BBC know exactly what they thought of its use of DRM in iPlayer.

We've pulled those comments together and made a special podcast which you can download."
Read the report

Ashley Highfield, head of BBC Future Media and Technology, responds to the protest:
iPlayer will be available on all platforms. We will not force people to use a particular technology (unless no viable alternatives are available). But we will always launch on a sub-set of the eventual number of platforms that a service will be available on.

My reponse:

Basically, Ashley Highfield says they are committed to platform neutrality, blah blah. But in response to the BBC Trust demands for platform neutrality within two years, what he actually said was that wasn't possible, and the only commitment he has made is to report to the trust every six months on the progress being made.

So lofty words but it's all hot air. Hot air because of DRM. He needs to address the issue of DRM. Does DRM work? Did he champion no-DRM when in discussion with rights holders? Did he explain to them that DRM doesn't work? Did he tell them that every DRM scheme has been broken and so has the iPlayer's? Did he fight for BBC principles?

This is the problem we have. The executives in charge at the BBC don't champion open access. In 2003 the BBC came under the same sort of pressure to encrypt their digital satellite broadcast - they stood up to Murdoch and Sky and Hollywood and all rights holders, and won. These BBC/Microsoft guys want DRM because it gives lock-in to Windows - simple really.

If the BBC doesn't stand for the public good - and DRM is not in the public good - then what is the BBC for?

Topic:  drm bbc iPlayer
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