back to article Open sourcers rattle EU sabre at BBC on demand player

The BBC is being threatened with an anti-trust challenge in Europe over its use of the Windows Media format in its on demand service, iPlayer, which is in the final stages of testing. Advocacy group the Open Source Consortium (OSC) will raise a formal complaint with UK broadcast and telecoms watchdog Ofcom next week, and has …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    comparison with MS anti-trust?

    This is hardly the same as the situation with Microsoft. It's not like the BBC are gaining an unfair competitive advantage just by using Windows Media format. Plus the only things on their player are BBC shows so again there's no competition involved.

    It's no different to Apple choosing to lock people into iTunes and iPods. No one complains about that because of course Apple are gods (apparently).

    But anyway, isn't this a non-story as I thought the BBC had promised to do a Mac version? Or is the real issue that these guys don't actually want to be able to play on a Mac, but to be able to rip and distribute for free shows that are available commercially on DVD ;-)

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DVD sales

    "On balance, we consider that access to iPlayer would be only one of many factors influencing the decision to purchase a new computer operating system, and is therefore this is likely to be a relatively minor concern."

    why would would iPlayer drive PC choice? Surely iPlayer should cater to all systems that access the BBC, perhaps there is some MS - BBC content deal going on?

    iPlayer would be better off being and using open standards.

    "In order to maximise public value, the BBC must balance extending access to content with the need to maintain the interests of rights holders and the value of secondary rights in BBC programming. ..."

    I guess that is "code" for BBC DVD sales?

  3. Rob

    Flippin open source and anti competitive rubbish again

    Firstly, does anyone in Europe pay the licensing fee to the BBC? If so they wouldn't be complaining, as developing the iPlayer for say multiple formats will be costly, costly as in our money (the license payers) which in turn will have an impact on another service offered by the BBC.

    Secondly if they turn to realplayer for their iPlayer I will begin to agree with majority about not joining Europe. I like Windows Media Player, I'm not so keen on Real Player as it is, in my opinion, a mess with lots of advertising and annoying system components that do just that, annoy me. If given a choice between Real and Windows Media I will choose Windows Media Player as it works better than Real. I was over the moon when the Beeb finally made their radio streams available through Windows Media Player.

  4. g lane

    Should be a no-brainer

    As all the open formats are playable on Windows, yet few if any of the Windows DRM'ed formats are playable on other operating systems surely the correct thing to do is go for an open format.

    If the deciding factor is not availability, usability etc but DRM, then the BBC is foolishly running down a blind alley.

    Is there any evidence that tape or PVRs are resulting in a significant problem for the BBC? Are people who criminally keep their old VHS tapes of programs that are not available by any other means taking any money at all out of the copyright owners pockets?

  5. Mark Randall

    WMP vs RP.

    Here we go again.

    To be quite honest I would use WMP absolutely EVERY time when given the choice between it and the memory hogging, resource eating, so-slow-its-practically-unusable Real Player.

    Oh noesss some open-platform fundamentalists want us to have a choice. I couldn’t care less about a choice in this regard, WMP works well, RP doesn’t.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Slightly related : RealPlayer

    What really hacks me off is that theres some BBC content that's realplayer-only. Having had several installs of RealPlayer (because unless I'm mistaken, it's the only thing that'll play .rm files) where it's come with loads of stuff I didn't want (and people grumble about M$ bloat), which have been forced on me ...

  7. Chris Simmons

    BBC response

    Hi, I wrote to the Beeb in March about this - here's the reply:

    Thank you for your e-mail.

    Please accept our apologies for the delay in replying. We know our correspondents appreciate a quick response and we are sorry you have had to wait on this occasion.

    I understand that you have concerns regarding the BBC's new On-Demand service as it will only be available to Microsoft users.

    The BBC Trust recently published provisional conclusions regarding the BBC's proposals for these services. Please see the following pdf:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/assets/files/pdf/review_report_research/pvt_iplayer/iplayer_pvt_provisional_conclusions.pdf

    Regarding the proposal to provide seven day TV catch-up over the internet, the Trust suggested the BBC Executive adopts a 'platform agnostic' approach to rights management within a reasonable timeframe. To this end they recommend an alternative Digital Rights Management (DRM) framework to a Microsoft Windows solution be offered (one that will allow Apple and Linux users to access the Seven day TV catch-up over the internet proposal) and advise that this should be made available within 24 months of launch.

    Provisional conclusions by the Trust are subject to public consultation through the 'Public Value Test' framework (a mechanism for weighing public value against market impact).

    We work hard to provide internet services on a 'platform agnostic' basis and We are committed to using open standards where possible. It has always been planned to evolve the technical systems continuously from launch, and with this in mind we aim to broaden the availability of the service as quickly as is reasonably possible.

    In offering these services, we have to balance objectives against:

    (i) Demands of our rights holders

    (ii) Viability of alternative technical solutions

    (iii) Value for money to the licence-fee payer

    The proposed technical approach described in the application represents the initial solution for delivering the proposals as widely as possible.

    At launch we expect to deliver the seven day catch-up over the internet proposal using a combination of streaming and Microsoft DRM protected download. Where programming is streamed it will be available to users of Apple and Linux systems, though the amount of programming delivered via streaming will be limited.

    Nevertheless, please be assured that your comments have been fully registered on a daily audience log which is made available throughout the BBC including senior management. Feedback of this nature helps us when making decisions about future BBC services and your comment will play a part in this process.

    Thank you again for taking the time to contact the BBC.

  8. A J Stiles

    Beginning of the end of the BBC?

    The BBC once stood for decent values; truth and fairness in reporting and access for all.

    There would have been an outcry if, say, the BBC had ever transmitted programmes that could only be viewed using one particular make of receiver. There probably would have been an even greater outcry if the parts necessary for a sufficiently skilled hobbyist to build their own receiver at home were denied, at the BBC's request, to members of the general public.

    Yet this is exactly what is happening now, unless the BBC make the Source Code for their iPlayer generally available.

    It seems, with the worsening quality of science reporting, kowtowing to the government's agenda and now this, that the BBC may be going downhill. I sincerely hope not.

  9. Jon Press

    White Kangaroo?

    The BBC's iPlayer trial seems to be a bit of a disaster at present, so the fact that the files it delivers (or not) have a proprietary DRM mechanism is likely to be the least of its problems.

    What the BBC Trust (and Ofcom) seems to have forgotten is that anyone can put a DVB tuner card in their PC and get an unencumbered recording in broadcast quality of any TV programme they like. In the face of this, iPlayer only has a purpose if it either delivers stuff that hasn't been broadcast or is *better* than broadcast resolution (HDTV?).

    Given that most of us have bandwidth caps on our Internet connections, we're not going to waste it on stuff we can get off-air . And at a time Freeview Playback is being launched, it really isn't clear why the BBC is trying to undermine it with a crippled, low-resolution Internet version.

    It all smacks off politics in the broadcasting industry and the BBC Trust being even more afraid than the old governors were of standing up for those of us who pay to make the programmes in the first place.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ummmm didn't we pay for it anyway?

    Didn't license payers already fund the program creation anyway, so why should there be a timebomb at all. (Remember the West EU mainland watch BBC for free where they can receive it so the international argument is pointless)

    I know the creators probably get further payment for broadcasts of repeats, heaven knows the BBC punts out enough dupe broadcasts but that's not in the viewers' interests, just the creator's, surely. Viewers that care enough about a program probably buy the DVD anyway so repeats mean nothing to them.

    Sounds like yet another case of we'll lend you what you already paid for while being locked into viewing platform for which I'd hate to suggest the beeb had received some concession elsewhere from the platform's manufacturer. So I won't. "oops"

    I thought the BBC had some mandate to provide equal access or something, anyway?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's no different to Apple ... ?

    > It's no different to Apple choosing to lock people into iTunes and iPods.

    > No one complains about that because of course Apple are gods (apparently).

    The difference is very simple.

    With the BBC we have to pay a TV tax. The implication of this is that all payers of that tax should receive the same benefits.

    With Apple/iTunes/iPod you know about the DRM issues before you buy an iPod or use iTunes (well actually with iPods you could use Linux).

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As someone on the iPlayer beta...

    I'm currently meant to be beta testing the iPlayer, and I can't say its been a massive success. First I had to spend about 3 hours fixing Windows Media Player - deleting hidden, system files and changing the registry and visiting sites that mysteriously don't work half the time and certainly won't work in Firefox (or even tell you that's why). Then you have to visit the BBC iPlayer website to choose what you want to watch - the choosing doesn't seem to be built into the iPlayer client. Once you've chosen, the iPlayer website seems is meant to launch the iPlayer client (but generally doesn't for some reason).

    The iPlayer client is essentially an Internet Explorer control inside this program called 'Kontiki' (considered by quite a lot of people to be Malware, do a google search). In fact, its even installed on your computer at C:\Program Files\Kontiki rather than iPlayer (which makes it hard to find).

    The client is pretty bad in my tests - unresponsive sometimes, completely unpredictable other times. And being Internet Explorer, every time you click a link it makes the "click" sound!

    Before you even start you have to specify some hard disk space for it to store stuff. But it doesn't tell you this - I only found out after clicking through the preferences trying to find out why it didn't work! Even once you allocate some space, its not even clear how much it needs - it tells you odd things like "This is enough for -1 hours of video" or something.

    I finally gave it a few gigabytes of hard disk (on my primary hard disk, there doesn't seem to be a way to use another one) and it started downloading. That was quite fast (The player uses p2p, so you're uploading stuff too!).

    I downloaded Doctor Who as a test - and I was quite disappointed. The video came at pretty low resolution (lower than the stuff I can download illegally) and had clearly been encoded from wide-screen to 4:3 and then put back in wide-screen with black bars up the side.

    Here's an comparison:

    http://misc.opencoding.net/doctor_who_illegal.png

    http://misc.opencoding.net/doctor_who_iplayer.png

    I'm generally supportive of the BBC, I think they give us good value, most of the time, I just think with the iPlayer they need to make a stand and say "No DRM" because its making the iPlayer a seriously inferior product. Whats the point in the DRM when the same content being protected is available at better quality online illegally anyway?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BBC breaks Charter and Agreement

    In the BBC Charter and Agreement (the contract between the BBC and the public that allows the BBC to exist) it says that it is the BBCs duty to:

    '12. Making the UK Public Services widely available

    (1) The BBC must do all that is reasonably practicable to ensure that viewers, listeners and other users (as the case may be) are able to access the UK Public Services that are intended for them, or elements of their content, in a range of convenient and cost effective ways which are available or might become available in the future. These could include (for example) broadcasting, streaming or making content available on-demand, whether by terrestrial, satellite, cable or broadband networks (fixed or wireless) or via the internet.'

    Now, I pay my TV licence because I know that as long as I have a TV with a Digital decoder box (of any make) I will be able to watch the main BBC TV channels. If I do not have this equipment, I do not need to pay the TV licence. However, if I want to watch BBC TV programmes that I can’t watch on these channels I have the choice of paying extra to either buy them on DVD or watch them through a subscription channel (e.g. Virgin TV On Demand). In other words, the licence fee means I pay for what I have the ability to watch.

    Not any more!

    By effectively discriminating against certain BBC licence fee payers, the BBC breaks the contract that allows it to collect the licence fee. Internet provision of BBC content is intended for all users of the internet – not just all owners of Windows based PCs. By discriminating against the owners of Mac and Linux PCs the BBC fails to ‘ensure listeners and other users… are able to access Services that are intended for them’.

    To charge a person with a Mac for the provision of web content through the licence fee but then deny them access on account of the make of their computer runs contrary to the BBC ethos. It would be like making it so that only owners of Sony TVs could watch BBC3. If the BBC wants to provide material over the internet that’s fine, but if they are going to limit access they should be forced to charge for this content.

    If the BBC can't provide access to all internet users AND 'maintain the interets of rights holders', then it should suspend the provision of this content until it has got its act together. If I were a Mac owner I would be considering taking the BBC to the small claims court to recoup the part of the licence fee that is going towards the provision of Windows only content.

  14. M. Poolman

    Who pays ? Who gains

    Who pays for the BBC, content + tech. devel ?

    UK licence fee payers.

    Who gets any commercial adavantage from BBC using Windows only format for iPlayer ?

    Microsoft. Only Microsoft.

    What overwhelming technical reason is there for this ?

    None.

    Thus the BBC has become a conduit to channel money from (almost) every

    UK household to the richest company in the world ever.

    I find it hard to believe that even at her most insane Maggie would have proposed

    such a thing, and this under a labour (A LABOUR !) government.

    Roll on the revolution !

  15. Sam

    What about Linux

    I use Linux on my machine at home, if the BBC follows this path then i will no longer be able to use their site.

    I can understand using WMP and Realplayer as they do currently for the streams but cutting off those of us who choose not to pay the M$ tax is anti competitive.

  16. Alexander Hanff

    Linux users pay a license too

    I don't own a windows machine, neither do I own a Mac, so neither windows media player -or- realplayer are acceptable formats for me. I use Linux exclusively for everything I do and I own several Linux machines.

    I DO pay a TV license the same as everyone else in the UK, therefore I have the right to access any service the BBC provides, just the same as you Microsoft Windows users do. Using a format which excludes 10s of thousands of license payers is totally unacceptable.

    Linux is gaining market share rapidly. Currently Ubuntu Linux is outselling Windows Vista on Amazon, and yes I did say outselling. It seems people are more willing to pay for a free operating system than they are to buy Microsoft's Vista, and the version of Ubuntu being sold was only released in April, several months -after- Windows Vista, yet it is outselling Vista despite Vista's head start in the market. Microsoft's market share is shrinking every day.

    The BBC have a commitment to ALL their license payers, since we are the reason they exist in the first place. Therefore the BBC should be forced to provide services which are accessible to everyone, irrespective of their choice of operating system.

    To all the people who previously responded with their bigoted opinions and short sighted experience of the OS market, shut the hell up. Just because you use Windows it does not give you more rights than me or any other non windows users in the UK.

  17. Paul Fleetwood

    Real alternative

    Just a little note, pointing out that windows users who loathe the realplayer bloatware, that there is a real alternative player that doesn't come with all the extras and just quietly does the job,

    Just google for "real alternative player" and it shall be yours

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unbelievably stupid

    Erm, I'm barely interested in multimedia yet even I know that the OSS VideoLan does pretty much everything the BBC ought to be trying to do with iPlayer.

    www.videolan.org

    What have they been doing for 4 years? Why didn't they just join in and fund the developments needed in VideoLan :doh:

    The BBC were never going to lose out - when people are on the bus, they watch DRM-free stuff on their iPlayer - at home people watch their telly having >>>PAID<<< their license fee.

    Never underestimate the stupidity of large organisations!

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Give the BBC a break!

    Never heard this much fuss when the Channel4 player would not install on XP-64 citing an 'old, unsupported operating system'.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Schools

    "On balance, we consider that access to iPlayer would be only one of many factors influencing the decision to purchase a new computer operating system"

    Actually Gareth, this may be quite valuable for schools who use BBC content.

    If education and government is locked into buying expensive proprietary software from US suppliers, then it shouldn't be the BBC doing it!

    Across the world there are initiatives to provide cheap computing for education based on open-source software. One laptop per child doesn't have to be restricted to the developing world - it could be used to improve education in Britain and save schools money.

    This, in its own little way, is the BBC failing on its education remit.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You WILL be getting iPlayer (or whatever it ends up being called) on Apple & Linux

    Read again...

    (posted above from the BBC...)

    "Regarding the proposal to provide seven day TV catch-up over the internet, the Trust suggested the BBC Executive adopts a 'platform agnostic' approach to rights management within a reasonable timeframe. To this end they recommend an alternative Digital Rights Management (DRM) framework to a Microsoft Windows solution be offered (one that will allow Apple and Linux users to access the Seven day TV catch-up over the internet proposal) and advise that this should be made available within 24 months of launch."

    i.e. fuss about nothing.

    24 months from launch you should all have access, be it on Windows, Apple or Linux.

    Open source isn't necessarily the answer though. That could just delay development even further as "development by committee" kicks in ;-)

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Drm problems, again....

    Once again a potentially good service is hamstrung by drm, much like sky's on demand service.

    just about anything broadcast is already available by nefarious means, why annoy your customers with weird software and 'timebomb' rules, vhs, dvd, hdrive recorders dont have those requirements and i've yet to see an mpeg stored on my pvr self delete or refuse to play on any device i've wanted it to

  23. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    Title

    No - it should be open-source - or, actually, simply use an OPEN-FORMAT.

    I hate to break it to you, but I use what I consider the best operating system out, and it's not Windows, Mac, or Linux.

    As a license payer etc. I, too, should not be forced into one of these other systems.

    It doesn't matter how many OS versions they cater for - the format has to be open (and I disagree with the futility of the DRM, but even so, open-format doesn't have to mean DRM-less) -- for example, openssl and openssh are opensource, and open-format, yet they are secure systems!

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ok, so if it's Windows only..

    Why is it being funded via the general licence fee (or if it's not.. who is paying?)

    Basically, if it can only be seen by people with a) a PC, and b) Windows and c) Broadband. Then surely there should be a separate licence fee to fund it, and this fee has to be paid by all people with a Windows based PC and a broadband connection.

    Harks back to the days of colour/B&W TV's having different licences, which never worked properly, so maybe it could be added as a one-off fee to all new UK XP/Vista licence sales.

    Seems only fair to me. After all, I've only got Linux and FreeBSD based systems behind my connection, so I won't be able to watch. Why should I pay?

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The sabre rattlers risk looking silly...

    ... the reason the initial iPlayer product will be restricted to Windows is simply down to the availability of suitable DRM controls; the BBC can't just fire off content across the internet without considering the artists, producers, musicians, presenters, technicians etc etc who have some creative interest in the stuff.

    Once these legal considerations can be managed by other forms of software, the iPlayer service will be extended to allow their use. It is a LAUNCH for goodness sake, it has to start somewhere.

    The quality of the currently available content (to trialists only) is also due to be hugely improved before iPlayer goes fully live; its still a BETA right now!

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: You will be getting iPlayer...

    Not so: The original publicity regarding iPlayer was as you wrote. However, the decision after the consultation replaced the 24 month deadline with "a review every six months" and was silent about all other options except Apple. So no, it's not at all obvious that everyone will be able to use iPlayer, Separately, the route to achieving this availability isn't obvious, if, as is stated above, it's based on Internet Explorer technology.

    As for "development by committee" you were fine until then. Why include a flame in an otherwise reasonable post?

  27. Tom Silver badge

    Why bother with the DRM

    The DRM will only make it a pain for the 'lawabiding' and ignorant.

    I can now buy a hard drive and a tv card for my pc for less than the price of a M$ install that will allow me to record everything I might like to watch on the BBC for a year - that way I will be able to watch things I've paid for when I want - and in higher quality than the MeMeMePlayer will offer.

  28. Clovis

    waste of licence fees

    I pay my TV licence for TV. The BBC should not be providing any internet services to anyone.

    Hope this helps put the problem into perspective.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: You will be getting iPlayer...

    Not so: The original publicity regarding iPlayer was as you wrote. However, the decision after the consultation replaced the 24 month deadline with "a review every six months" and was silent about all other options except Apple. So no, it's not at all obvious that everyone will be able to use iPlayer, Separately, the route to achieving this availability isn't obvious, if, as is stated above, it's based on Internet Explorer technology.

    As for "development by committee" you were fine until then. Why include a flame in an otherwise reasonable post?

  30. Joe

    But...

    ...will it work on my ZX81?

  31. Nev Silver badge

    Kontiki

    I'd be more worried about the use of Kontiki, which is a Torrent client that really screws with your Windows install. Very messy.

    Sky were using it and it's a real pain to uninstall.

    The whole idea is not very well thought out.

    iTunes (apart from it's low def video) works quite nicely and is the future of programming. Buy what you want, watch when you want, NO ADVERTS Joy!

  32. Name

    The cat already left the bag

    "... the reason the initial iPlayer product will be restricted to Windows is simply down to the availability of suitable DRM controls; the BBC can't just fire off content across the internet without considering the artists, producers, musicians, presenters, technicians etc etc who have some creative interest in the stuff."

    Sure, in the same way they can't just fire off content across the ether to be picked up by anyone in the area I suppose.

  33. Don Mitchell

    Marketing Scam

    This is getting tiresome. People who market a product as "open source" seem to feel they should get automatic preferential treatment over other types of products.

  34. Morely Dotes

    Uh, Rob...

    There are more media players than simply WMP and RP.

    If the BBC settled on, say, H.264 compression, there are many open-source cross-platform players available. VideoLAN comes instantly to mind, but the players (pun intended) are legion.

  35. yeah, right.

    The real problem

    The real problem is what the hell is a taxpayer funded government bureaucracy doing forcing people to purchase and use an expensive (you can't just get Windows Media Player, you have to get Vista and the computer to run it) foreign product from a convicted monopolist? Just to access content created at taxpayer expense in the first place?

    Perhaps it is time for the BBC to stop getting its TV licence tax, seeing as it seems to have simply become a pusher for expensive commercial proprietary technology.

  36. granite top

    Ground floor economics

    I too use linux at home and can view open format media on it. If as predicted, one day we will all get all our tv/video via data networks; Licence payers should worry, this could constitute a ground floor assertion that a state run publically paid service is locked into a proprietary OS/application non-choice.

    Currently you can see bbc services with a 50 quid television, maybe in10 years it will be 1000 for the computer 300 for the operating system plus countless other hidden costs such as network connectivity.

    All this from an organisation that sends harassing letters to ANY adress for which no licence fee has been paid, perhaps this right should be taken away from them ? PS Sky are playing a similar game by the look of it.

  37. Andy

    When will the open source madness end?

    OK, I have no beef with open source. It is a very noble and wonderful idea, however, it is not the centre of the universe. Every bit of software does not have to hail from the great open source movement. Sometimes Microsoft may be the only ones delivering the goods (ie DRM in this instance).

    What happens when everything is open source? We'll be stuck with an open source monopoly - no company will be allowed to produce anything because that will be against the open source movement man!

    The BBC produce lots of content that may not be viewable by everyone:

    1) Any streamed media (such as TV) is only really of use to broadband users - not every home in the UK has broadband (or if they do, perhaps not good enough broadband, ie 512 pipes). What's the BBC to do? Provide broadband links to all?

    2) TV reception is poor in some areas. You may need an aerial upgrade, boosters, etc or you may just be in the bottom of a valley and there's nothing anyone can do. What's the BBC to do? Setup additional transmitters and relays just for you?

    3) The BBC provide WAP content. What if my phone doesn't support WAP? Can the BBC provide me with a new phone or perhaps text any information to me that I might want?

    4) My Amstrad CPC and 9,600 baud modem is all hooked up and raring to go. When will iPlayer be ready for me?

    Windows (like it or not) has the market share. You want to reach as many people as easily as possible? Then you start with Windows. This is what the BBC has done, and they haven't ruled out other OS' or media players completely.

  38. Steven Hewittt

    What the hell are you moaning about?!

    Tell you what, if the BBC is going to do this I demand, as a licence fee payer, that the Beeb pay for my ADSL. I'm only using ISDN at my present location and as such the BBC are not being fair by not providing me access.

    Get a grip guys. Between Apple and Microsoft it must be 95% of the home use PC's covered. 5% will have to do without till OSS can get a grip and keep with with the closed sourced competitors in terms of DRM. I hate DRM, and I'd love to see a DRM-less version, but if we have to have it then so be it - stop moaning that you can't get access because you CHOOSE to use a minority platform when it comes to your home PC.

    Either way, once there is a viable alternative to WMP that can do what the BBC needs to do (DRM) then i'm sure it will be an option. In the mean time I shouldn't have to wait another 2 years just to keep the 5% happy - which consists almost entirely of IT geeks. (including me)

    2 years without iPlayer or having it now for 95% - I know which one is more logical from a business point of view.

    Finally, don't forget that neither 4OD or the ITV version supports anything other than Windows.

    Called a majority vote guys. Once the geeks and hacks get a commerical hat and take a look outside of servers and nerds bedrooms then maybe 3rd parties will be interested in developing against it.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's no different to Apple...

    quote:

    It's no different to Apple choosing to lock people into iTunes and iPods. No one complains about that because of course Apple are gods (apparently).

    Um, yes no one is complaining about Apple. Well except the EU (http://www.theregister.com/2007/01/25/dutch_out_of_tune_with_apple/) and the record companies (http://www.theregister.com/2007/02/08/riaa_apple/) and Apple's tried to address it as well (http://www.theregister.com/2007/02/06/apple_jobs_drm-free_call/).

  40. Dillon Pyron

    Best OS

    "I hate to break it to you, but I use what I consider the best operating system out, and it's not Windows, Mac, or Linux."

    RSX-11M? VMS? OS360? Multics?

    Beastie or Puffie?

  41. Chris Thorpe

    driving innovation

    The iPlayer should be an open initiative as -

    - it's not just about Macs & PCs - how about PVRs, PS3, Wii, etc?

    - the license fee should not be funnelled straight to Microsoft

    - the BBC should not dictate the brand of receiver

    More importantly, by creating its own open platform and licensing it -

    - the platform would drive innovation in the UK

    - it would create a revenue stream for the BBC

    - it would have put the BBC at the forefront

    Sadly, since selling its technical arm to Siemens, the BBC no longer has the brains to do this kind of work. The iPlayer is just one more example of this kind of short-term thinking.

  42. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    Re: But...

    Heehee Joe - However, the point is, we are talking about systems more than capable of being able to run such software.

    You could rightly be asked to upgrade your ZX81 to get the feeds (to a ZX Spectrum maybe??) - however, if I had to 'upgrade' to windows, it would actually be a downgrade.

    Mind you, clovis has a good point in that really, none of this should be done under the TV license!

    And DRM... Why try to restrict what can already be done with video recorders, pvr's (and as Tom points out, a simple video card.), and if it comes down to it, a "computer screen grabber", or even a blooming point-the-video-camera at the screen.

    Stopping people 'record' video that is 'played' on their computer is as fruitless as it is with audio. If the content is there, is being decoded, it can be recorded, however good the drm

  43. Outcast

    Title

    I use debian 64 and AmigaOs4

    Their video/music works on neither.

    :-(

  44. This post has been deleted by its author

  45. Jeremy E Cath

    remember... the content has value

    okay, leaving aside the fact that a few dozen Linux users and several hundred Mac users won't be able to access the content for "up to 24 months" after the roll out starts (so they get to avoid all the teething troubles and pain) the reason that the BBC needs to include DRM is to protect YOUR assets.

    You're a tax payer right? (Now Open Source government is something I could support, but I digress) So your taxes pay for the content that you want to be "free". Fair enough.

    But would you prefer that the BBC made a few quid selling copies of Allo Allo to the Germans or Doctor Who to the Yanks... money that they can put back into continuing to produce quality programming, or would you prefer that in order to support a tiny minority from day 1 they just give the crown jewels away?

    Okay, so I know folks will still just record off the telly and stick the content on BitTorrent but the quality will always be questionable and access not guaranteed (I know... I'm still trying to get Torchwood and the current season of Dr Who here in the US coz no blooming network has picked it up yet!) and they probably don't loose too much revenue (I torrented the first two season of the "new" Doctor Who and then bought them when they were finally released here)

    In an ideal world you'd have unlimited, unfettered, un-expiring content across any platform you wanted (what about the Amiga 512 users I hear.... nobody.... cry) in glorious Hi Def with surround sound and extra gravy all magically protected so only people paying the license fee can access it. Until then the BBC have to obtain the maximum value for the license fee they can in order to keep operating it (much as I hate that now I'm US based!) and having to defend frivolous "after the fact" campaigns such as this (how long was the consultation process? how much support did these "oh it must be open source" muppets actually manage to gather while it was going on?) is just a waste of license fee money.

    Cry babies the lot of them. Running to the EU because they didn't get their way.

  46. Richard Neill

    Broken DRM

    If the BBC really *must* use DRM (which is itself a daft idea), then it would be in their interests to use a DRM scheme which can trivially be cracked(*). That would provide maximum value to the license-player.

    In my view, I've already paid for all the BBC's content, and I have a reasonable expectation of permanent access to it. Furthermore, I'm particularly annoyed that they decided to exclude Classical music from the service (based on the argument that it would harm commercial CD sales - so what?)

    (*)any open source DRM is technically impossible: you have the ciphertext, the plaintext, the key, and the algorithm.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Silverlight?

    I'm not overly bothered whether the BBC use open source or Microsoft software. They should use the technologies which are cheapest and easiest for them to develop for and support considering that the iPlayer is not a core service. If they must use Microsoft technology surely the iPlayer is an ideal candidate for a Microsoft Silverlight application. Silverlight supports 720p video, includes DRM, works on Macs and PC's (with a possibility of Linux and mobile devices in the not too distant future) and seems incredibly easy to develop for from the demos that I have seen.

  48. Martin Owens

    How DRM works

    Mr Smith, here is a brand new BBC video file... and here A8B57A is the key that will unlock it. now don't go unlocking it when we don't want you to ok.

    Duh!

    It's the most pathetic way to prevent legitimate users from accessing content that has ever been contrived. business people need to get their heads out of their arses and into the server room for once.

    And as for open source, if it's open source then it'll be an open standard more than likely. we're not arguing for a specific platform. we're worried because the BBC is calling for a specific platform from a convicted monopolist who will attempt to use this as yet another reason why using a computer without windows is impossible. We must never allow the USA government failure to curb Microsoft to kill of the IT industry in our own country.

    For all those who think that Microsoft Windows is just another choice... it isn't. it's the ignorant or immoral choice. choose which you are because it certainly isn't good.

  49. David

    Linux can play WMP

    "Some DRM vendors, such as microsoft create liscences which are deliberately incompatible with minority operating systems. It's litterally impossible for WMP to play under Linux."

    Er. MPlayer, probably Totem and Noatun, and no doubt other Linux players can quite happily play WMP. DRM'd wmp might be another issue.

    TV3 in NZ has an annoying thing on their website where you must be using the latest windoze media player (v11 now), but that's what the site detects as your player, not the content. And until I "upgrade" even my windoze vista machine can't play TV3 content.

    Surely a mickey$loth drm would be about as hard to break as the rest of their security wouldn't it? Surely if anyone was interested, it'd be easier to break than WEP?

  50. Alexander Hanff

    Re: Jeremy E Cath

    Firstly, your comment about a few dozen Linux users and couple of hundred Mac users is highly insulting. There are 10s of thousands of Linux users in the UK, possibly even more Linux users than there are domestic Mac users, so keep your bigoted views to yourself.

    The fact remains that we all pay our tv license fee and irrespective of whether you or anyone else in these comments feel we are relevant, we should be afforded the same rights as every other TV license payer in the UK.

    The chances of there being a Linux friendly system in the next 24 months are incredibly slim given that they have already admitted that the system has been setup in this way to deal with DRM and there is no way DRM will be forced onto the Linux community any time in the near future and even if it was it would be optional. If the BBC are being forced to use DRM to license this content there is no way the Copyright Police would -ever- allow a license for a platform where the DRM is not compulsory.

    Furthermore, we -all- pay our license, so why the hell should we have to wait for 2+ years longer than windows users to access this service? This is wrong, period, and the second this service becomes available for a single segment of the population, I personally will suing the BBC for a refund of my TV License, I would suggest everyone else who is being excluded does the same. A class action suit by 10s of thousands of consumers would soon put a stop to this ridiculous situation.

  51. Jack

    Issue is freedom

    "the BBC can't just fire off content across the internet without considering the artists, producers, musicians, presenters, technicians etc etc who have some creative interest in the stuff" - This justification makes no logical sense as they already broadcast without DRM or any form of encryption over the air. You can't possibly claim that offering it on the internet is any different. It can be an open format and those who want it DRM'd only aim to extract more money from the public.

    DRM doesn't work on Microsoft Windows and Microsoft's DRM doesn't exist for Mac OS X, GNU/Linux or any other platform (except for certain audio player's operating systems). Yahoo! has said that 50% of the DRM audio purchases fail on Microsoft Windows with Microsoft DRM technology! If anybody needs evidence of why the BBC should not use DRM this is it.

    As far as the concern of Real's Realplayer vs Microsoft's Windows Media Player and the idea that this is some open source fanatical non-sense I have this much to say. This is NOT OSS fanatical nonsense and goes far beyond the principles of this segment. Not to mention almost every person knowingly or unknowingly is an open source user (Firefox, amongst others etc.). They are arguing in the publics interest as DRM does not work well. They are not arguing for Realplayer although it is a better choice than Microsoft Windows because it can be used on multiple platforms by multiple players- Realplayer is not completely open source either by the way! Real's Realplayer on non-Microsoft platforms is actually pretty good too, although I would never recommend it over an OPEN format because and OPEN format will be compatible with whatever player and operating system you choose. If one player doesn't work well on a platform you can use another.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    you people don't get it

    It irritates me to no end that half the people here don't get it and are complacent enough to just accept what the BBC says. The BBC doesn't get it- and neither do most of the people here. It isn't about GNU/Linux, it isn't about open source, it isn't even about what platform you run or if you use open source. Open source isn't a product either! Almost every person and company use applications that are open source applications or contain open source. 'open source' users are a huge portion of this country and not just a small 5% minority fraction. Proprietary software (opposite of open source software) and closed formats/DRM wrapped formats are why 89% of users are infected with spyware (possibly less, US study found this number out and in the US that correlates fairly well with Microsoft's market share). It is also why most computers don't work very well, and constantly fail (Yahoo! says 50% of users who purchase DRM music from them fail to get it to work). Anybody who thinks that 'open source people' are just mad because they aren't getting their way are totally mistaken and don't understand the problems or the issues involved. It is that simple- if you don't get it be quiet. Us 'open source' fanatics aren't slowing anything down, and rather it was the bureaucracy and stupid mentality of those making the decisions that are slowing everything down.

  53. Rose

    Re: iPlayer would be better off being and using open standards

    Well yes, very true, but if they want to shoot themselves in the foot, let them.

    I rather suspect that's Ofcom's attitude as well. I certainly won't change my OS just to play Beeb videos over the web.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Jack

    Jack says: "Not to mention almost every person knowingly or unknowingly is an open source user (Firefox, amongst others etc.)."

    How many people use the Internet in the UK? 70%? 80%? More?

    They're *ALL* users of open source software.

    Most webservers run Apache. That is open source.

    Most mail servers run Postfix, qmail or sendmail. They're all open source.

    One of the most common newsgroup servers is INN. That's open source.

    The most common FTP servers are vsftp, ProFTPd and wu-ftp. They're all open source.

    Shall I carry on?

    Those who are afraid of open source becoming ubiquitous to the detriment of proprietary systems ought to disconnect their computers from the Internet right away. The Internet is *BUILT* on open source. Proprietary systems such as Exchange, IIS and their ilk are in the (very small) minority.

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Clovis is right

    The BBC is funded by UK license fee (a tax on TVs really) payers in order to provide services for UK license fee payers.

    All this internet based stuff is given free to the rest of the world while we Brits are fugging paying for it.

    The BBC also broadcast to many other countries who aren't paying for the service. Perhaps if they stopped spending my money on services to these other countries (including the internet), they could spend it producing better quality programmes in the UK instead of broadcasting endless repeats on TV.

    Perhaps they should consider allowing BBC license fee payers a deluxe version of the BBC site, purely for those who actually fund it.

  56. A J Stiles

    What it's really like

    The BBC's insistence to use DRM (Digital RESTRICTIONS Management -- it does sod-all for my rights) goes against their charter.

    When the BBC first began, you had no choice to build your own radio set. There was never any question that some essential part might be kept locked away out of the reach of the General Public for the specific purpose of preventing just any random person from constructing a receiver.

    For the BBC to insist that their programmes only be received on one particular make of receiver (however it may be rebadged), and that an essential part (the Source Code for the decryption) be specifically denied to home constructors and experimenters, is nothing short of outrageous.

    As each day passes, this country is becoming more and more like the former GDR.

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    24 months?????

    mac and linux users will be dealt with within 24 months of launch.

    24 *months*?? 2 whole bloody years until I get to see the media that my

    TV licence has paid for the same as any windows user ?

    if they want a proprietary DRM format then they should make their

    own...and use current media players with a custom plugin to play it

    back.

    but lets forget how shallow their thought process is and how narrow

    a viewpoint on the tech they have. ALL DRM can and will be broken. much

    like ALL software copy protection. its a lesson the games studios have learnt

    over the years. its not WORTH the time and effort to implement. their video

    files WILL end up on some torrent or P2P site within a much much shorter

    time than 24 months....

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BBC short-sightedness

    A few years ago, my company adopted Windows Media as a standard for recording conferences, presentations, lunch-talks, etc. Over 1000 items were authored, using MS tools, in Windows Media format and published on our Intranet.

    Then Microsoft introduced WM Player x, which It registered itself as the implementation of the Class for the version of WMP for which we had authored all our material.

    Unfortunately, the new WMP only implemented a small subset of the features of its predecessor.

    So now we have over 1000 recordings in a legacy WM format that are not usefully playable on current WM players.

    We will not be using Windows Media formats again.

    The BBC has an obligation to ensure that the material that we, the taxpayers and license payers support, continues to be accessible even if commercial interests cause MS unilaterally to change its "standards".

    Further, the BBC should not be complicit in the viral distribution of continually changing proprietary media standards that force users into a never ending process of software (or even hardware) upgrades, a strategy that has long been the means by which MS has "encouraged" users to upgrade to the latest versions of its products.

    For example, will BBC viewers have to upgrade to Vista in order to view HD material?

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How do we get a license refund?

    If the BBC is in no hurry to make their content available to all of the UK public , I see no reason why they should not give a discount to those who are unable/unwilling to pay Microsoft a gatekeeper's levy to view BBC content.

    Even though a huge slice of the UK civil service (judging by it's Microsoft dependant web-sites) is dismayingly dependant on a single commercial supplier; I have a feeling that the UK courts would take sympathetic view to those who did not feel obligated to pay for a service that has been deliberately denied them. And Lord Reith (whom God preserve) would probably agree!

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting....

    "If the BBC is in no hurry to make their content available to all of the UK public"

    What you and most of the drongo's commenting don't seem to understand is that most of what goes out on the BBC is not 'their content'. DRM is to protect the rights owners which generally is not the BBC and never the license payer.

  61. John

    The entire point is to keep it vendor-neutral

    I am not sure that this idea is much more than a pressure group type thing, rather than having a solid legal foundation, but I still think it is good. I think the brainwashing that these people are trying to resist is summed up nicely by the above comment "I like Windows Media Player, I'm not so keen on Real Player as it is, in my opinion, a mess with lots of advertising and annoying system components that do just that, annoy me."

    That person is focusing on APPLICATIONS, and whether he likes one or another. The point of having a standard and not using DRM is to let users choose the player they want to use! Imagine the above argument involving an understood and accepted (although admittedly not unencumbered in the USA) format, MP3: 'I like Windows Media Audio, I'm not so keen on MP3 as it is, in my opinion, a mess with lots of advertising and annoying system components that do just that, annoy me.' See how stupid that version sounds? Upon hearing that, anyone with half the amount of knowledge needed to understand this issue would just say 'Well use a different MP3 player!', but the point with closed formats and DRM is that you can't. The format = the player, if someone uses that format they are pushing another company's product, and in the case of Windows Media Player they are pushing ANOTHER one of that company's products as well, Windows, because Windows Media Player checks which operating system it is being run on, and if it is Linux then it brings up a message box saying "Windows Media Player can only be installed in a 32bit Microsoft Windows environment" and refuses to install/run any further.

    Whilst I personally think this would just be a matter of business sense, ie. if the BBC only supported one system then they would be losing a serious number of viewers, I do think that some intervention is needed here. I am not proposing that the iPlayer software be liberated or anything, just that the BBC should control the format they use, not use some other company's that refuses to give away any control and therefore be at their mercy. If the BBC can't make a system which sticks to their charter then letting someone else do it is a good idea, but THEY must make it follow the charter too, otherwise someone else should be chosen who can. Asking someone else to violate one's principles does not relieve any responsibility.

  62. David

    Good one BBC

    So much for open standards.

    The reason why the Internet is so good is because of standards and open protocols.

    Making people rely on Microsoft is incredibly short sighted and is even detrimental to the BBC. The future belongs to those who stuff is open and accessible from anywhere and anything.

    BBC like Microsoft is stuck in a 1990s paradigm of proprietary bloatware.

    I will stick with Google. **** the BBC.

  63. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BBC reliance on Microsoft technology

    I worked for a short time at the BBC studios in Royal Tunbridge Wells, their showpiece new technologies studio.

    They have a very Microsoft centric attitude to file formats which can lead to needless degradation of field acquired interviews not in their particular format. Not all of us were equipped, nor wished to be, with some of the more bizarre technologies that were foisted upon us to conduct in field interviews.

    Machines like the Courier, a massive 10kg piece of equipment which could record onto a flash card, ooohhh, maybe 3 minutes of audio (if the batteries didn't run out first), or the woody, a bag lady's 2 wheeled shopping cart with a huge whip aerial and a couple of 12 volt car batteries floating around in the bottom of the bag, just fabulous.

    And all of this outputting to Microsoft format files.

    It was hardly any wonder that most of us used Walkman (MD or cassette tape) to do our work then edit using anything but the proprietary RadioMan programme used by the Beeb.

    Sadly the Beeb has passed its halcyon days and I'm unsure of its future as a respected institution, especially as it appears to have delivered a fiat to all who wish to access it's online narrowcasting, that you -will- use a Microsoft operating system.

    Our money straight to Redmond.

    Not happy.

  64. David Martin

    It needs DRM because it's on-demand

    ".. they already broadcast without DRM or any form of encryption over the air. You can't possibly claim that offering it on the internet is any different." Its different because its on-demand. With iPlayer you don't have to wait for the broadcast so you can painstakingly tape the whole of Little Britain Series 1 or whatever, instead of having to purchase the DVD.

    There are plenty of reasons why DRM is broken and most of the content can be found elsewhere but if we accept that DRM is required here as an assumption, then I can understand why the BBC is using DRM, even though I'm a Linux user at home. It's to protect their international sales of DVDs etc. Now I can run closed-source & proprietary software with an "incompatible license" under Linux, e.g. ATI's video drivers, so as and when BBC produce their own codec & DRM they can port it to Linux without having to make the source code available under GPL. Unfortunately there is nothing they can get from the open market right now for that purpose, hence they've gone with WMP DRM initially.

  65. David Webb

    What about digital?

    Not everyone in the UK has digital TV, which is accessed either by Freeview, Sky or NTL so they are unable to get BBC3/4/News/CBBC etc.. Apparently 10 million people in the UK are unable to get these channels yet they pay the same fee as everyone else.

    OSS fanatics need to grow up, the BBC is not built to cater for them, they are built to get their service out to as many people as possible as cheap as possible and by using a service which will not require Joe Average to download a myriad of codecs from OSS fanatics is a good thing.

    I would be incredibly annoyed if the BBC spent hundreds of thousands on creating a DRM so that a tiny minority of people *could* watch their shows and of that tiny minority, how many would actually use the service? It would be a waste of money, so OSS should shut up and use this thing called "a video recorder" it will allow you to watch BBC programmes you may have missed over the past 7 days - or is VCR not OSS?

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    open source

    "The Internet is *BUILT* on open source. Proprietary systems such as Exchange, IIS and their ilk are in the (very small) minority."

    Err, you forgot Windows.

    Given that the vast majority use this proprietary system to access the Internet your argument is flawed as Windows is in the very large majority.

    Open source has it's place, but not everything has to be open source.

    As said, open standards is key. No one should care if a particular company wants to protect it's considerable investment in development and make money from their products by not using open source. Keep the formats used open standard and then anyone can move in and produce competing products (open source or otherwise). People then decide what product they like the best (and it's not always open source that's best).

    Face facts though. The vast majority who argue for open source aren't doing it from some position of moral crusade, but as simply doing it to get something for nothing. They want developers to work for free and spend months or years producing products people can use for free with no reward (and yet expect premium support and be allowed to bitch like mad when things go wrong, or sue developers for security flaws).

  67. Brennan Young

    Marconi vs. Baird

    The BBC's earliest tv broadcasts were for both the Baird electromechanical system and the Marconi electronic system.

    If you think there are incompatibilities today, consider that the Baird and Marconi systems were so different that each show had to be recorded twice. With the Baird system, the studio lights were so intense that the actors had to wear green(!) pancake makeup so their facial features would still be visible.

    Baird was no Tesla, but he was still an inspired inventor, and certainly the first to bring a functional mass-produced television to market. He even got as far as video disc recorders and even color systems.

    Guess what decided it in the end? It wasn't the lobbyist 'muscle' of the Marconi company (already well established with 'wireless receivers'), or the quality difference between the two systems. It was the actors who refused to work under the hot Baird lights. They would fall unexpectedly ill on the days of the Baird broadcasts, but turn up for the Marconi ones. (Everything was live streaming in those days).

    Still, the BBC might have considered that noble precedent from the 1930s, and run with two systems simultaneously for a while.

  68. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Drop the beeb

    How about we all drop the beeb and watch youtube instead.

  69. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good discussion, but it's time to COMPLAIN... URL here...

    I'm not going to add much to the above, except for:

    - As a TV licence fee payer, I'm not going to stand for being treated as a second- or third-class citizen when it comes to getting access to the services for which I'm paying handsomely;

    - All you folks who are similarly unhappy: COMPLAIN! The URL is http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/make_complaint_step1.shtml

  70. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    not everyone has digital

    >Not everyone in the UK has digital TV

    yep. but in about 4 years they'll have to have digital. or watch no TV at all.

    >OSS fanatics need to grow up, the BBC is not built to cater for them, they are built >to get their service out to as many people as possible as cheap as possible and >by using a service which will not require Joe Average to download a myriad of >codecs from OSS fanatics is a good thing.

    1 simple download of a viewing program for Windows is all it will require. as for cheapest service - how is paying a fee/levy/licence to microsoft helping? there are plenty of people in the world who will code a quality grade video playback tool for the BBC for little to no money. heck, i'm sure they could get a whole

    team onto doing the job with the simple payment of the next few seasons of BBCs finest output. or a free TV licence for a few years.

  71. Lord Nonsense

    same old, same old.

    I remember a time when, if you wanted to view online video content on the BBC you had to download and use real player. License (TV Poll tax) payers had no choice in the matter. This was apparently as a result of a shady deal the BBC had done with Sun and Real Networks. If you put unaccountable parasites in charge of public money you can rest assured that the customer always comes last.

  72. This post has been deleted by its author

  73. Steven Hewittt

    OSS on the Web

    Not a fight, both have a place, but your comments are incorrect:

    "How many people use the Internet in the UK? 70%? 80%? More? They're *ALL* users of open source software.

    Most webservers run Apache. That is open source.

    Most mail servers run Postfix, qmail or sendmail. They're all open source.

    One of the most common newsgroup servers is INN. That's open source.

    The most common FTP servers are vsftp, ProFTPd and wu-ftp. They're all open source.

    Shall I carry on?

    Those who are afraid of open source becoming ubiquitous to the detriment of proprietary systems ought to disconnect their computers from the Internet right away. The Internet is *BUILT* on open source. Proprietary systems such as Exchange, IIS and their ilk are in the (very small) minority."

    Apache is the most popular web server on the web. It's an application, not an OS. Windows runs the majority of the servers in the world.

    Most servers do not run Postfix or sendmail. Again Exchange is the most used mail platform in the world as of right now.

    IIS maybe in the minority (in at second), but Windows is ran on more servers than anything else and Exchange handles more mail that any other mail application in the world. Oh, and it's about 52% of the UK are on the web.

    And i'm really glad that OSS has Newsgroups and FTP. Important, but seriously - your gloating about newsgroup apps?! Welcome to the 21 Century! :-)

  74. Graham Dresch

    Complain at the BBC Trust AGM

    From www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust

    BBC Trust – Annual General Meeting 2007

    The BBC publishes its Annual Report on Tuesday 3 July.

    The BBC Trust wants to hear what you think about the BBC. You can put your questions to the Trust at a public meeting being held in central London.

  75. Hugh_Pym

    Re: It needs DRM because it's on-demand

    "With iPlayer you don't have to wait for the broadcast so you can painstakingly tape the whole of Little Britain Series 1 or whatever, instead of having to purchase the DVD."

    Enter the 21st century David. Most 'plus' boxes will record a series with one touch. and I could borrow a DVD and copy it onto my PC quite easily.

    I think it is probably the third party content providers that insist on DRM but like all other attempts at DRM it won't stop pirating and it will stop legitimate users.

  76. Simon Grierson

    Another solution

    In the US, ABC, NBC, FOx, Sci-Fi dont even bother with the likes of Windows Media Player to deliver streamed video.

    They use Flash video - in some cases, in high definition too.

    ABC had all their episodes of Alias up while the show was running, Heroes is available to stream too.

    The only catch? It's restricted - by IP - to the US Only.

    Guess what Mr BBC? You have your solution there already!

    Furthermore, the Kontiki solution they have chosen is extremely limited. It requires:

    A Windows XP PC running Internet Explorer 6, and a copy of Windows Media Player 10 or 11.

    Go for anything else and you get errors galore. Sky Anytime and 40d don't work very well on Vista, wont work with Firefox at all, and get very upset if you dont have the right DRM components for Windows Media Player.

    Finally, Kontiki is P2P based - and lots of peoples' broadband providers trhottle those ports, thus extremely long download times can be expected. Sky Anytime and 40d take FOREVER to download very poor quality versions of the TV shows.

    For some reason, the entire UK media has fallen in love with this rubbish system, and yet the US market has gone wholesale for a far fairer alternative.

    Surely the American media companies are the example to follow?

  77. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some facts

    Okay, lets get a few things straight that are very relevant here -

    The BBC do not own the copyright in almost any of their programmes. For a start over 25% are made by independents. But even with in house material, it was stated on the recent BBC Backstage podcast that the BBC had not been able to find *anything* that they owned all the rights in in the archive during a brief look. Music is usually owned by the majors, actors are ruled by Equity, and scriptwriters retain the copyright in their works. Sometimes the programme format is owned by someone else too, as are format rights. And if the BBC want to distribute all these programmes online, they need the above people to contractually agree to it, or they will walk down to the High Court and get an injuction, and the court will send a man with an axe to the server room if required. The BBC has done this historically because it is much, much *much* cheaper than taking all rights.

    Many of these rights are worth money entirely seperately from their use on the BBC - publishing, the books they're based on, music companies selling their songs etc. They are not going to allow the BBC to give away their content forever, for free. And even if they were, they'd want a significant amount of money for it, and the BBC would literally have to multiply the licence fee in order to pay for it.

    All the BBC can afford to buy are the rights to distribute for a limited amount of time. And, indeed, the Public Value Test by the BBC Trust said that the BBC weren't allowed to do anything else either.

    This is different from broadcast because it's an on-demand service, and because copies remain out there in digital formats. Yes, you can copy something off broadcast and upload that, but that would not have been allowed to happen by rights holders if there had been any way to forsee UK Nova when the video recorder was invented.

    The BBC's options for finding a DRM system that supports timeout are - Windows Media. That's it. The BBC have to use Microsoft, because it's the only functional, completed product available that has the necessary features. There are no "open standards" that support this timeout, but without the timeout there is literally no service because the rights holders will say no, or demand implausible amounts of money.

    The BBC would not be allowed to create a DRM system of it's own that went cross platform. It would fail the Public Value Test that all new BBC services are required to undergo by the BBC Trust. The test requires that such a service delivers more "public value" than it does "market impact". A BBC DRM would create very little "public value" because 90%+ of users would be fine with the MS version. It would create significant damage to the market for other providers DRM software. And thus the BBC would not legally be allowed to do it.

    It's worth bearing the stuff above in mind. As far as I can see, the BBC had no choice but to do exactly as they've done.

  78. Hugh_Pym

    Linux/Apple iPlayer need never appear

    It appears that the BBC trust, knowing that Microsoft will never make iPlayer available to non-windows users, have taken the commitment out of their requirements.

    according to the BBC website:

    "Platform neutrality: One of the new services, seven-day catch-up television over the internet, requires users to have Microsoft software to access the service. The Trust has decided to replace the two-year deadline for making the service available to users of other operating systems with a six-month audit of progress. This is because the Trust, while fully committed to platform neutrality, has accepted that achieving it is dependent on third parties and so outside the BBC Executive's control."

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/consult/closed_consultations/ondemand_pvt_faqs.html

  79. Rod Campbell

    Open Source Zealots

    Oh god - the open source religous zealots are out in force trying to sound like the majority when in fact they are a minority. I saw a comment earlier that would like the reader of this discussion to infer that Ubuntu Linux is outselling Vista - please...... It may well be that Amazon is shipping more copies of Ubuntu than Vista but guess what, almost every new PC shipped today has Vista installed on it!

    Now, I use both Ubuntu and Vista at home and like them both for different reasons. But here's the thing - In the mainstream consumer space (go to PC World to see these people) they are in the main buying Vista based PCs and perhaps Macs but definitely not Linux for some pretty obvious reasons (this may change when Linux has the usability and product ecosystem of Windows).

    As such, the BBC has decided (quite rightly in my opinion) that they need to cater to the vast majority and have also decided that they require DRM capability (we can argue the merits of DRM another time :-) ) so the natural choice whether we like it or not is Windows Media Player. Get real folks, this is how things happen in the "real world".

  80. Hugh_Pym

    Re: Open Source Zealots

    "As such, the BBC has decided (quite rightly in my opinion) that they need to cater to the vast majority"

    They have a requirement to cater for everybody. That's how they continue to get a licence fee.

    "we can argue the merits of DRM another time"

    Too Late, they have already foisted this upon us.

    "so the natural choice whether we like it or not is Windows Media Player."

    I don't care about iPlayer it's the locked in format that concerns me. This is the BBC, not like any other broadcaster in the world. They shouldn't have the need to manage our digital rights. We own them.

    DRM does not work unless you lock users in. To the format, the player and the OS. The BBC should not be locking users in. This timebomb model has been tried and has failed in the music industry. People don't want it and will find a model the works. All this DRM crap is the death rattle of a dinosaur industry that cannot or will not change it's revenue model. New media companies will take over eventually but in the meantime we are stuck with this kind of backwards facing 'progress'. It's reminiscent of WW1 generals sending infantry 'over the top' because they can't stop living in the past.

  81. Mike

    Well I won't use it.

    Well I remember watching Lost via an anonymous proxy in the US (long story just to watch Lost but basically ABC limits access to the streaming side of their site to US only via IP).

    Anyway I agree with the comment earlier about streaming the content via a main website like ABC's, they could possibly do a Youtube style page but in better.

    The BBC won't do it though.

    Mike

  82. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Some facts

    Hit the nail on the head here.

    If they let their shows out unrestricted then they have to be dealt with the same way as DVDs. This means getting royalty payments, paying for copyright clearance, paying actors, artists, etc.

    They will have to seriously edit a lot of shows because they can't afford a lot of the clearances, especially when it comes to music (as already happens on DVD releases).

    Face it, DRM is a requirement for the BBC to distribute via the net until such time someone declares Internet broadcasting to be the same as over the air.

    It's similar with Sky. I asked Sky why they charge for Sky Anytime on PC content when I already pay via my subscription to Sky. Their answer was that their licence with the providers does not allow them to broadcast for free via the Internet. Simple as that.

    So you can hardly blame the BBC for being forced to use DRM measures. If you want this to change, lobby the government to make Internet TV a valid broadcast medium equal to over-the-air.

    That DRM controls are best served by Microsoft is another matter.

  83. Paul

    re: some facts

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments.

    If the BBC only has rights to distribute content for a limited time, that in itself does not prevent them from distributing the content in an open format (they already do this with MP3s, in their podcast trial).

    When the limited period expires, the Beeb can stop distributing the files.

    The BBC are not responsible for what licence-payers do with the content once they have downloaded it - and if we're talking about on-demand downloads which are only available for a limited time, the situation is not very different from off-air recordings using VCRs, DVD recorders, or whatever.

    Besides, giving users a file they can watch or listen to on any of their hardware (iPods, PCs, linux machines, MP3 players) is a good thing. DRM hinders this.

    And finally, pirates can already crack DRM and make the results available via fileshare networks. The idea that preventing users from listening to programmes on their pod players will guarantee that content is not copied is just laughable.

  84. Law

    Just drop the project

    Well I'm not exactly an "open source religous zealot", but I do think that any BBC system that should be built should also be built on open-standards. Why? Because the whole point of me paying the license fee to BBC is so that they are un-biased and "for the people". By using proprietry systems to lock video content they will be tied into a system that they have no control over, and to which we as a nation who will eventually use this system will be tied into.

    So all I am going to say is f**k the arguement of majority, this isn't about that! This is about freedom from greedy corporations and just being what the BBC is supposed to be, independant!! In this case, platform independant!! :)

    I don't think EU should have a say in this though, isn't it for license fee payers only? Therefore it is a British issue, not a European one!

    Incidently, I have no major problem with WMP, or Quicktime - both are alright at what they do... but I refuse to use Real player!! I tend to use opensource players like MPlayer for most things...

  85. Martin Owens

    No Go

    I reckon they just shouldn't bother with this service until the technology is ready. and as for Mr Campbell as I can say is, damn your eyes sir. without hope of a change, there will never be one. and god knows the IT industry needs it.

  86. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re:re: Some facts

    "If the BBC only has rights to distribute content for a limited time, that in itself does not prevent them from distributing the content in an open format (they already do this with MP3s, in their podcast trial)."

    Yes it does - the podcast trial notably features programming with much of the rights heavy content stripped out and avoids the vast majority of the content with any rights material whatsoever precisely because of this reason.

    Ultimately the British legal defintion of the right to broadcast a work (which will be limited in the number of times it is allowed contractually with rights holders) explictily *excludes* it being available on demand. If it is, it is not a broadcast. And thus is a separate right that needs to be agreed, and likely paid for if you want any chance of getting that magical piece of paper with a signature on it back at any point.

    "When the limited period expires, the Beeb can stop distributing the files.

    The BBC are not responsible for what licence-payers do with the content once they have downloaded it - and if we're talking about on-demand downloads which are only available for a limited time, the situation is not very different from off-air recordings using VCRs, DVD recorders, or whatever."

    Ultimately the BBC can argue that all the like, but the rights holders aren't stupid. People don't tape and archive broadcast television for the most part, despite it's ease. They buy DVD's instead, and since there's revenue there the rights holders can get a percentage of it. Iplayer is a free service, and thus there's no revenue to get a percentage of. And no incentive for rights holders to sign, unless the commercial after market gets to continue to exist.

    Right now the BBC can offer a little bit of extra money, get the seven days, and it shouldn't really impinge too much on DVD etc sales. And thus right holders don't have to risk any loss in revenue. They'll sign that contract. They won't sign anything where such a risk is there.

    "Besides, giving users a file they can watch or listen to on any of their hardware (iPods, PCs, linux machines, MP3 players) is a good thing. DRM hinders this."

    I'd agree with that. But ultimately I suspect the only plausible answer to that is better DRM software.

    "And finally, pirates can already crack DRM and make the results available via fileshare networks. The idea that preventing users from listening to programmes on their pod players will guarantee that content is not copied is just laughable."

    Again, they know it can be cracked. DRM can't make cracking impossible. It's just intended to make cracking more difficult to the average non-technical user than taping broadcast content is, so they'll do that instead. The piracy from that is already known, and accounted for. But this would introduce new piracy if there was no DRM.

    As nice as the world would be if the BBC could trust all users to actually delete the content seven days after watching it as they're contractually obligated to do. But I think we all know people won't. There is a fundamental psychological issue there.

  87. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm sorry you seem to be mistaken...

    I'm sorry sir it's you who seems to be incorrect.

    "How many people use the Internet in the UK? 70%? 80%? More?"

    Most end users run some form of Open Source software, from Firefox, to Thunderbird, to Open Office... and very large number of modems/routers that run Linux...

    "Windows runs the majority of the servers in the world"

    Only in your dreams... Apache runs 70%+ of the worlds servers, and 90% of those run on Linux/BSD/other Posix clones...

    Throw in all the other non-IIS servers that that run on non-Windows... and your statement is wildly inaccurate.

    "Most servers do not run Postfix or sendmail.

    Again Exchange is the most used mail platform in the world as of right now."

    Gotta stop you right there. While there are a lot of Exchange setups out there, the range of Linux mailservers easily outnumber all the Exchange installs. And the number of users handled by Linux crowd blows Exchange way. Don't forget all the corporate Lotus user too...

    IIS maybe in the minority (in at second), but Windows is ran on more servers than anything else and Exchange handles more mail that any other mail application in the world. Oh, and it's about 52% of the UK are on the web.

    Windows may be run on more servers, but the dozen servers in you company office aren't connected to the internet are they? We're talking WEB servers here!

    "And i'm really glad that OSS has Newsgroups and FTP. Important, but seriously - your gloating about newsgroup apps?! Welcome to the 21 Century! :-)"

    Not gloating just making a point...

  88. conan

    TV License - for TV

    I pay a TV license to the BBC which allows me to receive their TV broadcasts, but I don't generally, because I think they're a bit rubbish. I use their website all the time, and am happy to pay the TV license fee because I think it's the best website in the world, and I'm happy to pay for myself and others around the world to have access to this wonderful content.

    What outrages me is the tiny portion of my license fee which is spent on their internet provision: http://www.bbc.co.uk/info/licencefee/#spent

    As a TV license payer, you should be aggrieved that any of that money is spent on the BBC's online services - that's not what you're paying for. A simple solution is to charge for the internet services separately from the TV, and then an appropriate amount of money could be spent on each delivery mechanism - be it for Windows users, Mac users, Linux users or whatever. Each usergroup would be contributing an appropriate amount to the development pot relevant to them. I'd be much happier paying the same amount knowing it all goes to internet services which I use, not to TV shows which I think are rubbish - and I'd be able to choose where my money was invested - in WMP or RP or an open format.

  89. Sabahattin Gucukoglu

    Re: open source

    Just because I don't like to leave a good point firmly made, for the benefit of all those Windows-lovin' Microsofty sycophants who love inventing false statistics and spin, if not to convince others then at least, however bravely, to convince themselves that their bullcrap is in any way true and would, if known by Microsoft PR, at once become the basis for the next marketing ploy to get more brainless gorps to buy into their bloatware:

    <quote>

    "The Internet is *BUILT* on open source. Proprietary systems such as Exchange, IIS

    and their ilk are in the (very small) minority."

    Err, you forgot Windows.

    Given that the vast majority use this proprietary system to access the Internet your

    argument is flawed as Windows is in the very large majority.

    </quote>

    Someone already pointed out that you're wrong about web and mail services, so there's no need to repeat the numbers. Mail, in particular, is almost never serviced by exchange servers connected directly to the net; it usually gets use *inside* the corporate boundary for features besides high-performance SMTP and mail processing (at which it is *particularly* bad, no matter how much hardware you throw at it). And Apache is still Open Source, whether it runs on Windows or not, so talking about Open Source Software deployment in terms of OS choice is meaningless. Apache *is* the leader right now, no doubt about it, although I personally love thttpd which for now only runs on *nix.

    And now, for Windows on desktops. Alright then, we'll play your little game, matey-boy. To connect to the Internet in any useful way, you'll be needing implementations of two rather essential protocols in the modern networking age, TCP (RFC 793) and IP (RFC 791), among others atop, near and beneath, also standardised by the consensus process, like ICMP, UDP and SMTP. The TCP/IP protocols in particular are legendarily tricky to implement and have been extended many times in many ways and go back a long enough way to make using a known-to-be-good codebase that implements them well and reliably worthwhile. And guess what, matey-boy? The Berkeley TCP/IP stack, an open source implementation of TCP/IP used originally in UC Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD), still runs to this very day in some (usually modified) way in most operating systems, open and closed, embedded and desktop, experimental and full-fledged. Including, of course, that most omnipotent of all operating systems (if you can call it that ...) most dear to our collective hearts: Microsoft (R) Windows.

    Even this very fact was flung out to hideous extent by Microsoft's very own code thief (can't find the refs now, sorry!) as being an unreasonable assertion due to the way the code got into their grubby little hands in a variety of laughable licensing deals before it was finally agreed to put a stop to the fuss made by the righteous by adding the few lines necessary to a deeply-recessed Readme file on every CD-ROM of Windows sold. (You should find it on an XP CD in one of the numerous release notes files, anyway. Don't know if/how the situation changes with Vista, as they've "Rebranded" TCP/IP yet again and are telling us how much better it is than the last one - but all I see is that IPv4 and IPv6 are now in a unified stack and a few more TCP extensions are now on by default.) And it would, of course, be the BSD people who got the ball rolling in the first place, noting how Microsoft could get away with a small but significant license violation for so many years and take the credit for an excellent, high-performance stack developed anywhere but at Microsoft (to this day, only NetBSD performs better at optimised configurations - way to go, guys!). Of course, the code originally got nicked by Spyglass who then licensed it to Microsoft without telling them, but that doesn't excuse Microsoft for their terrible crimes against superlative software engineering; they were hardly open about it and many other evil doings in the name of pseudo-standards conformance (think Kerberos ... think IPSec). Nor, of course, does it change the very terrible fact that OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE IS USED TO CONNECT ANY WINDOWS MACHINE TO THE INTERNET, AND THAT WITHOUT IT THE MACHINE IS JUST AN EXPENSIVE PAPERWEIGHT. (No, wait a minute - the operating system on the machine is an expensive paperweight - remove it and the machine is useful again, OS or no OS.)

    If you want to verify this for yourself, seek c:\windows\system32\ftp.exe, a part of the Berkeley TCP/IP stack that implements an interface for the File Transfer Protocol (another hairy one running on top of TCP), for this string:

    "Copyright (c) 1983 The Regents of the University of California.

    All rights reserved."

    and, as the popular saying went, ye shall find.

    Ah, well. Next time, perhaps. Meantime, nearly 100% of all computers are using Open Source if they want to be on the net. That's most consumers taken care of.

    Cheers,

    Sabahattin

    PS: sorry for the heated, patronising nature and length of the post, it is a regrettable necessity. Besides, it's Saturday and I'm bored.

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