Stop DRM on UK TV! Sign onto ORG's comments

The Open Rights Group is looking for British individuals and organisations to sign onto its comments to the UK TV regulator, who is on the verge of giving into blackmail from the BBC and an offshore DRM cartel, crippling TV in Britain forever.

The BBC has asked Ofcom, the UK telcoms regulator, to give it permission to put DRM on digital TV signals. Anyone who wants to make a receiver that can unscramble the DRM will have to sign up with an offshore consortium called DTLA, agreeing to a whole raft of DRM requirements, including a ban on making TV receivers and recorders that users can modify (which amounts to a ban on free/open TV equipment like MythTV, as well as free/open drivers for laptop TV cards).

This is a bad idea for lots of reasons: it's our TV, paid for with the license fee. The BBC claims that some unspecified rightsholders will withhold some unspecified programming from TV if they don't get this, but so far, no one's come forward to specifically say, "I won't release the following programmes," so we're just left with this kind of vague, nonspecific threat.

If that wasn't bad enough, the BBC hasn't identified anyone who has promised to make programmes available if the DRM is added -- so we're being asked to turn regulatory control over the public service broadcaster to a corporate cartel without even being promised anything in return!

Worst of all: the BBC's DRM scrambles a block of data that includes the assistive information used by visually impaired and hearing impaired people to watch TV, meaning that it will be harder than ever to deliver low-cost, robust technologies for these audiences. Fancy using blind and deaf people as human shields in the copyright wars! Now that's public service!

The rightsholder companies made the same threats in 2003 when the USA was considering adding DRM to its digital TV, and none of them followed through. The idea that broadcasters will simply stop airing programmes, or that new suppliers won't show up to sell shows if old ones boycott the system, is just ludicrous. These businesses have shareholders who want to see a return on their investment, not a public tantrum.

ORG has written a thorough response to the Ofcom consultation on BBC DRM, and now we're looking for individuals and organisations to sign on to it. We've already got sign-on from the Free Software Foundation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Somethin' Else, and many other consumer rights groups, tech groups, and entertainment companies are considering signing up.

We're open to signons from any license payer or UK resident, but we're especially interested in:

Stop BBC "Digital Rights Management" from disabling your HD TV


  1. Sorry I forgot to identify myself in my previous comment. I am Nick Reynolds Social Media Executive in BBC Online.

  2. If ‘rights holders’ refuse to allow distribution without DRM, simply refuse to buy from them. If they won’t be reasonable, the BBC don’t buy their stuff. End of story.

  3. Done.

    Anyone who is generally shy of such things om privacy grounds, as I am: they allow you to respond anonymously. Nice.

  4. Quote from mine:

    “This system will reduce, not enlarge, the amount of material available in HD.

    I refuse to release any content under such DRM.

    That is my policy, the policy of my company, and the policy of my associates. I admit that we don’t produce much, but what little we do produce will be restricted by license from being commercially used on such a system.”

    Their main selling point for this DRM seems to be “we’ll get MOAR CONTENT!” – so the more content creators we can get to say something like the above, the harder it will be for them to argue that.

  5. Also: there’s no link to “sign the ORG’s comments”. You can send them an email, but it’s hardly made clear on the linked page if that’s the same thing. You can also submit your own response, unrelated to ORG. I’ve done both, but… *shrug*.

    Needs better linkage.

  6. Given that the BBC still gets a whole lot of its’ content from the US the vast majority of content will probably be pirated long before it reaches the British airwaves.

    I wonder how much of this is to allow the commercial arm of the BBC to charge more for its exported TV shows by claiming lower pirating opportunities and thus greater demand for the product in US (or wherever) markets.

    As said by Anon # 3: “If ‘rights holders’ refuse to allow distribution without DRM, simply refuse to buy from them. If they won’t be reasonable, the BBC don’t buy their stuff. End of story.”

  7. Down with this sort of thing.

    We already have this in place in Japan, and as far as I know there was never any public debate over it. People just accepted it as handed to them without realising there was any other way. It’s not all negatives though – because of the increase in HDD recorders, the copy bit has to be set to a minimum of 1 digital copy to allow them to be recorded and avoid alienating the audience (in practice, I’ve yet to see a show that didn’t have this set). In practice this means that the DRM allows it to be recorded to the HDD and kept there, or then transferred to a DVD/Blu-Ray on the condition that the HDD version is deleted in the process, which licensed machinery complies with. The positive side of this is that by specifically allowing the one digital copy, there is no longer any legal ambiguity involved with storing entire seasons of your favourite programming, films, anything you like for all eternity in beautiful High Definition on Blu-Ray discs.

  8. What’s happening to this country? It seems that our own organisations hate us, even though we pay their hugely inflated salaries. I’ve given up air travel because of the security stupidities (which have as yet to show anything but massive travel disruption) and now the BBC wants to use my money to prevent me from making copies of stuff I’VE ALREADY PAID FOR!

  9. The BBC should be given a simple choice DRM or Licence fee.

    If they wish to emulate Sky – then they should let us choose whether to accept their commercial tie-ins or not.

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