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:
- Programmers, especially those who work on digital TV technologies
- Video creators, especially BBC suppliers
- MythTV users and users of tuner cards with open/free drivers
- People with visual and hearing disabilities
- Teachers and tinkerers who play with receiver technology
- People who travel within the EU and would have to buy a second TV or card specifically to receive DRM broadcasts from the BBC
- Anyone else who feels an especially strong connection to the public service value of open platforms
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