back to article Free software campaigners stonewalled at BBC

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) mounted its protests against "corruption" of the BBC by Microsoft in London and Manchester this morning. Free software protestors hold up their sign against the BBC's White City sign Smashing the system In filthy weather, about 20 assorted free software and open source advocates turned …


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  1. SteveB

    umm yeah

    I'd be a lot more sympathetic to the conspiracy theories about Microsoft pulling the strings at the beeb if iPlayer actually worked in Vista. Surely if Bill was in charge he'd have made sure that was sorted before it was released?

  2. Kevin Kenny


    "The BBC says its content partners will not allow it to distribute shows over the internet without Microsoft DRM."

    So why don't these freeloaders go and picket the production companies instead. Hell, the damn i-thingy is only a beta.

    DRM sucks, but the beeb are damned if they do and damned if they don't.


  3. Rob Crawford

    The beeb must be terrified

    Ohh it's the attack of the hairy toothed nerds, thank god it was raining or the sun may have roasted them to a crisp.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why not just MPEG4 and XML?

    Why on earth don't they just serve up MPEG4 and XML for the program guide. Create multiple MPEG4's some with adverts, some without. Dish up the correct MPEG4 (with adverts or without) depending on the IP address.

    You want to limit the viewing window to a fixed time?, Well just take them down from the website after the time expires. It's not like the DRM version actually works as advertised.

    Your current transmissions have no DRM and Bill's DRM doesn't work and is single platform, so it's not like you're doing anything but excluding yourself from every Tivo, every satellite TV box, every PS3, and Wii, every digital VCR, all the possible media devices that could play MPEG4 content are being excluded from playing BBC content.

    Worse still, you need a special player, because that's needed to support the DRM, but if you just published the MPEG4 on the net, then any device could support your channel.

    Seems to be missing one hell of an opportunity with this iPlayer Windows XP only thing. Just like when Channel 4 got suckered into signing to Sky's 'Freesat' service, only to find out later that *Free*sat is really 20 quid to Sky and Channel 4.

    So now Channel 4 is stuck on an encrypted channel with money going to it's competitor and a barrier between it and it's viewers.

    "The BBC says its content partners will not allow it to distribute shows over the internet without Microsoft DRM."

    Does that sound right? They stipulated only *Microsoft* DRM and no other DRM? Doesn't that seem odd?

    Or is this the ex Microsoft man saying this?

  5. Ian Ferguson

    Tell you what

    When the open source coders produce a reliable antipiracy DRM system for Linux, the content providers will allow the production of players like the BBC's iPlayer.

    After all, isn't that what open source is all about? If there's a problem, don't whinge about it, fix it?

    As far as I can see, the problem isn't with the BBC, or even with DRM; it's with the lack of reliable, secure media software for Linux.

    *awaits lynching*

  6. Peter Redding

    Evil Stare

    That copper is giving the other guy a look as if he asked why the copper didn't have an iPhone.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why only complain about Microsoft?

    If the FSF are serious about the BBC being open, should that not mean that they also object to the KonTiki p2p code on which iPlayer is based? And why stop there? Surely the programmes should not be encoded via MPEG2 as that is incumbered with patents?

    What matters is that most people have access to this quickly and easily on the systems they actually use. Doing Windows first makes perfect sense as that is de facto the largest installed base. Mac will be next I suspect and probably then Linux will follow as it's required by the BBC trust.

    If Microsoft DRM is not used what do the FSF suggest that actually has the confidence and support of the rights owners? Of course I know they hate DRM but it is a fact that without it the amount of material the BBC would actually be allowed to distribute would be tiny. Of course I suspect many of the FSF fanatics may actually prefer that and then continue to rip off copyright holders with grey downloads while the mass of the honest and non-tech savvy licence fee payers remain cut off from a simple, legal catch up service.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Or alternatively Kevin the BBC can go tell their content partners where to shove it. If the BBC have paid to have the content produced (i.e. made for them rather than buying other companies completed product such as "Heroes") then surely the content belongs to the BBC and they can do anything they want with it.

    Personally I think the DRM stuff is a smoke screen - the controller of the future media and technology group is one of Bill Gates love children and obviously wants what is right for his good friend Bill and Bill's bank balance.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A bit pointless

    Of the million and one things to actually be worried about (climate change, ozone depletion, peak oil, species extinction...) can't they find something else better to protest about than some minor pet project of the BBC that only has any relevance to the well-off...

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ..."I'd be a lot more sympathetic to the conspiracy theories about Microsoft pulling the strings at the beeb if iPlayer actually worked in Vista. Surely if Bill was in charge he'd have made sure that was sorted before it was released?"

    - you are making the assumption that Bill or anyone at MS made ANYTHING work for vista before launch.

  11. Stuart Castle Silver badge


    "Or alternatively Kevin the BBC can go tell their content partners where to shove it. If the BBC have paid to have the content produced (i.e. made for them rather than buying other companies completed product such as "Heroes") then surely the content belongs to the BBC and they can do anything they want with it."

    This is a common misconception. The BBC (as with any TV company) does not buy the programmes, they buy the right to show them for a certain period. That contract will often include controls on the method of ditribution.

    Similarly, when you buy software, or a CD, you buy the right to use that software, or CD (within the specified terms), and you buy the medium, but you do NOT buy the software, or the contents of the CD.

  12. Richard Kay

    public broadcasting anyone ?

    It's a question of who the BBC imagines its customers are. They are developing content delivery that can only be played on a single closed platform deliberately designed to prevent license fee payers' long standing ability to use broadcast recordings for private purposes as we please. The BBC are therefore clearly no longer interested in acting in the interests of license fee payers. They should instead be telling media content companies that won't sell on more reasonable terms that they will buy content on behalf of license fee payers from other sources.

    If this goes too far I'm going to chuck out my TV and won't pay for a license.

  13. Tam Lin

    BBC and Open Sauce Personality Test

    1: The OS I run most is:

    A. [ ] Windows 2000 or OS X.

    B. [ ] Windows XP.

    C. [ ] Windows Vista.

    D. [ ] Linux.

    E. [ ] Other non-Windows.

    2: The OS I use most was installed by:

    A. [ ] Me entirely.

    B. [ ] Me with help.

    C. [ ] Me mum.

    D. [ ] The factory.

    E. [ ] A BOFH.

    3: I watch TV:

    A. [ ] Only at the pub.

    B. [ ] The easy way, arse on the sofa and eyes on the telly.

    C. [ ] I use a DVR to 'enhance' my TV.

    D. [ ] I watch my TV on a PC so there's no chance I'll fall asleep.

    E. [ ] When there is a gun to my head.

    4. I think canned dog poop should be:

    A. [ ] Available to everyone, regardless of OS.

    B. [ ] Thrown out before it's made.

    C. [ ] Force fed to Microsoft users.


    1: A = 5, B = 0, C = -5, D = 10, E = 15

    2: A = 15, B = 5, C = 25, D = 0, E = 10

    3: A = 0, B = -100, C = -500, D = -1000, E = 15

    4: A = -1000, B = 0, C = -1000

    30+ : You are a true geek.

    5 thru 25 : Not a tech god, but you get by.

    -50 thru 0 : Nothing to be embarrassed about.

    -600 to -55 : Decidedly boring and useless.

    Less than -50 : Suggest you have someone push the reset button on your life.

  14. Ed Deckard

    Re: Tell you what

    "When the open source coders produce a reliable antipiracy DRM system for Linux, the content providers will allow the production of players like the BBC's iPlayer."

    Err, Microsoft doesn't produce a "reliable antipiracy DRM system." Neither does anyone else, as far as I know.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bit late, isn't it?

    I find that current Windows media players are unreliable, they don't stream properly on the kit that I have. Since there are many other ways to stream audio and video that work just fine I have to assume media player's problems are built into its technology. I don't think it should be necessary to upgrade computers and net links just to deal with poorly written software and there's plenty of other material out there so I just ignore the stuff that demands Windows technology.

    I find the argument that 'content providers demand DRM' a bit specious. Isn't the BBC supposed to be one of the world's foremost content providers? The BBC is also paid for by the public, its like our PBS but with mandatory contributions from the public through the sale of 'licences', so doesn't it have a duty to make its material open for all?

  16. Nick Ryan Silver badge


    If MS really were deeply involved, the iPlayer project would *only* work on Vista. OK, so "work" is perhaps too strong a word for anything in relation to Vista, but you get the idea...

    It would "require" Vista because of a "requirement" for, erm, DirectX 10, which "requires" Vista because, erm, ah, the drivers are "different" (which is odd as DX was meant to be driver agnostic) and, erm, ooooh, that's it, because it wouldn't have been possible to write DX10 "drivers" for anything other than Vista. Or something like that.

    As for DRM systems, I can fully understand why content owners might not want their shows to be freely available in a half decent format (of which by all reports, the BBC iPlayer shows are very badly encoded), otherwise they won't be able to sell (rip off) the public for the same dross but in DVD form at £15 each 6 months later. Cynicism aside, a lot of a show's value comes from the sale of DVDs after the run of the show and it's this that the show producers want to protect. What they, of course, fail to understand that any idiot with a VHS recorder has been able to copy their shows for the last 20+ years. VHS may be lousy quality but it's still as good as most P2P shared files are recorded at, and HD recorders record the shows at much better than VHS quality... so there is no way to protect the shows anyway.

  17. POPE Mad Mitch

    Secure, Open, DRM choose any two

    "...When the open source coders produce a reliable antipiracy DRM system for Linux, the content providers will allow the production of players like the BBC's iPlayer."

    ah well, theres your problem you see. theres no such thing as a secure software DRM system, as the software has to include everything needed to decrypt the media in order to play it. Things like the microsoft solution depend upon security through obscurity to hide the relevant crypto details and to limit what can be done with the output. If you write an OSS version, you no longer have the obscurity as the source is openly available, so you also have no security, it would be trivial for someone else to read/edit/extended the source and build a version that gave them the unencrypted data in a format of their choice. game over.

    The illusion of security that closed source DRM gives will only last as long as it takes until some bored windows hacker finds the part in the code needed to extract the keys or the decrypted data.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BBC Zune

    So the Beeb will be as successful as Microsoft's partners have been with their music store? i.e. they'll waste a lot of money and shut up shop.

    Welcome to BBC Zune....

    DivX and MPEG4 can play on every media device there is, and Microsoft DRM can only play on Windows, and Windows Media Centre was a flop. So BBC Zune will flop too.

  19. Mo

    Re: Secure, Open, DRM choose any two

    …which indeed they've done.

    FairUse4WM allows you to strip the DRM from 4oD's downloads (running on the same software platform as the iPlayer), so that they can be transcoded and played back with VLC on the Mac or other non-Windows machines. Shame the quality's fairly poor—straight H.264+AAC would have saved everybody a whole load of hassle, really.

    The problem is that you still need to have a Windows machine to do it, and they're bound to “upgrade” the DRM system (and require users to install the update in order to download anything new) to close the hole sooner or later… until somebody does it again.

  20. Morely Dotes

    False assumptions

    "The BBC says its content partners will not allow it to distribute shows over the internet without Microsoft DRM."

    Firstly, I believe that is either an outright lie, or El Reg's reporter made the assumption that the Beeb's partners demanded *Microsoft* DRM.

    Secondly, if the content providers refuse to let the Beeb stream their content without DRM, then the correct answer is to refuse to stream the content. It's not as if the Beeb doesn't own the copyrights for some very *good* older content, which I for one as a non-UK resident would be happy to pay to have access to - as long as it's not DRMed. I'm already renting DVDs of BBC content - and I might add that the so-called DRM on those is so trivial to bypass that I often forget that I need to do so.

  21. V.Srikrishnan

    Policeman looks daggers...

    As one other respondent has pointed out above, why is the bluebottle(correct term?) looking wrathfully at the nerd?

  22. Jason


    Obviously the support for an Open Source iPlayer is huge, I mean, 20 whole people?

    In all seriousness, what percentage of people in the UK actually use Linux on a daily basis as their main computer? The iPlayer seems to be useful for people who missed the previous episode etc, and are these people likely to be geeks, or chavs using their computers?

    The iPlayer's main function seems to be to 'get up to date' with your favourite programs, not to keep them forever, hence the need for some protection, even if it is cracked within a day. I also agree with POPE Mad Mitch comments.

    I'll bet that the BBC has done at least some research and found that Windows is the most widely used OS in the country, followed by Macs, then the hardcore Linux crew, who to be honest, have better things to do than moan about the iPlayer.

  23. Emo

    If looks could kill..

    Policeman to FSF Guy with curls: "Yeah, I'm all for FSF, I'm sick of my computer running slowly."

    FSF Guy with curls: "Have you tried Ubuntu, it's easy to install and will work great on your computer."

    The look the Policeman is giving the FSF Guy with curls, is one where he can't be bothered to tell him he actually compiles his own kernels and apps for max performance, and his suggestion of installing Ubuntu has confirmed his thoughts that FSF Gwc is actually a cock.

  24. Andrew Meredith

    Re: False assumptions

    <<Firstly, I believe that is either an outright lie, or El Reg's reporter made the assumption that the Beeb's partners demanded *Microsoft* DRM.>>

    Actually the reporter was quite correct. The content providers demanded the ability to expire the content 7 days after the showing. Bill's DRM is the only one that does that.

    You might also like to take a look at:

    It gives the following percentages from a recent random survey.

    81.82% Windows XP (Y)

    4.82% Linux (N)

    4.27% Windows 2000 (Y)

    3.27% PPC (N)

    2.64% Mac OS X (N)

    1.55% Windows Vista (N)

    1.45% Unknown (N)

    0.09% Windows CE (N)

    0.09% Windows ME (N)

    So from the above, about 86% (Y) can run iPlayer and so 14% or so cannot. So of every 20 people, 3 are locked out despite the fact that they cannot refuse to pay a portion of their TV license.

  25. Frank Bough

    USB Dongle, Anyone?

    I certainly wouldn't mind getting a USB dongle when I stump up for my licence fee. One might almost call it a digital licence to watch lovely, multicast MPEG4 direct from the BBC. I'm sure they discounted that idea as being too...

    ...oh I don't know, too something. Microsoft DRM is definitely a better solution. Definitely. Won't be cracked, nope. No Kontiki issues, certainly.

  26. yeah, right.

    Screw the BBC

    If they don't want to allow me to view programs I paid for with my TV tax on the systems I use, then screw them, they aren't getting my TV tax anymore. I don't watch TV that much anyway. Maybe I'll just send the old thing to them in protest?

    C.O.D., of course.

    They are a PUBLIC service, not a corporate whore, and should act as such. As in, act in the public interest, not in the interest of certain foreign corporations.

  27. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    It's not just a Linux thing

    Those windows users trying to act all high mighty because there is actually something windows 'may' (for all the wrong reasons) be useful for are totally missing the point.

    This isn't about a player-only-for-windows, it's about the BBC forcing the use of a MS lockin.

    IF MS get their teeth fully in the door, they'll up the ante. You may run windows, watch tv online, and actually get iplayer to work, but you should still be worried about this.

    And content makers won't let the bbc show it drm free ? Then they should say NO! They are the BBC, not some local village station!

  28. David Webb


    20 whole people showed up with their demands? A million people marched on London demanding we don't go to war with Iraq and look where that got us. And an ex-pat flew in from the US? Maybe he should fly back out to the US he obviously doesn't pay his licence fee so is not entitled to a say on the BBC.

  29. Bill Squire

    DRM: What is the point?

    The BBC was informed in advance that I intended to 'hack' their DRM and I'd likely have it on my "free as in beer" FreeBSDv7 within a half a day. It took me allot less time than that. I have absolutely no intention of using the DRM as a license to steal BBC programming, but what about the script-kiddie that figures it out in a few weeks and tells all his friends, who tell theirs and so on?

    __All__ DRM is seriously flawed. It cannot ever work as "key management" becomes next to impossible. Algorithms that 'solve puzzles' can easily solve any "DRM puzzle" due to the repetitive nature of video signals. It doesn't matter if its 40bit (about five minutes on my personal computer -- actually a super-mini designed and built by myself) or 128bit, ('till the sun don't shine -- Ha!) there is simply no way that wouldn't exclude almost everyone. To exclude me, who would never, ever use Windows as a primary OS, would mean excluding 99.99% of all viewers. While its not quite as simple as CSS: "One simply doesn't bother picking locks when a plastic card will do".

    Remember a "feature" of Microsoft is 'undeleting'. This should tell anyone its a piece of cake you can eat too. All Unix files systems are far more advanced, yet it is still possible to recover data -- a shock to some, I guess. A TV picture has a very precise timing that is virtually impossible to scramble. Remove half of the timing signals (the framing, etc.) and it can still be easily be reconstructed. Short of using actual cryptography, this cannot hide.

    This is the broadcast principle. Can a million people have a secret? Hell no! "Microsoft DRM" is as flawed as any.

  30. Mother Hubbard

    Microsoft will be jealous of the turn-out

    20 people turned up at the BBC to protest in the rain, and you think that's a shite turn-out? Microsoft had less than that turn up to their Vista launch in Sydney and that was covered, air-conditioned, catered and included free software that was autographed by Bill Gates!

  31. John

    BBC Linux support

    I have been having a look at the bbc iPlayer website and installing it on xp.

    The BBC annoyingly makes you use internet explorer, yet more lock in - no one seems to be pissed at this. I am. It means that damn url cache will be filling up again (c:\Documents and settings\you\local settings\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5\index.dat) and you can't delete it without booting into safe made with command prompt. If you can't see it, thats because M$ systematically lies to you about what is on your hard disk. Look hard, its there, it contains every website you have been to even if you delete your browsing history from ie.

    Anyway, the BBC says at:


    "GNU/Linux operating system can use the Crossover plug-in to play Windows Media files. For more information about this contact your GNU/Linux supplier or source."

    So, as soon as I've downloaded a programme, I'm booting into Linux (which is my day-to-day work enviroment) and checking it out.

    ....till then...

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Freeloaders

    If you take a look at what those Freeloaders at the FSF have given to the world you may change your outlook. Maybe if FSF had used a different EULA to take away all right from illiterate users, it would be more well received.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    kick up there arse....

    I am a windows user, as I am a computer sloth at home, and thanks to MS killing off the alternitives I am forced to use Direct X to play PC games. Which sux or I would of moved away from XP awhile ago (and of course soon I will be forced by twisted arm to move to Vista... hopfuly by then most of the buggs will of been sorted).

    Anyway, when it comes to the Beeb, I want my moneys worth, I already feel hard dun to with some of the tripe there broadcasting now done in a 'US' style. That is not how I want my wildlife programs nor my informitive sience. I still do not understand there push to more channels, I really do prefer quality over quantity.

    Now when it comes to having to use DRM shit, I am all for puting them against the wall and throwing my wrath at them. I do not want DRM built into my OS, and I sure don't want to have to use that sorta crap to watch somthing I am paying for.

    The thing is, if they don't ask us what we want then they can't get told 'NO'. On top of that alot of people do not understand the issues involved with DRM crap. So whistle I belive its yet another liberty the Beeb are taking, it is yet another one I fail to see how we low lifes can kick there arse.

    [.....and if enough of us complain then they will have to make a show of listening to us complain before ignoring us....]

    I feel sinical.... and I wish I had used firefox to write this, as it would of done my spelling for me. For that I am sorry.

    -DeeD BeeB.

  34. Adam Buckland

    Locked out

    I pay my license fee and demand that the BBC make their service available for my Nascom 1, my Comodore PET and the Tandy TRS80 - Level 2 I have in the loft..

    There are probably more people with a TRS80 stashed away in a loft than run Linux anyway.


  35. Joe

    Other players

    Perhaps part of the problem is this vague promise of players for Mac and Linux?

    They've said they'll have one soon, but who is working on the Mac and Linux DRM solution? What's it based on?

  36. Steve Mansfield

    linux market share stats quoted by Andrew Meredith

    The main stats quoted by

    are from April 2007.

    Time since public Vista release: approx 3 or 4 months. Add in the OEM market and pre-release corporates / bulk-builders who got it in November 2006, and in a maximum of six months, Vista's market share (in terms of visits to the one site, sqlspace) is approximately one-third that of linux. Not exactly a brilliant return on all that advertising, it must be said, but there you go.

    Where things get interesting is the bit of the sqlspace article which proudly proclaims 'W3 schools have confirmed our study' - sadly the W3Schools page linked to shows no such thing.

    The W3 schools stats for April 2007 show Vista at 2.6%, linux at 3.4%.

    The W3 stats for *July* 2007 show Vista 3.6%, linux 3.4%. So while, on these stats, linux is static, Vista is taking share from other Windows flavours (April 2007 Mac = 3.9%, July Mac = 4.0%).

    And just to add to the confusion, Market Share by Net Applications at


    April: Vista 3.02%, linux 0.80%, Mac OS 3.89%, MacIntel 2.32%

    July: Vista 5.41%, linux 0.75%, Mac OS 3.36%, MacIntel 2.61%

    And yes I'm sure the usage stats from would show something different again.

    Regardless of which set of stats you look at, a clear majority of people are using Windows. So it is not exactly surprising that the first beta to emerge from the BBC is for Windows.

  37. Giles Jones Gold badge


    "This is a common misconception. The BBC (as with any TV company) does not buy the programmes, they buy the right to show them for a certain period. That contract will often include controls on the method of ditribution."


    So why do they broadcast reasonable quality digital MPEG2 over the airwaves which can be recorded with any DVB card in full quality?

    There's no DRM on that. Plus the iPlayer actually allows people without a TV licence to watch the programmes.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Open Source or Cross Platform

    Its not an Open Source / Microsoft conflict, its a Single platform (Microsoft) / Cross Platform conflict - but of course the MS Fanboys can't understand that life exists outside the MS world.

    What people are demanding, quite rightly, is a cross platform media player. Its perfectly acceptable for that player to be proprietary, it doesn't have to be Open Source. So if the BBC went and created their own, in house, DRM encumbered cross platform player and used that then there wouldn't be a problem.

    The problem is that the iPlayer is based on proprietary, single platform, software. Microsoft's DRM doesn't work on anything but Windows.. which is the crux of the matter : the application as it currently stands CANT run on Linux because the company who provide the proprietary software (Microsoft) think that Linux is a "cancer" and is basically communist.

  39. Daniel Bennett

    Screw iplayer


    I've been getting BBC Shows that i've missed online for a while, so whats the point in caring?

    BBC use a shite p2p, shite DRM and are being shite-ed all over Micro$hite.

    Torrents + Trackers Will still do much better than

    BBC + Microsoft + Shitty P2P + Shitty DRM.

  40. Ascylto

    Bill's Broadcasting Corporation

    I, too, am locked out of the BBC's iPlayer. I have other means of recording programmes but my objection is that the Corporation uses MY money to provide a 'service' I CAN'T use.

    I was once a great fan of the BBC and would defend it to the hilt. So far down the road of privatisation and ratings chasing is it now that I'll be happy to see it go out as a Public Broadcaster and for it to lose the licence fee. Another great British institution along with the NHS and the Post Office bites the dust.

    Don't believe the BBC when they say they'll provide for other platform users ... they've been saying that for years.

  41. Guy Heatley

    Untapped reserve of sarcasm discovered

    Linux users! Pah! They're all commies and terrorists anyhow. And they don't wash or get their hair cut. What right have they got to watch the TV programmes they've contributed towards?

    And anyway its been scientifically proved by Stephen Hawking that only 7 people worldwide actually use Linux on their home PC. Thats less than the number of people who used a Sinclair ZX81 to browse the ebay site and buy a squirrel, last year.

    Linux doesn't even exist anyway. Its just an excuse for nerbs to whisper in darkened corners about their terrorist activies.

    etc, etc

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One lynching coming up..........

    "As far as I can see, the problem isn't with the BBC, or even with DRM; it's with the lack of reliable, secure media software for Linux.

    *awaits lynching*"

    AFAIK, there has not yet been one, single, DRM system that has survived for more than a few months before it was cracked wide open. There isn't any 'secure media software' for Windows, Mac, or anything else, let alone Linux. DRM is flawed by its very concept. The decryption algorithms and keys MUST be delivered to the end user and/or exist in the player in order for them to watch/listen to the content. This make each and every DRM system exceedingly vulnerable to reverse engineering.

    DRM is flawed in its social model too. It has the opposite effect that those that espouse its use desire. It pisses of their legitimate customers by making home copying more difficult, making the pre-ripped content provided by the 'professional' pirates (those that the annoying anti-piracy trailers on DVDs bang on about supporting organised crime, terrorism, etc) MORE attractive, not less.

    Fred wants to buy film X. He wants to watch it on his TV and copy it to his video iPod. Does he buy the DRM crippled 'legal' copy that forces him to watch trailers and annoying anti-piracy ads and prevents him from copying it to his iPod, or the 'pirate' copy that allows him to do what he wants?

    Its a no-brainer really......

    And, contrary to the message that the MPAA, FACT etc, like to spout on those annoying 'knock off Nigel' ads, the pirate copys are usually of VERY good quality.

  43. alistair millington

    Who cares?

    QUOTE - ..."I'd be a lot more sympathetic to the conspiracy theories about Microsoft pulling the strings at the beeb if iPlayer actually worked in Vista. Surely if Bill was in charge he'd have made sure that was sorted before it was released?"

    Assuming Vista worked in the first place with anything I might consider that a good comment. Certainly given recent headlines of them admitting it was pants. (and in my experiences with vista business and ultimate editions it is utter pants)

    Let's be honest though. The BBC hasn't produced any decent TV in a long time, unless you are a devoid of like and like cooking, Diy, Gardening, Reality and repeats. Anyone going to download anything anyway.

    Someone has got a backhander from this. They certainly are not the corporation of the people anymore. Not since viewing figures dictated programming.

  44. milktwosugars

    Still should be all or nothing

    What if the BBC made a seperate TV channel that only could be viewed by a person watching on a Sony TV?

    I run Linux, I pay my TV licence £135.50 (colour), why should I buy (how many people do?) a Microsoft product that spies on me, just to view something that I have already paid for.

    People will start crying when they realise what DRM actually does to the quality and service that it's supposed to be providing.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The source of DRM is irrelevant.

    If the BBC wants to offer an on-demand download service that includes content other than that which they produce themselves, they have to have a DRM system that is acceptable to the other (mainly American) content providers. It does not matter whether we think DRM is hopelessly flawed and doesn't really protect the content from hackers, It only matters that the content providers are happy with the chosen solution.

    The Beeb is not a software developer, it should defiantly buy a solution rather than build one. The MS solution is the only one that offers all the required features (e.g. deleting after 7 days) and it addresses 85% of the potential users (which is good enough at a beta stage, Freview coverage is only 73% ref: . Nokia just made the same decision on DRM as well, showing that MS's DRM is not neccesarily bound to the OS. It would be nice if there were a DRM system that was not encumbered by MS patents but its not the responsibility of the BBC to create one.

    Given all the creative types in the Beeb I'd be surprised if a Mac version wasn't available soon, however given the antipathy towards DRM from the Linux community and GPL v3 issues a Linux version may be a long way off. I’d certainly be unhappy if trying to support the relatively small (and difficult when it comes to DRM) Linux community held back access for the vast majority of other user.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The BBC need to rethink how it deals with content providers.

    It’s my view that the BBC does not understand its own influence with content providers. If they want DRM, just say no. We don’t need DRM and if we can’t show your content without it then it won’t get shown (at all). When no one is watching the content providers stuff they will not want to buy the DVDs or associated junk that goes with it. Then the content provider may want to rethink why they want as many people as they can to see their rubbish. In fact I’d go as far to say that the BBC should demand a percentage of income from merchandise, just for showing it and making it popular.

    Personally I think the BBC has a load of excellent self made content and that is what it needs to get back to. Not chasing ratings that mean nothing to a non-commercial company that doesn’t rely on adverts for income. For one example who hasn’t heard of the natural history content that only the BBC excel at?

    The iPlayer does not need to be a technical problem, just strip the DRM from it and you have a normal media player that can use open standards which is cheap and reliable. More important, is that it will be cross platform.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    eh ?

    "They certainly are not the corporation of the people anymore. Not since viewing figures dictated programming."

    Surely viewing figures is the best way to ensure it is 'of the people' ? (whatever that means). Sure it means a loads of shite on the box - but (very) sadly that's what the 'people' want.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    YOUR money, on a service you CAN'T use?

    > my objection is that the Corporation uses MY money to provide a 'service' I CAN'T use.

    Last time I checked, the Corporation uses a great deal of licence fee money on providing a website / online content in general, all of which is something that a much larger proportion of the licence-fee payers can't use, either because they can't afford a computer, or because they'd rather not buy one, because using one is so difficult, unreliable and demeaning for normal non-technological people. (A situation which is, ironically, thanks to you techies, shipping devices and platforms that are woefully inappropriate for normal people.)

    Of course what the BBC and Microsoft are doing is appalling. But hey, the silver lining is that at least a few of you techies get a taste of the online lockout that your expensive and unusable products force upon ten million or so normal people in this country.

  49. A J Stiles

    @Adam Buckland

    Have no fears. When the Linux version materialises -- with or without the BBC's blessing -- you can be sure you will be able to modify *that* to run on your ancient machines.

    (Just in case anybody still isn't clear on the details, it works something like this. Human beings write programs in "high-level" languages, which are designed for humans to be able to understand. A program in a high level language is called "Source Code". The Source Code must then be compiled into binary machine language, which is hard for humans to understand but easy for a computer -- at least, one of the correct model and running the correct Operating System -- to understand. [Getting a binary program to run on a different class of computer than it was originally compiled for requires an emulator.] The *same* Source Code can be compiled so as to run on several different flavours of Linux, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD, Solaris, AIX, SCO Unix, Mac OS X, Windows or even a games console [if you have the appropriate developer's kit, which includes the compiler and the wherewithal for transferring programs to the console]. In the Unix world [and Linux is, to all intents and purposes, Unix] it is actually the established practice to distribute programs as Source Code and let the user compile them. It was only the advent of the MS-DOS monoculture -- and the non-inclusion of a compiler as standard -- that led to vendors distributing only pre-compiled binaries, and this habit has unfortunately stuck into the Windows era. As a side effect, vendors have begun thinking of their Source Code as though it were some kind of proprietary secret to be kept out of the hands of users, rather than an essential aid which helps a systems administrator understand a program and, if necessary, adapt it to suit the way the user does business. Anyway, the point is, once you've written a program and got it running on one class of machine, it's almost trivial to get it running on another -- *if* you have the Source Code.)

    Seriously, the problem is analogous to being told that as members of the listening public, we are forbidden to buy a certain important component which is necessary in the construction of a radio receiver -- only the broadcasting company's Approved Set Manufacturer is allowed to possess such a part. The elusive "radio part" in this case being, of course, the Source Code for just the decryption component of the player.

    Copy-prevention is *mathematically impossible*. Not just *very hard*, like travelling to Mars or brute-force cracking triple-DSA encryption; but actually *impossible*, like constructing a rectangle with exactly the same area as a given circle using only a ruler and compasses. And there is nothing that anyone could invent that would ever make it possible. Anything that can be viewed, can be copied; and no matter how hard you make it to copy it (and, remember, you *can't* make it impossible), the copy that *does* eventually get made *won't* necessarily be so protected. You can spend more money on attempted copy prevention than you'd ever risk losing to piracy if you just released your work unprotected; but as soon as one copiable copy is made and published, every single penny of that money is now irretrievably wasted. As the Stereophonics put it, "it only takes one match to burn a thousand trees."

    Digital Restrictions Management is a flawed attempt at restricting what users can do with content once they have purchased the right to do what they like with it. The basic idea is to encrypt the data, embed the decryption code into the player and then not give users access to the Source Code for the player (which would explain to a competent programmer exactly how to perform the decryption). This relies on the fact that it's hard for human beings to figure out what a binary program is doing. And it breaks down because it's possible for human beings to figure out what a binary program is doing -- and even alter it to do something different, like save the decrypted data to disk or not delete the file after a set period of time or number of viewings.

    It's a matter of time before somebody successfully reverse-engineers Microsoft's DRM; and hopefully, this will be the end of the whole debâcle.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: The BBC need to rethink how it deals with content providers.

    "It’s my view that the BBC does not understand its own influence with content providers. If they want DRM, just say no. We don’t need DRM and if we can’t show your content without it then it won’t get shown (at all)."

    Sorry, but it doesn't have anything like that sort of influence. It only represents a tiny proportion of the market for content buyers that exists. One of the rights holders concerned are the major music labels for example, and their music is used in well over 95% of BBC programmes. But the BBC's licence for that music is a drop in the ocean income wise to them, and they are not even remotely interested in the BBC being allowed to distribute owned content without an order of magnitude increase in the fees they get.

    Where is the money supposed to come from for this?

  51. Kevin Bailey


    "I'd be a lot more sympathetic to the conspiracy theories about Microsoft pulling the strings at the beeb if iPlayer actually worked in Vista. Surely if Bill was in charge he'd have made sure that was sorted before it was released?"

    Umm... How long have you need reading tech news for?

    Microsoft are terrible at supplying software. That's part of why it is so bad that they lie and cheat to keep their monopolies.

    Hell - Vista can't even delete or copy files properly.

    The shame of it is that 'Personal Computing' could have been so good for ordinary people - they should be spending all their time doing useful and/or fun things. Instead they spend most of their time being hacked, virused, bank accounts being robbed, computers used in botnets etc etc etc etc etc.

    Competition will produce a superior product - just look how Apple Mac's make Windows PC's look like dogs. (And no, I don't have a Mac - all my friends do). But MS will do whatever they can to stop Mac's from being allowed to compete - including getting one of their pets to run IT at the BBC.

    This is why the protest is important - we want a level playing field - so that competition can then produce better products.

    Shame on the BBC for for allowing this to happen. I for one will now move away from the license asap - a Mac in the front room, Utube and DVD's. Other frineds have done it and I will soon.

    Once the BBC no longer has any license money they may have to compete - only too late they'll find they are completely dependent on Microsoft.

    Bye bye BBC - and thanks for all the fish.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: (reply to) The BBC need to rethink how it deals with content providers.

    re: "Sorry, but it doesn't have anything like that sort of influence"

    You make a good point, it's not commonly understood what a quagmire of rights holder permissions are required in order to make an episode and that the BBC would be restricted in distributing its own content by those rights used within it (eg: background music). The BBC would need to renegotiate these kinds of deals or change the way they create stuff. That of course don't help us at this point in time with the iPlayer, but it is something to think about.

    However, the point stands that air time and any form of broadcast by a recognised broadcaster is a valuable commodity in its self and that fact should be considered by the content providers. You can make the best content in history but it doesn't make any difference if it is never consumed. That is the kind of influence that the BBC needs to be urged to use.

    "Where is the money supposed to come from for this?"

    Not the BBC or the licence fee. The content providers should be made to see the extra value that is being brought to them and use that to create the market for what ever they intend to sell. They don't even need to produce this stuff, just licence the rights for exploiting it to others. eg: DVDs, toys, music, ring tones, other bits of crap, etc.

    After all cheap airfares have nothing to do with selling the actual seat on the aircraft, but more to do with what is sold with it. The whole rights business is on shaky ground anyway, it's in peoples (and many types of animals) nature to copy and nothing is going to change that. Therefore you need to find another way of being paid for your work, and from what I can see you need to use the fact that if it is popular, it is going to spread and that is what you exploit.

    Where does this leave us with iPlayer? Well I can only surmise that even if the technology (the playback, not DRM) is ready for the purpose, the political and business issues around content rights are not and it's that and not DRM which needs to be addressed.

  53. Kevin Bailey

    We can all do something

    What I am going to do is to cancel my direct debit for the TV license. This is because for six months of the year you actually pay in advance.

    I'll still pay for the license as I am going to obey the law - but they are going to only get their money when it is due.

    I urge you all to do the same.

    At least I'm going to feel that I've done something - and I'll tell the accounts people exactly why I've done it.

  54. Stuart


    who cares?

    BBC is going the way of most other commercial TV providers just churning out or buying from the US, soaps, repeats and reality dross. Stick ads on it and it could easily be any other commercial channel.

    Its an old saying, but why not turn off the TV and go and do something more interesting instead? Or more educational, or more healthy or more rewarding.

  55. Stephen B Streater

    Video of demonstration

    I made a video of the demonstration, which you can watch here:

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All about lock in...

    It's not so much about the issue of not having a media player "yet" for Linux or Apple's broken OSs, (and I'll ignore the muppets who are attempting to be smart by wanting it on TRS-80s).... it's about the infernal lock-in cycle that the monopoly Microsoft are foisting on EVERYBODY and idiots like the BBC (who now seem to be run by MS execs) are just propagating this further...

    I don't disagree with a plan to initially develop on the most widely used operating system there currently is. However to do it in such a way that it cannot also be implemented (later) on ANY other systems is bordering on criminal.

    For instance...

    In order to access the iPlayer service you MUST use Internet Explorer (aka. Idiot Explorer, because you'd have to be an idiot to choose to use it). - the world's worst Web Browser

    In order to use IE, you must use it on a recent Microsoft platform (yes, there was IE available for Macs, but that was a long time ago and running an emulator is still, effectively, running it on the platform). Besides, it "requires" IE because of the abhorrent insecure bastardisations that are ActiveX controls, these don't work on anything other than Intel platforms.

    If you buy a new PC from January, unless you're a corporate and have paid Microsoft over the odds for a "discount" plan, then you're forced to use MS Vista or get one of the very rare Linux or OS free systems (something that MS has lobbied and bullied their way to ensuring is very difficult)

    It continues, from every possible angle...

    In order to use e-mail in a corporate environment, you must use Outlook and Exchange (IBM effectively killed the only other partly worthwhile competitor as they'd rather "websphere" than Notes, and Novell killed groupwise through incompentence). Exchange is morinically twisted and intertwied with IIS, itself a bastardised abortion of an application of epic proportions (it's pathetically inefficient, unwieldy, unmanagemable and unstable... then try maintaining or upgrading it). Yet Exchange is so separate from IIS that while it requires it, it cannot actually integrate fully).

    IIS requires Active Directory to purport to running in any even partly manageable state with any form of security (don't want to serve insecure web pages? tough, HTTP is *required*, secure web pages (HTTPS) is optional). Want to use it as a web server on the Internet with user logins? Forget it's so-called security model, instead log all users on with full access rights and roll your own security model... or pay stupid amounts of money, your choice.

    Of course, everything these days is sharepoint... another abortion of epic proportions... it requires IIS Active Directory and MS-SQL yet somehow manages to completely fail to integrate properly into each of them. MS SQL server, of course, is another stunning piece of inefficient resource swallowing unaccountable and unmanagable bloatware. Sharepoint, of course, is a document management system that sets the industry back 10-15 years compared to what was there before. It also pretends to be a web server, yet can neither operate with or without IIS and if you want to manage users on it you have to spend £30,000 for a Internet facing version or purchase CA licences for each and every user. Don't forget though, that due to the borked attempt security model, if you give them access to your website then they have access to your corporate network as well. Sharepoint is also being HEAVILY pushed by MS as a replacement to the windows server file system.

    The windows server filesystem... still behind what even Netware could manage 15 years ago and other operating systems have managed prior and since. Want to undelete a file? Forget it, fetch it from a backup. Want to manage file versions? forget it, not possible. Want a SANE security model without lots of stupid gotchas, inexplicable hacks (share and security access anyone?) and NO accountability whatsoever, use NTFS. In order to find the rights that a user has you have to query each and every resource in every tree. This is not a function of a real operating system's security model, it's a hack on top of a single user window interface.

    If you want to secure your office network by using something other than Internet Explorer as a corporate browser, forget it. MS updated SharePoint and Outlook WebAccess to "better support" (i.e. bork entirely and require more ActiveX controls to do anything useful). You can't have your users use Internet Explorer for internal resources and a decent, half secure browser for external access because this requires careful control and will never work. You can't put in place proper security at the firewall because intelligent firewalls that enforce standards block Internet Explorer and it's additional privacy busting headers and other fun additions to standards. Try to adequately protect your internal resources (web servers, etc) and you also suffer the same fate.

    So, in short - as soon as you deploy windows in your corporate environment you quickly become rail-roaded into dropping every other technology you have/had and using MS's invariably (but not at first glance) more expensive and inferior systems. MS's next plan is to take control of office phone systems by badly integrating them with Exchange. Their Instant Messaging takeover ploy hasn't worked yet, but only because the majority of Smart Phones/Carriers don't or won't support it and neither does their server software. What's more you'll do this "voluntarily"

    All this and I have MCSE and MCSA qualifications... had Novell quals as well, for what good that does these days...

    I'd love to suggest alternatives but users don't want them because there is only one operating system, one word processor, one spreadsheet, one e-mail client, one instant messenger application, one server platform, one web server platform...

  57. Chris Williams (Written by Reg staff)

    @Morely Dotes

    "Firstly, I believe that is either an outright lie, or El Reg's reporter made the assumption that the Beeb's partners demanded *Microsoft* DRM."

    No. The BBC says its content partners demand DRM with timebombing, i.e. Windows Media.

    Chris Williams

    El Reg

  58. Roz Sermons

    Re; @Morely Dotes

    QUOTE: No. The BBC says its content partners demand DRM with timebombing, i.e. Windows Media.

    Which doesn't mean that the Beeb's partners demanded Microsoft DRM. Even if the Beeb chose not to write a DRM themselves they could have chosen to go into a partnership with someone other than M$ for them to produce the DRM specified.

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Roz Sermons

    "Even if the Beeb chose not to write a DRM themselves they could have chosen to go into a partnership with someone other than M$ for them to produce the DRM specified."

    Jeez, the freetards are out in force once more.

    Lemme see: as a licence-fee payer, do I want to see a) the BBC buying a bullshit DRM package, b) writing a bullshit DRM package or c) commissioning a bullshit DRM package.

    Would you expect the BBC to write or commission their own web servers, database servers, A/V editing software, groupware, office apps etc? Why do you think a DRM platform is any different.

    As has been pointed out above, if you don't like it do something better. You've got the requirements - go scratch that itch.

  60. Rob Crawford


    To those who have nothing better to do with their lives I suggest having a wash, brushing your hairy teeth, leave those star trek dvds in their cases and join the rest of society rather than complaining about how the world dosn't fit with what you want

    For the majority (probably vast majority) Windows fufills the average persons requirements

    I use whatever OS (or archetecture) suits the task I am required to carry out (or am forced to use by my employers if it's work related). Therefore for most home use windows is the one to use, as my wife and kids can cope with it (and they can be easily talked through any issues they have if I happen to be at work)

    I have two machines at home and have better things to do with what little money I posess than buy another machine so I can run an alternate OS exclusively for myself. If anybody out there was stupid enough to support my wifes computer support, I suspect that you would abandon the world of Linux within 2 or 3 days of taking the role.

    Most people are not too worried about not being able to keep permanant copies of TV programmes as unlike the hygeneically challenged individuals who obcessively watch star trek / star wars /heros/ lost or Buffy they don't care if the programme wipes itself after 7 days. They have managed to watch the episode of "Permataned minor celeb cooks dinner for somebody who was almost on big brother" and doubtless will never want to watch it again.

    It's not microsofts fault that Lotus notes is usually crap (though inept administrators dont' help matters)

    Perhaps this is also microsofts fault

    Go and find something better to do with your lives please

  61. Roz Sermons

    Re: @Roz Sermons

    QUOTE: "Jeez, the freetards are out in force once more."

    Hey, I didn't say that it was a good idea. I was just pointing out an inaccuracy in what had been written.

    The content providers did not say to the BBC "Thou shalt used M$ and only M$" and there are always options.

    Personally I quite understand the impossibility of writing DRM that can't be cracked and I would question if any DRM isn't a waste of money for exactly the reasons specified by several people above.

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thanks BBC for iPlayer

    Thank you BBC for making this new service available to your customers, only if they are prepared to use an operating system on their computers that leaves them very vulnerable to viruses, spam and internet fraud. What have you got against the rest of your customers who are too sensible to do this ? Whatever it is, can you justify why we should continue to pay you a license fee when you are happy to develop new services and deliberately exclude us ?

    Most of us can survive without TV and I think that all of your customers who use Linux should do just this. Then, we will no longer be your customers and or have to continue paying you to develop new services that we cannot use. Perhaps the government will start to question seriously whether your license fee should be continued ? I think there are many who already know the answer to this question !

  63. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    UK streaming video

    The British like windows it's mediocre, slow and expensive

    they have broadband it's slow and mediocre and expensive

    they have media player for streaming video and complain

    it's slow and mediocre and when they get the increased

    bill for the bandwidth they will complain it's expensive too

    what and doing nothing about it hasn't helped

    how surprising. Please don't try to help them they don't like it.

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