back to article BBC claims angry iPlayer plugin mob 'conflated' open source term

The BBC has tried to draw a line under its decision to bar open source implementations of RTMP (real-time messaging protocol) streaming in the iPlayer, after The Register revealed the Corporation's quiet switcheroo last week. BBC online managing editor Ian Hunter claimed in a blog post today that the term "open source" had …


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  1. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Barn Door attached to wrong barn!

    This is all really mealy mouthed of the BBC. How can they protect their content when they transmit it? A few £20 cards and I can record, and therefore distribute, everything the BBC transmits.

    They are not 'protecting their content' they're just pissing people off.

  2. The BigYin

    Point of order

    H.264 is not "open source" in any meaningful way. It is patent encumbered and you cannot implement it without paying fat fees. Hence why MOziall has (rightly) dug its heels in over the use of this format.

    As for the BBC...fix this stupid mistake NOW. (Yes, I have complained)

  3. Callum

    take, but don't give back

    The article mentions that the iPlayer platform is built from open source software, thus it appears the BBC are quite happy to freely take and reuse copyright material (the computer software) but seem unwilling to share their own copyright material (programmes and shows) without incumbent DRM attached.

    seems quite arrogant and unfair.

    Whilst not yet upheld in either of the 2 UK legal systems, I wonder if the anti-tivo'isation clauses in GPL v3 would cause problems for the BBC iPlayer platform?

    1. Rob Beard

      GPL 3

      How I understand it the Beeb can get away with what they're doing as it's the iPlayer backend (servers and such) are running on Open Source software whereas the iPlayer Desktop is written using Adobe Air.

      Sucks I know, I don't see why the Beeb are doing this, at least they could support the development of an 'official' BBC iPlayer Plugin for XBMC.


  4. Doc Spock

    BBC Fail

    "We know that a number of applications have been making unauthorised use of some media types and we have tightened security accordingly - this was done for several of the formats and content delivery types, not just for Flash," said Hunter. "The result was that some applications that 'deep link' to our content may no longer work."

    Since the "pirate" applications still work, and it's only legitimate users that are affected, this is akin to locking your car in order to prevent your house from being burgled. In other words, mind-numbingly pointless and stupid.

    Also, does anyone know if it legal to time-shift iPlayer programmes in the UK? If it is, then I don't see what is illegal about the programs which ignore the usage rights of iPlayer content and allow it to be kept/viewed indefinitely.

    1. James R Grinter

      timeshifting iPlayer?

      Well, iPlayer almost certainly isn't broadcast (if it were, it would require a TV license, right?), so to do it is presumably in violation of the CDPA 1988 (Illegal? yes, but not a criminal offence unless you're then selling or hiring those copies or doing something that makes them available to the public. AIUI.)

  5. Alex Walsh
    Thumb Down

    And yet...

    ... no doubt when the hoards of XBMC users decide to torrent the TV shows instead of streaming them, the BBC will be up in arms.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Where's my refund?

    Can I have some of my license fee back now that I can no longer use XBMC to watch iPlayer? My only alternative for watching in the living room is the WII support with its horrendous audio sync problems.

    iPlayer on XBMC was a revelation, providing video on demand in a way that no commercial alternative can offer. Fortunately it also has plugins for program guides that link directly to torrents.... nice foot shooting strategy on the Beeb's part to push XBMC users to the illegal alternative by disabling the decent service they were (and still are) PAYING FOR.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @timeshifting iPlayer?

    You need a license to watch TV in real time, even if you use iPlayer to do so (lots can be viewed this way, just click on today in the menu). They added computers as a legitimate device some time ago. Watching the recorded versions of programmes does not require a license as i understand it.

  8. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Where is this source code?

    They do not say word about free software - ie freedom to tinker, freedom to install on hardware of my choice (ie non-x86). They go on about the much weaker term open source, but after a few web searches, I have not found the source code for the BBC's iplayer. Clearly the BBC has an unusual definition of open source and are in complete denial about free software. Anyone would think a bunch of ex-Microsoft executives joined the BBC to boost the value of their share options.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    BBC Lost it's Yarbles... anyone seen them?

    ... where's your balls gone, BBC?

    Cut off by political posturing I suspect - this being just another manifestation of that posturing.

    Chopped of your goolies so you could dress up pretty for a dance with the Conservatives?

    Depends on which of these you believe:

  10. blah 5


    "BBC online managing editor Ian Hunter claimed in a blog post today that the term "open source" had been "conflated" by users who had grumbled about third party RTMP plugins being locked out of the catch-up service."

    Freaking moron doesn't know the difference between open _standards_ and open _source_ and blames the user community?? What's happening to the Beeb?

  11. Jamie Jones Silver badge


    flvstreamer still works, and I thought that was rtmp...

  12. Frozen Ghost


    For everyone who is saying this will push people (back) to piracy - the BBC just doesn't care.

    Most of the original BBC content never makes it to DVD so the financial loss from piracy is nothing (or even beneficial considering bandwidth). All the BBC cares about is appeasing license holders to make them see iPlayer as a safe distribution system and hence granting the licence.

  13. Ed

    Still works?

    As far as I can tell, (which uses flvstreamer) still works fine, and is a really useful script!

  14. headkase

    Sorry you don't own a Dell computer.

    Locking out other operating systems particularly when they are British Citizens and pay their TV tax is tandamount to saying: "Sorry you don't own a Dell computer, we won't serve you." With replacing Dell with Windows. Perhaps its just the immaturity of the market: I'm sure twenty years from now this will all be moot and we will all be using state-approved content delivery systems. Until then the BBC should recognize that inclusive rather than exclusive standards are the way to go. Do a simple Internet Protocol Address Lookup to make sure its a British Citizen and if so just serve the content. Perhaps a few people will slip through the iron grip of control but is it better to let a few slip through or deny legitimate Citizens the right to participate?

  15. Joe Montana


    All of this DRM crap is a huge waste of time and money on both sides...

    Why don't they simply use region restrictions on the IP address accessing the service and serve content in an open format (perhaps their own DIRAC) to any valid UK IP that requests it.

    Sure, you could argue that its possible for someone outside of the UK to proxy through a UK address and retrieve the content, but then what's to stop that machine on a UK IP having a tv tuner card and simply streaming data from that instead?

    There are also satellite broadcasts of the BBC channels which are easily received all over europe, and in some countries such as holland even broadcast the BBC channels.

    The content from iplayer is pretty poor quality anyway, a decent copy from a digital satellite broadcast tends to be of higher quality, and most shows available for torrent are acquired that way.

    When i missed an episode of a BBC show i wanted to see a few weeks ago i turned to torrents rather than iplayer because i was assured of a higher quality copy that i could play how/when i choose. I have a tv licence and feel i have every right to watch any show that is broadcast on the channels i have paid for, in whatever way suits me best.

  16. heyrick Silver badge

    HTTP DRMs?

    Is that an *actual* quote?!?

  17. Sean Timarco Baggaley


    Re. Open source:

    "Open Source" is not a registered trademark of the GNU foundation. The concept was not invented by Stallman and his friends in any way. All he did was popularise the concept of "Free(-as-in-speech) Software". So that's a non-argument.

    (Also, the BBC iPlayer *client* is Adobe AIR, and has been for some time. Were none of you paying attention?)

    Re. DRM and the BBC:

    The BBC has NO CHOICE about DRM: they do NOT make ALL their programming in-house! Did you all miss the kiss of death given to the BBC by John "Dalek" Birt and his "Producer Choice" bollocks? See those credits at the end of each programme? Notice the additional, non-BBC logos? That's right: *private companies*. And THEY dictate the terms of distribution and transmission, not the BBC!

    Get it now?

    If you don't like the position the BBC has been placed in, VOTE ACCORDINGLY. If you (re-)elect Labour or the Tories this year, you have only yourselves to blame for the consequences. Democracy is a *responsibility*, not a "right".

  18. Anonymous Coward

    iPlayer - Shame on you

    If the BBC gets to choose which computer systems and which operating systems are allowed to use iPlayer, shouldn’t someone who uses a computer system or operating system that is not FULLY supported with the iPlayer be able to choose whether or not to pay the BBC?

    (maybe Linux users should get a licence at a reduced rate in return for the reduced functionality in the same way blind people do. At least they get the audio)

    As far as I can tell the BBC is the only company who can force you to buy something even if you don’t use it just because you are CAPABLE of receiving BBC content.

    I wish I could post something through every door in the UK and force people to pay for it just because they were CAPABLE of using it it, then have the support of the legal system to enforce my right to shove it down everyone's neck and fine or imprison anyone who didn't cough-up the money.

    If you keep pissing-off legitimate licence payers this way I can see people lobbying to make the licence fee an opt-in fee and just watch the other 100+ channels available and save the £12 a month for something more useful.

    BBC, you are misusing our trust, I would expect to see large numbers of people trying to get the licence fee abolished if you abuse it any further.

    Your onto a good thing with your current protection racket, don't push your luck.

  19. bexley

    built open source

    What he meant by that was that the servers all run SLES, mostly, there are a few windows servers in there such as the encoders that record the off air content.

    Strangely the BBC outsource the management of Iplayer to Red Bee Media and dont actually run it themselves.

    All it is,is some windows boxes recording / capturing off air content from set top box feeds, some linux boxes pushing files around, more linux boxes running the database and an asset management system call Ardome to manage it all.

    So yes, the BBC have benefitet quite a lot from there contractors choice to use Linux. But that's it. The gut's of the thing is Ardome which certainly is not open source (but also run's on Linux).

    Still, not too sure why they are really bothering to 'protect' their content as it's really just not possible at the moment to stop people recording stuff offair. They would hve to go ahead and encrypt it which they wont do.

    Makes little sense to me why they knocked out the XBMC plugin, I'm pretty sure you still had to have a UK IP address to use that plug in anyway, as far as the BBC are concerned your just using a different player.

    I expect they didnt know this was going to happen while updating some code. fixed one thing broke another.

    1. Chip

      Built on Open source

      Actually most programs apart from live, are ingested both for playout to TV and transcoded for online anything up to 16 days before transmission and then the online versions are available with seconds of TX. So no set top boxes included at all. Ardome is part of the various boxes of tricks but much of the development Red Be has done on various projects is in Drupple an Open Source Media DB solution. Not sure if this helps but I saw "All it is,is some windows boxes recording / capturing off air content from set top box feeds" and had to chip in.

  20. Brian Morrison
    Thumb Down

    Looks like the survey is stuffed at present

    Just tried to get to it, and the site doesn't load, just sits there doing nothing.

    Probably the Beeb trying to avoid complaint.

  21. Steve 114

    Trying hard enough

    Not sure the BEEB 'wants' to lock out users. More likely their contracts with artiste-t-ts limit repeats for fee reasons. So they have to be seen to be trying hard to limit things, but scarcely care if enthusiasts can stay one step ahead.

  22. Christian Berger

    How long untill all of BBC is torrentable?

    I'd say about 3 or 4 weeks or so. Maybe even with RSS feed.

  23. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Why can't BBC content be as open as Sky channels?

    If I can't watch "Absolutely Fabulous" whenever I want to then there is no use for the BBC's iPlayer and streaming services and they should cut it off altogether.

    I myself have never participated in a BBC tv programme. If I did then I would be offended to be paid for my effort because it is against the principle of open service. Programme makers should understand that they do what they do because it is their duty to the public, and not expect to receive payment for simply doing their duty. Most actors are unemployed anyway so it isn't as though working for free is going to hurt them. As for journalists, there must be enough people willing to pay to have stories told they way that they want (e.g. cigarette and oil companies) to keep them boozed up indefinitely, not to mention that the BBC only reports what the government wants it to say anyway.

  24. John99

    "grumble" the Trust survey was there any point in using it?

    I am not sure using the the Trusts survey; which is what your article suggests; would be the best way to make a point about this.

    My understanding being that the Survey/Review, which will now be closing, would not have any affect on the BBC or Trust's decision:

    " The Trust is not considering any changes to the on-demand offerings as part of this review. The review is an assessment of their performance to date. []"

    My understanding being that complaints must be made to the BBC before the Trust would consider them, as I commented on the BBC messageboard

  25. BeachBoy
    Thumb Up

    The usual noise

    Let me start by saying I don´t work for the BBC (I don´t even live in the UK anymore - and wish iplayer was legally available to me)

    The comments here are from a very small minority of users of the service, so if the BBC ignores you don´t blame them. They are doing the best they can to roll out a world beating service to the most number of users on as many platforms as is realistic given limited resources. MIllions of users are very happy with what they are doing. a few thousand are not. Sorry thats just life, You have alternatives to the XBMC ghetto you have decided to live in.

    As pointed out by some posters the BBC is restricted by the copyright holders of the material not by their own rules (look to the radio version of iplayer to see the difference). Anyway if you think iplayer is a problem, have you tried to use ITV´s dismal offering recently?

    As for the comment that soon all the BBC´s output will soon be available on Torrents, I have news for you 95% of it already is, youre just looking in the wrong place for it!

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