This morning I came across the following; >Subject: Re: [GeekUp] Fwd: [ORG-discuss] iPlayer DRM is over? >From: "Tim Dobson" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> >To: [EMAIL PROTECTED] > >Matt Lee has written a howto for dummies here: > >http://exploringfreedom.org/2008/03/08/bbc-iplayer-on-gnu-linux-without-flash-using-only-free-software/ > >it is less verbose and more onpoint than the flickr entry
Basically, its a how-to describing how you can go and grab the videos being made available to iPhone users by the BBC via iPlayer, from pretty much any machine, the bonus being that the process and end result are all achievable using free software. The process should be fairly familiar to most people receiving this, but it boils down to; "find the actual media source and download it". Now, a number of things concerned me. Firstly, the fact that the BBC are providing DRM free video, even though I was under the impression that this was not possible due to rather complex contractual, licensing and policy issues. A statement made by the BBC in June 2007 seems to confirm that, "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. Without a time-based DRM framework the BBC would not be able to meet the terms of the trust's PVT (Public Value Test) decision." Well the new iPlayer for the iPhone appears to be DRM free, available to anyone, anywhere (if my rather quick and dirty look using US proxies are anything to go by). Moreover using the process detailed in the how-to, it is easily downloadable and indefinitely viewable. My second concern is that those of us who are using free software may use this method to download the shows we want to watch. Others will use it to grab and immediately re-distribute this BBC content. Of course this is already potentially possible on Windows based machines, by removing the DRM the downloaded shows are easly shared. With DRM free content now being made available, it may appear that any future unauthorised redistribution of this material is somehow related to those of us that use free software or asked for a DRM free service. There is already enough confusion about the free software message and the aims of the anti-DRM movmement. So if the BBC are entitled to distribute this material DRM free for the iPhone, why are they not providing it for other platforms? I'm sure Mac/Linux/Windows/$other users would quite like DRM free, non-expiring media. In addition, I have to wonder about the legality of ripping the BBC's iPlayer streams in the manner described in Matt's how-to, it works, and works well (or at least it did at around 18:00 today), the end result would be ideal for many people in a variety of circumstances. If the BBC are not entitled to distribute this material in the manner they are doing then how are the BBC going to justify this rather large lapse, a lapse caused by trying to support a very small if rather trendy minority group? The statement made by Anthony Rose to clarify why the iPhone has been singled out is, "We started with iPhone because it is the device most optimised for high quality video currently available" I'm not sure how credible that is, given the raft of multimedia capable mobile devices out there (many more capable than the iPhone), I'm surprised that this service wasn't geared toward all mobile devices, or even all non-windows machines, after all, without a DRM component, it will presumably work on quite a few devices and pretty much any modern computer. (As an addendum, I'd love to see the numbers on how many BBC employees' have iPhones... although I assume that would be outside the scope of any viable FOI request.) I note that the service for the iPhone is intended only to be used when the iPhone is connected via a wifi connection, in future if it were available via the mobile networks there would be a rather large additional concern. The iPhone (which is only available on one network in the UK and largley from a single provider) would have a rather unique selling point, a benefit that would be rather nice in commercial terms for the iPhone's supplier (even more than it is currently). I am already rather put out that the BBC requires that I use a Windows PC to get the full use out of iPlayer (which I cannot and will not do), I'd be even more annoyed if it required me to use a specific handset tied to a specific mobile carrier to get the best out of its mobile services as well. I have some stats from earlier in the year that I wanted to look at to see exactly how many people using non-windows devices were using the BBC's various web services, one thing that struck me (apart from the fact that there were in excess of 1 million hits from identifiable Linux users) was the sheer number of mobile devices in use. Now clearly many of these will not be multimedia capable devices, but there is an obvious demand for mobile content from the BBC. From a totally personal point of view, if I could reliably determine that this was legal, I would be tempted to see if I could automate this process to some degree and then make use of my IPAQ (a Hx4700 running free software) to watch the resulting DRM free files when I am on the move. My PDA's 4' VGA screen makes it an ideal mobile media platform, the fact that I have mplayer installed and a 2Gb CF card means I could quite reasonably use it when travelling to catch up on my favourite BBC content. Obviously it would also mean that I would be able to watch content on my PC (running Debian) whenever I wished. Anyway, to sum up, I am pleased that the BBC is offering DRM free material, it is the right thing for the BBC to do, (if that is what they intended). I am rather less pleased that it is not easily usable for those of us without an iPhone. I have some questions about how this new source can be used legally, and I wonder how long it will survive as a BBC service. I'd love to get some comments from the BBC, or other interested parties with regard to the issues I have raised (apologies if they have already been addressed elsewhere). I'd also like to point out that this (rather larger than intended) commentary is not intended as a criticism of the BBC in general, the BBC provides me with a large amount of my daily news, entertainment and commentary and it does an excellent job doing so. Thanks, -- Andy Halsall
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