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BBC's Plan To Kick Open Source Out of UK TV

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the how-can-you-have-any-TV-if-you-don't-eat-your-meat? dept.

Media 302

bluec writes "Generally speaking, the BBC isn't allowed to encrypt or restrict its broadcasts: the license fee payer pays for these broadcasts. But the BBC has tried to get around this, asking Ofcom for permission to encrypt the 'metadata' on its broadcasts – including the assistive information used by deaf and blind people and the 'tables' used by receivers to play back the video. As Ofcom gears up to a second consultation on the issue, there's one important question that the BBC must answer if the implications of this move are to be fully explored, namely: How can free/open source software co-exist with a plan to put DRM on broadcasts?"

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The BBC aren't (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30541444)

So which is it, Brits? "The BBC isn't" or "The BBC aren't"? You're famous for saying "Microsoft are introducing" and the like, but why use the singular in this case? Is it because BBC stands for British Broadcasting Corporation and it'd be utterly stupid to say "The corporation aren't..."? What about other corporations who have their abbreviation with the C included? For example, would you say "NBC are" or "NBC is"? After all, it's talking about the National Broadcasting Corporation and wouldn't you look like a buffoon if you shouted out to your mate: "the corporation are".

Re:The BBC aren't (5, Funny)

SlothDead (1251206) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541502)

Where is the "-1 boring" moderation?

Boring (0, Redundant)

sshore (50665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541600)

Where is the "-1 boring" moderation?

I've been using Overrated for that. Some posts don't even merit the logged in 1, or anonymous 0.

BBC whats that (1)

CHRONOSS2008 (1226498) | more than 4 years ago | (#30542102)

form the who cares dept what they say or do
there becoming the dinosaurs they talk about so often

Re:The BBC aren't (2, Funny)

Dupple (1016592) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541506)

Yes they (the BBC) are. No they (the BBC) aren't

Yes it (the BBC) is. No it (the BBC) isn't.

English... Do you speak it?

Re:The BBC aren't (2, Insightful)

b1t r0t (216468) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541732)

In American usage, companies are generally considered to be singular nouns. But the BBC is, err, I mean the bbc are British, therfore they should be considered a plural noun, as per British usage.

Re:The BBC aren't (1)

billsayswow (1681722) | more than 4 years ago | (#30542138)

I think it might refer to if they're talking about the BBC as a group of people, or as an entity.

Re:The BBC aren't (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30542288)

You dirty nigger

Re:The BBC aren't (1)

Jerry Smith (806480) | more than 4 years ago | (#30542330)

So which is it, Brits? "The BBC isn't" or "The BBC aren't"? You're famous for saying "Microsoft are introducing" and the like, but why use the singular in this case? Is it because BBC stands for British Broadcasting Corporation and it'd be utterly stupid to say "The corporation aren't..."? What about other corporations who have their abbreviation with the C included? For example, would you say "NBC are" or "NBC is"? After all, it's talking about the National Broadcasting Corporation and wouldn't you look like a buffoon if you shouted out to your mate: "the corporation are".

http://www.bbc.co.uk/info/purpose/what.shtml [bbc.co.uk] "The BBC is the largest broadcasting corporation in the world. " But you're right: this is a US-centric blog hence should not cover non-US-centric news. And you're also right to add as an AC: I'd be ashamed as well if I spouted such nonsense. I guess you're the life of the office Christmas-party.

Re:The BBC aren't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30542396)

But you're right: this is a US-centric blog...

guardian.co.uk is a US-centric blog?

Strange question (4, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541458)

How can free/open source software co-exist with a plan to put DRM on broadcasts?

It's simple, really.

Someone develops an Open Source DRM software solution, and the BBC uses it.

It's no different from a closed source DRM solution, except that since it is OSS, it may have a stronger encryption system since it can't rely on security through obscurity.

"Open Source" means a lot of different things to different people, but the basic concept is that it is the software which is free. How the users use the tools isn't part of the equation. So a good OSS DRM solution is a boon for some users (and a bane for their users). But either way, FOSS is not at all at odds with DRM.

Re:Strange question (5, Informative)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541508)

In an open-source solution you can download the source and a debugger and see exactly which bytes you need to patch to break the DRM.. Finding 09 F9 was hard when hackers had a 15MB memory dump to scour, but it wouldn't be hard at all with the full source code. You don't seem to realize that an "encryption system" needs to store its key (or a method of obtaining the key) in the source or else the client can't view the content at all.

You can do some Bad Things like using a weird memory manager that puts instructions in unpredictable places but that only increases headaches all around and is still breakable.

Re:Strange question (1)

el_tedward (1612093) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541548)

Executives just don't seem to understand the least remote concepts of encryption...

Lets say I give hacker bob 12 laptops with 5 million credit card numbers on each of them. They're fully encrypted, don't run as root, and he doesn't have any passwords/keys. Laptops limit non-root users from removing any data, but there's still an ethernet port and a usb drive. What should I expect to happen here?

Re:Strange question (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30541672)

Easy.... He

1)Sells Laptops.
2)???
3)Profit!

Re:Strange question (1, Offtopic)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 4 years ago | (#30542104)

If it's encrypted and the keys are stored elsewhere, the drive is full of useless data. If you use any competent encryption, it will take at least thousands of years to break - assuming he has no more resources than every computer on earth.

Re:Strange question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30542194)

he wipes teh drives and sells your laptops at a pawn shop.

next question.

Re:Strange question (5, Insightful)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541586)

Encryption strength depends on the key, not the algorithm. You can study the source of GnuPG all you want, but you can't break the encryption without the private key.

And DRM fails because of neither the key nor the algorithm. It fails because some greedy clods don't know heck about the basic principles of encryption, one of which being that you can't encrypt and not-encrypt at the same time.

Re:Strange question (2, Informative)

Mad Merlin (837387) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541852)

Encryption strength depends on the key, not the algorithm.

Actually they're both important. For example, XOR encryption is remarkably weak in most cases. Especially based on your further comments, I think what you really meant to say was:

Encryption strength depends on the secrecy of the key, not the algorithm.

Re:Strange question (2, Insightful)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541968)

XOR, just like ROT-N, isn't really encryption at all, I think.

And yes, secrecy of the key is a necessity, but not all. Weak keys can be guessed. Strong keys add to the difficulty of breaching its secrecy by guess.

But all these are trash-talk WRT DRM. Those who want DRM are blinded by the doublethink of giving you something while not giving you it. They borrow things from encryption technology but refuse to face the fact that encryption is intended to defeat tampering or eavesdropping, not DUPLICATION -- neither spatially nor temporally.

And that's why they don't rely on DRM alone. They know. And they buy laws so you can't duplicate certain things legally. And the culmination of this law-shopping was DMCA which says you can't even attempt to break the DRM which protects copyrighted material from being duplicated. This is a lie, because DRM by design is NOT capable of being a method of stopping duplication. (Luckily this USA insanity has not yet prevailed globally as intended.)

And mods, you can as well mod me down, -1 Offtopic.

Re:Strange question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30542348)

Actually they're both important. For example, XOR encryption is remarkably weak in most cases. Especially based on your further comments, I think what you really meant to say was:

XOR encryption is mathematically unbreakable if you use a big key...

Re:Strange question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30542468)

But you could read the source of GnuPG, figure out the memory address where it will store the private key during decryption, do a memory dump of the program while it is decrypting a file, and then extract the private key. Thus, open source DRM won't work without special hardware assistance (TPM), and even then it would probably be broken.

DRM is essentially security through obscurity - they know it won't hold forever, so they try to make laws against attempting to break it.

Re:Strange question (5, Informative)

Kevinv (21462) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541632)

> an "encryption system" needs to store its key (or a method of obtaining the key) in the source or else the client can't view the content at all.

This is untrue for an "encryption system". It is generally true for a DRM system.

GPG, PGP, many open source projects implementing encryption systems such as AES, DES, etc... have no qualms about their source being public. Because the keys do NOT need to be included in the source.

DRM system such as DVD encryption however requires the player to be able to decode the disc for playback, but they don't want the user to be able to playback on non-certified devices. This means the player has to have a key to decode the files. Keys don't need to be stored in the source, but the source would reveal how the key was used. It would reveal implementation problems that could make breaking the DRM easier.

Re:Strange question (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541746)

Satellite receivers solve this with smartcards. Then there's government and/or industry collusion to make sure the readers aren't available on the open market for open source solutions to use.

Re:Strange question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30542600)

When Alice sends Bob a message she doesn't want Eve to read, she uses encryption. With DRM, Bob and Eve are the same person. DRM is a logical impossibility.

Reverse engineering a binary is more difficult than reading the source, but you only need one guy with the patience and skill to do it.

Re:Strange question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30542004)

You don't seem to realize that an "encryption system" needs to store its key (or a method of obtaining the key) in the source or else the client can't view the content at all.

*cough* bullshit. Most open source encryption software relies on public/private key cryptography, and the key doesn't need to be in the source code, it doesn't even have to originate from the software in question. You may check BluRay's spec, it's all open in fact, but you won't see any particular keys used in the sample code or algorithms. The whole point is that you can change the key, and keep the source code as is, and it's still safe.

Re:Strange question (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 4 years ago | (#30542148)

My statement was accurate. If you want the client to view the content then it has to have a key or a reproducable method of obtaining the key externally (network, smartcard reader) in the source code.

Re:Strange question (1)

devent (1627873) | more than 4 years ago | (#30542340)

The DRM in Games is cracked in Weeks, because someone will find the key (or what else hack) in the Xx MB binary blob.

For the BBC is the same situation, either there are some interested in finding the key or not. I think there are not so many who are interested so it will take a while w/ or w/o the source.

Obscurity is no security. Neither for games nor for the BBC.

Re:Strange question (1)

Pastis (145655) | more than 4 years ago | (#30542418)

In an open-source solution, you can download the source, read it, modify it and recompile it.

- if (playBackAuthorized())
+ // if (playBackAuthorized())
      play();

In a true Free Software solution, you can even redistribute binaries.

No need to patch bytes ;)

Re:Strange question (2, Informative)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541546)

If you can read the source code of a program, the function can be modified and thus a hypothetical open source DRM program could be engineered to decode the media wtihout implementing DRM's limitations. Which is much of why DRM is so disgusting. Not only does it severely limit what someone can do with their legally bought media, it also must be proprietary in order to hide the key from the user themselves.

Re:Strange question (2, Interesting)

WhatDoIKnow (962719) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541652)

That would apply to DRM on recorded media like a CD or DVD or one-way communication like old fashioned conventional broadcast TV. I don't know about the UK, but US cable providers, for instance, could certainly implement a DRM system that used for example public/private keys or some other type of separately delivered encryption key. Simply reverse-engineering such a system would not by itself allow playback of the encrypted stream.

Re:Strange question (2, Interesting)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541696)

At some point there's going to need to be decrypted data at the device its self and once that happens it's game over.

Re:Strange question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30541950)

> At some point there's going to need to be decrypted data at the device its self and once that happens it's game over.

What you say is true, but with enough hardware support for DRM, it may be well beyond the capabilities of most anyone to read it.

We're not there *yet*. But give it time.

Re:Strange question (4, Interesting)

Virak (897071) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541700)

I don't think you quite understand. The only thing DRM has is security by obscurity. When you freely hand out both the ciphertext *and* the key to whoever asks, you can't have anything else. And if it's open source, you don't get even that. So no, you're not going to see any open source DRM systems any time soon.

Re:Strange question (5, Interesting)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541742)

you're not going to see any open source DRM systems any time soon.

While I can't be clear on their efficacy, it would be incorrect to say there are no DRM systems available.

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=open+source+drm+solutions [lmgtfy.com]

Re:Strange question (4, Insightful)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541774)

It's no different from a closed source DRM solution, except that since it is OSS, it may have a stronger encryption system since it can't rely on security through obscurity.

You're operating under two assumptions that exec-types often do:

First, you assume it has something to do with the strength of the encryption. It doesn't. DVD CSS was pathetic, it's true, and can easily be brute-forced on modern machines -- but the original crack was someone obtaining the keys. Blu-Ray (and HD-DVD) were cracked not by finding some flaw in the algorithms used, but in finding the key (09 F9 ...).

Second, it is always security through obscurity. In order to play the movie, you need the key. In order to copy the movie, you need the key. Thus, in order to play the movie, you need the same thing you'd need in order to copy the movie, and there is no way around that. All DRM around audiovisual content is crackable. This is a flaw inherent in the nature of DRM. It is something which will never be improved.

Vastly more important question (5, Insightful)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541812)

How does DRM help the BBC provide their services to the taxpayer, better ?

Re:Vastly more important question (3, Insightful)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#30542184)

How does DRM help the BBC provide their services to the taxpayer, better ?

The BBC partners with other prduction companies and distributors world-wide.

International syndication and home video sales draws in big money and big talent. That's the benefit to the taxpayer.

Small Island
Adapted from the award-winning 2004 novel, this mini-series stars Naomie Harris (Pirates of the Caribbean, White Teeth, 28 Days Later) as Hortense, a young ambitious Jamaican woman thrust into the grit of 1940s post-war London. A Ruby Television production in association with AL Films for BBC, coproduced with WGBH and made on location in Northern Ireland with the assistance of Northern Ireland Screen.


Sharpe's Peril
Sharpe's Challenge
Shot entirely in India, these two installments of the award-winning series, Sharpe, star Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings, Troy, Golden Eye) as Bernard Cornwell's title character. Sharpe's Peril is a Celtic Films Ent./Picture Palace Films/Duke Street Films co-production in association with Harper Collins. Sharpe's Challenge is a Celtic Films and Picture Place production.

  BBC WORLDWIDE ANNOUNCES DRAMA CO-PRODUCTIONS WITH WGBH/MASTERPIECE FOR EMMA AND CRANFORD 2 [pbs.org]

Dougray Scott, Joely Richardson, Brian Cox, Vanessa Redgrave, Eddie Izzard and Jason Priestley star in The Day Of The Triffids, written by Patrick Harbinson (ER, Law & Order). This epic, apocalyptic and futuristic two-part drama is a co-production between Power and Canadian producer Prodigy Pictures for BBC One The Day Of The Triffids attracts all-star cast to BBC One [bbc.co.uk]

Re:Vastly more important question (3, Funny)

Alsee (515537) | more than 4 years ago | (#30542364)

Because US TV and movie studios claim they won't accept the BBC's money if they don't.

Giggle snort.

-

Re:Vastly more important question (3, Insightful)

williamhb (758070) | more than 4 years ago | (#30542402)

How does DRM help the BBC provide their services to the taxpayer, better ?

Because one of its services is its support for British programme-makers and independent production companies. Those companies rely partly on revenue from DVD sales and international sales for their survival. So, the BBC's DRM isn't just "because the nasty big-wigs in Hollywood want us to", but also part of their remit to foster artistic industry in the UK. If Kudos, Tiger Aspect, Hat Trick, etc, say they need DRM if content is to be broadcast in better-than-DVD quality, that matters.

Re:Strange question (4, Insightful)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541880)

If it is truly FOSS then I can modify the software to, as well sending the decrypted video to the output device, write it to a storage device in unencrypted non-DRMed format.

Hence the DRM is completely useless and pointless and there can be no FOSS media players that respect DRM.

Re:Strange question (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30542432)

If it is truly FOSS then I can modify the software to, as well sending the decrypted video to the output device, write it to a storage device in unencrypted non-DRMed format. Hence the DRM is completely useless and pointless and there can be no FOSS media players that respect DRM.

I assume you never lock your house or bicycle, then. Because that security can be circumvented far more easily than re-programming the firmware of a set-top box. (In the first case, with a brick.)

Re:Strange question (2, Interesting)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541970)

Perhaps I'm missing something, but it seems like the article is suggesting that all media boxes that run on open source software will be unusable with any kind DRM because, in general, DRM solutions need to be closed. Setting aside whether or not that's correct (see other responses for discussion of that) it seems to be oblivious to the fact that open source players are perfectly capable of using closed-source codecs provided they can license use of the relevant binary blobs. Furthermore, proprietary video players can always be released for Linux.

Sure the BBC could choose to use a format that isn't supported on Linux but there's no fundamental problem with running proprietary software on open source platforms. If the BBC wants to pay for developing a version of a proprietary codec to run on Linux media boxes, they can. DRM will still be a poor choice for reasons that any /. reader knows all about, but it's a choice that isn't fundamentally tied in to interoperability with OSS (even if the philosophies behind DRM and OSS are at odds).

BBC (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30541466)

Where else in the world is someone required to pay a tax to a corporation? Required, as in you will go to jail if you don't give a corporation money for a service you might not need or want. Oh, wait, that kind of describes ObamaCare too.

Re:BBC (3, Insightful)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541674)

Where else in the world is someone required to pay a tax to a corporation? Required, as in you will go to jail if you don't give a corporation money for a service you might not need or want.

You have a lot to learn about the US tax system: http://www.cbpp.org/images/cms//WhereOurTaxDollarsGo_MostOfBudget.jpg [cbpp.org] Around 70% to 80% of my taxes go to services I don't need or want, yet I am forced to pay for them. True, we don't have to pay for a TV license, so that makes it ok.

Re:BBC (2, Insightful)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 4 years ago | (#30542446)

I looked at that graph. Which 70 or 80% do you not want?

Defense is kind of important (whether or not you agree on our current strategy)

Assuming that the legislature don't deliberately bankrupt it, you'll eventually benefit from Social Security (and as the past year or so has shown, people are horrible at staying out of debt, let alone saving for retirement).

You'll also eventually want Medicare (or at least need the services it provides).

Of course, if you plan to die before retirement age under foreign occupation....yeah, we can throw away the 80% of the budget that you don't think we need.

Re:BBC (1)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 4 years ago | (#30542578)

Of course we need defense although the budget is hugely bloated out of proportion due to pork and other forms of corruption rather than genuine defense needs. As for what I don't need, social welfare alone is over 50% (Health, SS and other benefits). The next two largest items, debt interest and gov employee benefits are also large because of the inflated size of the government in the first place. When you add up all the other smaller stuff, you can easily get to around 70%. No, I don't need Social Security or Medicare. I can provide for my own retirement and health care and even if I couldn't I wouldn't think it morally acceptable to demand that others be forced to provide it for me.

Re:BBC (3, Informative)

Chaos Incarnate (772793) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541822)

You only have to give them money if you're using the service (television broadcasts). No TV, or a TV that's only a monitor for DVD players and video game consoles, and you don't have to pay.

Re:BBC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30542078)

...or any device capable of viewing programming at the same time as the terrestrial broadcast. This would include computers and mobiles phones viewing streamed content. The BBC's push into web content provision is accompanied by its lobbying for the extension of the licence fee to these devices or the ISPs specifically to close the loophole that no tv = no license fee.

Re:BBC (3, Informative)

Totenglocke (1291680) | more than 4 years ago | (#30542112)

Except that there are non-BBC channels and you have to pay the tax even if you never watch a BBC channel.

To use a car analogy, this would be like having to pay a monthly fee to Ford for "car services" regardless of what brand your car is.

Re:BBC (1)

Wowsers (1151731) | more than 4 years ago | (#30542558)

That's easy for you to say not to pay the disgusting BBC tax, but recent developments will most likely mean that all phone lines will get a new BBC tax (eventually).... because you "could" get the BBC by clicking a link.

If the government can come up with a fake reason to slap a 50pence/month (plus VAT tax on this 50p tax) on all phone lines (even VoIP lines line SkypeIn), then they could put another tax on phone lines "just in case" you want to visit the BBC / view online content.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/6770899/Pre-Budget-report-2009-50p-broadband-tax.html [telegraph.co.uk]

BBC shows via Video on demand (different to their iPlayer service), another reason to tax phone lines, whether you use the BBC or not.
http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/media/article6964461.ece [timesonline.co.uk]

strange headline (5, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541468)

Maybe it's a nitpick, but the headline "BBC's Plan To Kick Open Source Out of UK TV" to me sounds like someone is against open-source software, and has conjured up a scheme, the primary purpose of which is to harm it.

From the article, though, it seems more likely that the BBC is worried about copyright infringement, and as with many companies, the only sort-of-half-assed solution they can think of to combat it is to introduce some DRM, and the only even-more-half-assed solution they can think of to make it hard to crack the DRM is security-through-obscurity. That's incompatible with OSS, as Cory Doctorow points out, but I think out of a misplaced attempt to use security-through-obscurity, not out of an actual antipathy to open-source vs. proprietary software as licensing models. Who knows if they even realized that: 1) lots of open-source software is used in conjunction with receiving TV broadcasts (and not just by warez groups); and 2) their scheme would therefore harm an important segment of the public.

And We Should Give A Shit About Cory Doctorow Why? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30541574)

"That's incompatible with OSS"

Too bad that no one gives a shit about what you or any other random clown claims is incompatible with open source software. Open source has been here long before the licensing(GNU,FSF,etc) kooks showed up and tried to hijack the concept.

Re:strange headline (1)

tuppe666 (904118) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541670)

The BBC is not a company, albeit with a commercial arm. That well sells stuff you have paid for back to you. In sad fact is they act more like one. If only it was about the people who are taxed for it.

The sceams proposed are less about security which certainly the proposed methods seem easy to bypass but the fact that those laws passed to stop terrorists are there to stop people accessing content in a way they can control that they have been taxed for.

Re:strange headline (1)

GIL_Dude (850471) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541862)

Do you have a suggestion for a non half-assed solution to prevent copyright infringement? If so, you could probably make quite a bundle on your idea. It's all well and good to point out the flaws of said systems - but what we need is someone who can point to how this stuff should be done and help the industry to do it right. At this point in time, it is hard to see how content providers could continue to spend the resources to creative expensive (some would say quality, others would say cruddy, but few would dispute that it currently has high costs for talent) content if they just dropped all of their DRM efforts and tacitly allowed the unfettered copying of their content.

I'm no genius on this - I wish that I had the next big idea here. As a consumer though I would want a system that allows me free access to shift content between any devices and any format without having to hack it. Any OS should be usable. The media companies would reasonably expect that if I transferred it to someone else that it would be transferred like a book and I would no longer have a copy. Loan it? Sure. Sell it (under first sale doctrine) - sure, but then I should no longer have a copy. (Yes, the media companies wouldn't like that, but I said if they were being reasonable they would expect that).

There needs to be some way to build something like this without requiring "servers" that can be taken offline (like what Wal-Mart tried to do) in order to view the content.

Re:strange headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30541934)

At this point in time, it is hard to see how content providers could continue to spend the resources to creative expensive...content if they just dropped all of their DRM efforts and tacitly allowed the unfettered copying of their content.

Here's the thing: DRM doesn't do what it's intended to do. It doesn't matter whether the content providers "allow the unfettered copying of their content" or not. DRM doesn't affect piracy; it just creates barriers to the exercise of rights we actually have.

The media companies would reasonably expect that if I transferred it to someone else that it would be transferred like a book and I would no longer have a copy.

No, there is nothing "reasonable" about this idea. We're talking about bits of information, not a physical object. These bits of information don't exist in the same way as a book on a shelf. Asking for a way to make these bits scarce and uncopyable is a sign of ignorance or insanity. It's mathematically impossible.

Double Check Your Premise & Concentrate on Cas (2, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541480)

Let me preface this by just notifying the reader that I am in no way condoning or endorsing BBC's actions. I think they suck and are nothing but evil. However, I find an overlooked argument that Doctorow chooses not to address.

Now, generally speaking, the BBC isn't allowed to encrypt or restrict its broadcasts

Where is it written that the BBC isn't allowed to encrypt or restrict its broadcasts? Is that a law I'm unaware of?

the licence fee payer pays for these broadcasts, and no licence fee payer woke up today wishing that the BBC had added restrictions to its programming.

I think that's a false statement. I would bet there are some of the population wagering that if the BBC could encrypt the signal in some way, then they could better control one of the few revenues they have (aside from the taxpayer). That being DVD sales and sales to a vast amount of the world--namely everyone who is not British.

This might conflict statements about wanting to encourage open source but make no mistake about it, the BBC does not have to support open source. Does it suck? Most certainly. Should you complain about it? Of course. But the logic here isn't just the desire to control the set top boxes or some ultra evil GNU/GPL destruction campaign. No%2

Re:Double Check Your Premise & Concentrate on (1)

tuppe666 (904118) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541704)

I think that's a false statement. I would bet there are some of the population wagering that if the BBC could encrypt the signal in some way, then they could better control one of the few revenues they have (aside from the taxpayer). That being DVD sales and sales to a vast amount of the world--namely everyone who is not British.

This might conflict statements about wanting to encourage open source but make no mistake about it, the BBC does not have to support open source. Does it suck? Most certainly. Should you complain about it? Of course. But the logic here isn't just the desire to control the set top boxes or some ultra evil GNU/GPL destruction campaign. No%2

Sorry I want to know how selling DVD's back to me or programs I've paid for on other channels on BRITISH TV the revenue for this is 700million. They get 3 1/2 billion already. Yet your argument that they cannot give free access to everyone in Britain and not make sales elsewhere!? simply does not hold water. Does copyright not exist for the BBC. Does it make it better that this policy that is anti those that are taxed for its very existence, that as a by product it will not work on Linux Ditributions...although I am a little concerned why you chose GNU/GPL the OS is made of many licenses BSD/APACHE and a whole host of others. Also GNU is only a small part of the ecosystem, in fact your as much better talking about Red Hat/Sun/Intel although to be fair only FSF seem to protest on my behalf...thank goodness for them.

Re:Double Check Your Premise & Concentrate on (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30542244)

Fucking Tory. Die in a fire.

Re:Double Check Your Premise & Concentrate on (1)

Alsee (515537) | more than 4 years ago | (#30542442)

Where is it written that the BBC isn't allowed to encrypt or restrict its broadcasts? Is that a law I'm unaware of?

Exactly. TV broadcasts are legally required to be in the clear in the US as well. Public broadcasting licenses require the broadcasts to actually be public. For example you can broadcasts personal chat on CB frequencies, but a TV station cannot use its frequencies to transmit the station owner's chat to his buddies.

That is why the TV and movie studios have been pushing in the US for a "broadcasts flag"... un-encrypted video and audio along with a bit that says "don't copy me", and they want the FCC to impose an administrative regulation mandating that all digital TV receivers must implement DRM systems to obey that "do not copy" message.

They'd much rather get some an FCC administrative regulation than try to stand up in public before congress asking for a law to do that. There's already a law giving the FCC fairly general authority to administratively regulate transmitting equipment. Unfortunately for them (snicker), a court has already ruled that regulations on receiving equipment do not fall within the existing law giving the FCC power to regulate transmissions. Awwww, that's such a shame.

-

Dirac (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30541510)

However, the BBC would like to collaborate with the Open Source community, academics and others to produce an Open Codec [bbc.co.uk]

Not Mutually Exclusive (2, Interesting)

drfreak (303147) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541520)

DRM does not depend on a particular programming paradigm, nor does Open Source. PGP is a great example of open source security which remains secure. The challenge really lies in the implementor, who needs to enforce security while not falling back on closed-cource obfuscation to achieve the task.

Re:Not Mutually Exclusive (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30541544)

DRM absolutely excludes open source, Free-with-a-capital-F-as-in-Freedom software. My freedom is restricted if I am not permitted to modify the software (e.g. to write to disk instead of screen).

Re:Not Mutually Exclusive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30542370)

DRM absolutely excludes open source, Free-with-a-capital-F-as-in-Freedom software.

Nonsense. DRM used to restrict your access to your own device excludes "open source, Free-with-a-capital-F-as-in-Freedom software". DRM used by you on your hardware to stop unsigned code running could certainly be compatible with open source, would not restrict your freedom at all.

The key issue is not the existence of DRM but its control. If you control the DRM on devices you own then it's no problem. If you don't control the DRM then you don't really own the device.

Re:Not Mutually Exclusive (5, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541612)

PGP has a much easier task, though: it only needs to ensure that people with the key can decrypt content, while people without the key cannot. DRM schemes need to ensure that the same person can only decrypt given content for certain purposes, and not for other purposes.

Re:Not Mutually Exclusive (2, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541694)

And thus DRM ultimately is, at best, security through obscurity (by obscurity, in this case, burying the key and hoping it's obfuscated enough that a hacker can't pull out the key). The problem is simple. They want to control how you use their data, but no too much. It would certainly be trivial to set up a public-private key system for content, particularly for downloadable content. But they want their cake and eat it too, they want to protect their rights, as they perceive it, but still keep their existing business model. In the long-run, it's a no-win scenario. Since my earliest days of playing with computers, the notion that you could secure your product by storing the password in it has been known as idiot's security, implemented by idiots with the hope that anyone touching the product is an even bigger idiot.

Re:Not Mutually Exclusive (1)

KahabutDieDrake (1515139) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541810)

Which is why DRM is ALWAYS breakable, were as PGP isn't necessarily. DRM is security theater at it's best. Nothing more.

Ultimately, DRM will accomplish nothing other than to frustrate some users, limit others and on good days, go unnoticed. It will NEVER stop people from copying content. It never has, and it never will.

Encryption Doesn't, DRM Does (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30541836)

When encrypting a connection to a remote computer, what you protect the data from are any external threat, like MITM.
When applying Digital Rights Management on a file, what you protect the data from are the people sitting at the other end of pipeline.

It's all about how to safely encrypt/decrypt files on *someone else's* computer. If the administrator had full access to their system, he can see what the user is doing on his machine, obtain what's in his "My Documents", /home/usrname/bin/, or whatever. How can a user ensure the admin can't look into his private data?

Now, "the admin" is a consumer, and "the user" is license holder. How can a license holder ensure the consumer can't attach gdb to his own computer?

Re:Not Mutually Exclusive (3, Informative)

evilviper (135110) | more than 4 years ago | (#30542028)

DRM depends on proprietary software. You are encrypting a file, then giving the user the key to decode it, while telling the program in question to decode the file, but only allow it to be used in one of a few ways (eg. display PDF, but don't print).

Such a system is untenable with proprietary software (just need to find the right memory address), and absolutely impossible with open source software, as you can simply remove the line in the program that tells it what actions not to allow. (See xpdf). With proprietary DRM systems, the companies just hope it's difficult enough to decipher the compiled code of the proprietary programs, that it takes a while before someone finds the right spots in memory to probe/change, and publishes the details... Then, they make trivial changes to the DRM system, and call it a new, "fixed" version that everyone should start using quickly (before someone figures it out).

The only thing DRM can do effectively, is to prevent the first opening of the file. After you send that first key (eg. via server), no matter what the DRM involved, the user can (trivially) strip the DRM off, and do whatever they want with the unencrypted file.

If that is what you want... I would suggest using public-key encryption to protect the file instead of a commercial "DRM" system. Either PGP or SSL (keys in combination with a password) can make absolutely sure only the intended recipient can make use of the file, even if others obtain copies of it. If you are expecting any more control over what others do with the file, you are simply denying reality.

Why does DRM exclude open source? (3, Interesting)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541538)

All the best encryption systems publish their source code. Real cryptographers don't trust closed source.

Re:Why does DRM exclude open source? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30541588)

Because it's very easy to adapt an open-source DRM implentation to produce a perfect digital copy in non-DRM'ed format.

Re:Why does DRM exclude open source? (4, Informative)

green1 (322787) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541590)

Real cryptographers don't try to keep the intended recipient of the message from being able to access the encryption key either. The problem is that DRM is a flawed system, you can't stop the intended recipient of a message from doing what they like with your message after they receive it... in the end they will find a way to break your system, and the fact that you had to make it possible for them to decrypt it means that you can't rely on them not being able to decrypt it.

Re:Why does DRM exclude open source? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30542062)

Of course you can. There is one fool proof (and open source) way to ensure you only use the content of the message in one way.

The BBC needs one armed person for every viewer aiming at the viewer's head while the viewer 'watches' the BBC programming. The armed person will demand that you
1) refrain from doing anything with the content
2) ensure that the content is removed from your consciousness immediately after viewing.
3) upon immediate failure of either following 1 or 2 the gun goes off.

It might be a bit intrusive, and a little expensive, but it will surely get the job done.

RIRO = Retarded In - Retarded Out

DRM is a stupid idea that only exists as a fanciful idea for the lazy ass corporate control freaks. Only when these type of fools stop trying to implement the costly DRM system will they actually spend money on creating more material than wasting money on a failure of an idea, like DRM.

I can only imagine what's going on in the Corporate fools heads:

CF1: "Oooo - I've heard of this great idea, DRM, it will make us money."
CF2: "Excellent, tell me all about how we can ensure making money?"
CF1: "We need to spend a billion dollars on DRM. Then we will control the peons."
CF2: "Sounds great! Lets start"

H1: "I've cracked the CF1 DRM in 2 minutes."

CF2: "OMG - We need a new DRM!"
CF1: "Oooo - I've heard of this great idea, DRM, it will make us money." ... rinse - repeat ...

DRM is the biggest waste of money there is. It wastes peoples time making it, wastes it cracking it, wastes it using it. I wonder how big a carbon footprint DRM has made? It's probably huge!

Re:Why does DRM exclude open source? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30541622)

Where do you put the key?

Three and a half Billion Pounds (2, Insightful)

tuppe666 (904118) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541640)

I know this site has a OS bent but

Why if 3 1/2 Billion pounds of money why is the content ALL just simply available to those who should OWN it.

It does make 700 million selling the stuff, insultingly back to us either in DVD/CD or via other freeview channels.

...and the most watched show on iplayer is top gear.

I understand the need for tax but not for this

Re:Three and a half Billion Pounds (1)

Spad (470073) | more than 4 years ago | (#30542492)

Because the BBC itself only owns a relatively small proportion of the material it broadcasts; most of it is owned by 3rd party production companies who put their own restrictions on what can be done with it.

The interesting question ... (4, Interesting)

FrankDerKte (1472221) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541686)

Although this is /. and people are more interested in technical questions, for me the really interesting question is: How can they encrypt the "metadata" on broadcasts – including the assistive information used by deaf and blind people ?

I mean, this basically means all of the broadcast can be copied and used in any way imaginable except for the part of the broadcast which is important to the handicapped ? This sounds sort of immoral to me.

Re:The interesting question ... (1)

ZERO1ZERO (948669) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541866)

Well yes. I think that's kinda the point of TFA.

Re:The interesting question ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30542086)

Maybe they have many kinds of metadata that are critical for playback... like, say, MPEG headers and keys for XORd picture frames. Did I mention assistive information used by deaf and blind people?

It can co-exist (1)

Bruha (412869) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541710)

I have no issue with open source players being given a API that allows them to make use of precompiled bits that allow decryption. Hell even put some sort of identifying information into the recorded bits to keep people honest. Not everything has to be open source. If I pay for a TV broadcast then I expect to be able to play it back on the media player of my choice. However, I will not agree to anyone trying to tell me I can not play it on my blackberry, xbox, iphone, because they've not been paid to allow it.

If BBC is boring, ENCRYPTED BBC = ?? (1)

purpleraison (1042004) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541714)

BBC is crap, how dare they encrypt it!!

This is the same as crapping in a bank vault. The only person who wants that steaming pile of poo is either insane, or thinks its something it's not.

Re:If BBC is boring, ENCRYPTED BBC = ?? (0, Offtopic)

MakinBacon (1476701) | more than 4 years ago | (#30542092)

I live in America and only get BBCA, so I can't confirm if this is true or false, but I once heard a rumor that on the real BBC some of the shows don't have Gordon Ramsey in them.

The real question is ... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30541718)

will the Doctor Who christmas special (part 1) still be on tonight?

Re:The real question is ... (5, Funny)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 4 years ago | (#30542228)

Gordon Ramsey cooks Doctor Hu a bird's nest souffle.

He reveals his secret identity as a Thymelord, but there is a leek in the kitchen.

this is not a bad thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30541726)

This is welcome news. The less people who are able to view the British banker propaganda the better.

Mutually exclusive? (2, Insightful)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541728)

Since when is FOSS mutually exclusive with DRM? You can use FOSS to sell software, make money, create DRM, and write Windows programs. These aren't activities we normally think of when it comes to FOSS, but they are generally allowed.

Re:Mutually exclusive? (3, Insightful)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 4 years ago | (#30542008)

Yes you can have an open source DRM library and so on. What you can't have is an open source media player that respects DRM usefully.

Either the user can modify the software doing the DRM to not obey the restrictions the DRM says it should in which case it isn't respecting the DRM. Or the user can't modify the software like that in which case it isn't FOSS.

Re:Mutually exclusive? (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30542072)

DRM can work by requesting a key authorisation generated by the license each tv user pays in england. DRM only values when the vendor loses the ability to control the activation keys.

Re:Mutually exclusive? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30542384)

And then someone with the source code to the DRM decoder can comment out the portion of the code which outputs the video and audio, and in its place add code to output to the hard drive.

Whether you're using ROT-26 or the most sophisticated techniques available, open source DRM is not possible because "decrypt something and display it on screen" and "decrypt something and write it to the hard drive" are not actually different things.

Re:Mutually exclusive? (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30542410)

is it worth explaining how hard you fail?

Re:Mutually exclusive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30542440)

Information theoretically, the statement of the DRM problem is this:

The user needs to be able to decrypt the content at any time (to view it), but must not be able to decrypt the content ever.

With closed source, you achieve nothing better than security through obscurity. With open source, you achieve nothing.

ofcom should deny this (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541750)

If the law (or the regulations applying to the BBC or whatever) prohibit encryption, said prohibition should apply to the entire signal as transmitted by the BBC over the air.

outrage machine. (2, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30541882)

i see nothing of any plan against open source, nor any reason the BBC MUST address your open source concerns. how about the open source people try working with others instead of going on the attack immediately?

wrong question (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30541980)

the real question, and only question, in this issue is: does the BBC have the right at all to put DRM on broadcasts since the broadcasts are publicly owned.

BBC is technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30542036)

The digital ones and zeros of fate are upon you! Everything is nothing without nothing to make it something! Look Northward, for the binary train of chaos doth chuggeth, and chuggeth, and chuggeth some more!

Re:BBC is technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30542462)

Should be "doth chug". "Doth" = "does". "Chuggeth" = "chugs".You don't say "does chugs", do you?

You're welcome.

So the BBC are evil (0)

Snaller (147050) | more than 4 years ago | (#30542088)

Hardly surprising with their censorship really.

"Trusted Computing" rears its already cracked head (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 4 years ago | (#30542320)

Take a good look at the "Palladium" toolkit, renamed "Trusted Computing". This is precisely what it was designed for: hardware specific encryption, with cautious escalation of privileges to run secured hardware with secured software. Its proprietary design broke down under virtualization, for reasons that would have been spotted much faster with an open source approach, much as the old "Clipper Chip" and "SkipJack" tools were discovered to be "flawed" because you could use your own keys to encrypt, rather than the federally registered keys the devices came with, and the ability of "Law Enforcement" to monitor it failed because the "Law Enforcement Authentication Field" was too short of a checksum, and they violated at least 3 privately held patents.

I'd expect the BBC to fail at this as they did with Iplayer: their goals are well understood, but they can't get past the demoware shown to middle management or non-technical VP's with "big plans for the future". They don't want people to record and re-broadcast the material in any way, and only Windows closed source media players try very hard to provide that. Even if I lived in the UK and paid my telivision tax, I'd prefer to get my Doctor Who off of Pirates Bay because it's a faster download and better organized than that weird cruft in Iplayer. I went over this last year with a Windows laptop owning compatriot, who walked me through the interface. I _do not care_ when the episode of Doctor Who was last broadcast so I can download that timeslot's authorized copy and see it for up to 7 days after broadcast. I want the _episode_, and I'd prefer the last broadcast one so that I can see it as long as possible. So does everyone else.

Does the menu allow anything like this, or even index the episodes by numerical order? No. Does Pirate Bay give the episode numbers so I can get the one I want? Why, yes! Yes, they do!!! And it downloads faster. So even if I have paid for Iplayer with my television tax, why would I want to use it? And guess whom the BBC is doomed to failure against unless they fix their interface so it works better?

I understand the legality issues of Pirate Bay and the Bittorrent issues, so I avoid it for non-public images and reserve it for PGP signed Linux DVD images. But once the video stream of Iplayer and its ilk is intercepted and the program can be digitally repackaged and Bittorrented, why are they wasting their time building the Iplayer infrastructure and paying developer and manager salaries?

Re:"Trusted Computing" rears its already cracked h (1)

Alioth (221270) | more than 4 years ago | (#30542608)

The iPlayer streams. It takes about 0.5 seconds for your TV programme to start playing. That's certainly a lot faster than waiting many hours for something to download over BitTorrent. The iPlayer has been enormously successful, so much so many ISPs are complaining and want the BBC to pay them for all the extra bandwidth.

BBC not the guilty party (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30542458)

This is pretty unfair to the BBC. It should be made clear that the BBC probably isn't the one that's pushing for this. It's more likely that the BBC is being leant on by other content providers (like US networks) that it licences shows such as Heroes from, as well as movies it screens. It offers these on it's iPlayer service, so it's hardly surprising that it's being pressured into this.

OFCOM! Flipping useless! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30542564)

Well that's that f**ked then! OFCOM are toothless government body with no balls to face down the BBC. OFCOM will put in an objection, the gov and the BBC board will weasel out of it and the world becomes a sadder place!

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