GoodNewsBadNews: BBC and DRM

First, the Good News; A while ago, the ever loving BBC announced they’re going to release a DRM-free archive of their back catalogue. Y’see, the BBC figured that if they open up this vast, wonderful resource to the world it’ll encourage folks to experiment with film making, help with education and generally make the world a slightly better place.

Now, the Bad; The BBC trustees have looked at this brilliant, open, altruistic idea, and decided to kill it at birth. Instead of open content, the resources are going to be DRM-locked, time locked, Windows only and completely tied to a media player that’s only available from Microsoft. Heck, even the codec is owned by them so no-one else can even write an alternative player without their permission. It’s no coincidence that they’ve hired an ex-Microsoft exec to head this “initiative” up too.

As BoingBoing puts so well: this “means that British people will have to license American software to watch British TV”.

Yes, it stinks, bigtime. I can understand the arguments about protecting content though. If all their resources could be downloaded for free they’d immediately be snaffled by every low-cost cable channel on the planet and aired without the Beeb getting a penny. That’s clearly unfair, and needs to be prevented somehow. Using some crippled format that only works in one player isn’t the way though. If they released the programs in a low-quality, low-bandwidth avi/divx format with a watermark in the corner that would be perfect. Crippleware doesn’t solve anything – I’ll bet Microsoft’s new DRM-locked WMV format gets cracked in no time anyhow.

I’d hoped that the media industry had learned it’s lessons by now and DRM had died an unloved death. Ah well :(

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