Dave’s thoughts on streaming iPlayer

So right now iplayer has no DRM but there is a fear with the latest Adobe flash communication server, DRM could be switched on in the near future. Now obviously I'm not going say either way as that would be confidental roadmap type stuff which gets me fired but I did think Dave's thoughts were interesting. Here's the best parts…

Sadly I don’t think that the rights holders or the BBC has been convinced that DRM does more harm than good, is unacceptable, and ought to be eliminated. I think they’ve just seen a lot of negative press about DRM, and want to avoid negative press. A streaming DRM-less alternative stops the majority of the criticism, but only partially solves the problem.

I won’t be surprised if the Adobe Flash DRM features are turned on in the future, because the BBC has not yet issued a policy stating that it rejects DRM technologies and refuses to foist them on people.

However, assuming that DRM is going out and will stay out of the iPlayer, what are the next issues the BBC faces in engaging with the free culture movement?

Redistribution is a hard problem for the BBC to tackle. It would mean that, if I download an iPlayer show, I am permitted to share copies with my friends.

Probably they will also be British license fee payers, since I live in the UK and most of my friends are too. But what about my non-British, non-license fee paying friends?

Currently they can’t access at all many BBC works directly from the BBC – even many BBC web pages. It does this with “GeoIP”: looking up the IP address of each user in a database that lists the geographic location of all registered IP address blocks. For a long time the BBC has discriminated against non-UK-registered IP addresses. serving them different and less HTTP data than is accessible from a UK IP address.

This is merely access control, not DRM. DRM mandates proprietary software and is supported by laws that prohibit the distribution of free software that can access DRM media – a serious social problem.

A social problem… very interesting choice of words Dave. I agree were not out of the woods theres lots more to be done. GeoIP is shakey ground to be standing on but unless there is a global licence fee or something. We will end up in big trouble with the government, trust, worldwide and of course the rights holders. Its a complex issue and requires more thought and time that the DRM debate maybe?

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.