Sneaky UK Attempt To DRM Television

from the not-this-again dept

Danny O’Brien over at the EFF has the details on how the entertainment industry is attempting to push through an attempt to DRM TV in the UK. It’s not quite a “broadcast flag,” but close enough. In the last few years, since the original fight over the “broadcast flag” ended in “failure” for Hollywood, they keep attempting to sneak it through in other ways. In the US, it’s been via “selectable output control,” or SOC. Over in the UK, it’s a bit different, but no less ridiculous. Basically, there would be some encoded metadata with all digital TV channels, and the algorithm would be kept “secret.” As Danny notes, this has nothing to do with preventing copying, and everything to do with giving the entertainment industry yet another “veto” on innovation (similar to the anti-circumvention clause of the DMCA):

In Britain, as in the United States, this proposal isn’t about piracy. It’s about creating a rightsholder veto over new consumer technologies in DTV.

No British commercial digital TV manufacturer would risk any innovation that might invalidate their “metadata compression parameter” license, and leave them open to litigation. And competition between devices would be limited by the byzantine requirements that DRM requires (it’s notable that the BBC says the rightsholders demands came via the Digital Transmission Licensing Administrator (DTLA), a DRM consortium who would clearly benefit from mandatory adoption of its own system.)

But, of course, in an era of copyright moral panics, we’ll hear over and over again about how this is all about stopping “piracy” — even though it actually does nothing to prevent unauthorized copying.

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Comments on “Sneaky UK Attempt To DRM Television”

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11 Comments
Richard (profile) says:

As far as I can see the only function of this is to minimally lock in the equipment manufacturers before it’s too late (HD terrestrial broadcasts are scheduled for this December).
Fortunately it sounds like the BBC doesn’t really want it but would like somebody else (OFCOM) to tell them not to so they can stand up to the content lobby more effectively.

The Stuffy Churchill of Meeeeedia says:

The frustration of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the compensated, goes out to the entertainment industry lobbyists who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and encroaching obsolescence, are turning the tide of the Information War by their bribery and by their devotion. Never in the field of human entertainment was so much ($$) “owed” by so many to so few.

Anonymous Coward says:

“In the United States, rightsholders claimed that without DRM, digital TV would herald an age of uncontrolled piracy and they would have no choice but to boycott a flag-less terrestrial digital TV transition.”

http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2009/09/broadcast-flag-uk

Great, more unsubstantiated scare mongering and threats of the world falling apart and life as we know it ending if the rich and the powerful don’t get their way with government sanctioned distortions of the free market in their favor. Then these people turn around and claim to be free market capitalists, roflol.

... says:

Outer Limits

There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to… The Outer Limits.
— Opening narration – The Control Voice – 1960s

Rekrul says:

This would be a non-issue if all the electronics manufacturers told the entertainment industry to shove their demands. The entertainment industry might succeed in getting a law passed that says that electronics companies have to include this crap in their devices, but there’s no law that says the companies have to build them in the first place. I’d like to see what the entertainment industry would do if every company refused to build any new TVs or DVRs until these demands were withdrawn.

Of course that would never work because there isn’t a single company that will put their customers ahead of profits…

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