Anti-DRM campaigners plan BBC protests

Anti-DRM campaigners are to hold demonstrations outside the BBC buildings in London and Manchester to protest about the usage restrictions embedded in the corporation’s new iPlayer software.

Anti-DRM campaigners plan BBC protests

iPlayer went public last week but has been dogged by controversy ever since the BBC announced that it would only support Windows users because the video playback software is heavily reliant on Microsoft’s Windows Media DRM.

Defective by Design, which first came to prominence by holding demonstrations against iTunes’ DRM outside Apple retail stores, insists the decision to include any kind of DRM is “completely contrary to to what the BBC stands for”, namely free content, without restriction, for licence payers.

Moreover, the corporation has decided to put its faith in Microsoft, when open alternatives are freely available.

“The BBC should have chosen free and open standards that work well and are available today,” it argues. “They should have chosen off-the-shelf software that costs nothing and that you have complete control over. Software that you can ask a programmer to fix or improve. Software that you can install on every major operating system including Microsoft’s.”

Initially the BBC had no plans to offer any support for Mac or Linux users, but was forced to change its mind by the governing BBC Trust after a high-profile campaign and Downing Street petition. Some Windows users are also excluded: currently iPlayer support is restricted to Windows XP. No date has been announced for compatibility with other systems.

Ironically, that arguably increased the likelihood that Vista, Linux and Mac users will seek BBC content from other, DRM-free sources.

Becky Hogge, executive director of the Open Rights Group, notes.

“What’s really bizarre about the BBC’s employment of DRM for the iPlayer is that their programmes can already be downloaded using PVRs that receive free-to-air digital transmissions,” she says. “Media convergence means there is no practical difference between unencrypted satellite, free-to-air, DAB or the internet in terms of control of content.”

Defective by Design has scheduled both protests for 14 August, details from

More than 120,000 copies of iPlayer were downloaded in its first week, around a quarter of the number that the BBC expects to be installed in the first six months.

Read our preview of the iPlayer here

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