Copy protected 

14 June 2010

With the (perhaps unsurprising) announcement that Ofcom has now given the go-ahead for the BBC’s so-called Freeview anti-piracy technology, there’s a real danger that recording TV programmes for posterity could become effectively impossible for the casual viewer, even if it technically isn’t blocked by this copy protection scheme.

This is already evident in a form of paranoia on the part of certain equipment manufacturers, resulting in some recording devices such as PVR’s encrypting absolutely anything that you record (as is the case with some Samsung products), because a manufacturer could be afraid of the risk of being sued by a content provider.

And it may be true that such technology is already in place on the Freesat platform, but even that implementation turned out to be a botched effort (and more or less useless if reports are to be believed), meaning that you may be able to record any programme without copy protection unless it’s a timed recording (impossible without extra hardware).

Not nice.

Obviously there has been a turnaround on this issue since last November when the BBC’s original proposal was rejected by Ofcom; not that surprising given the demands of some programme makers with vested interests beyond those of public service broadcasting. (Something that the BBC was supposedly immune from, relatively speaking.)

It’s possible to suggest that there has been a change of mentality since the BBC forced itself to commission more programming from external producers under the sometimes-dubious practice known as the “window of creative competition”, meaning that certain secondary rights to programming may occasionally not reside with the BBC at all.

At least this particular anti-piracy copy obfuscation method has been (perhaps strangely) championed by the BBC as opposed to a government department or external regulator, meaning that viewer pressure could theoretically result in the whole thing being ditched (at least from the BBC’s perspective) if the complaints come in thick and fast.

I politely suggest that you should complain to the BBC each and every time you encounter a programme that’s showing on a BBC channel on Freeview HD that for some reason has been “copy-protected”, because the more complaints they receive on this issue, the less likely the BBC will sign up to programming that is for some reason “rights-restricted”.

After all, with all the recent programming budget cuts it will be a miracle if the BBC is able to afford anything that is supposedly ‘valuable’ enough to warrant such copy protection in the first place.