May 04, 2010 | Jim Killock

DRM Day: act to stop BBC DRM

Today is international DRM day. We won the battle over ‘Digital Restrictions Management’ on music: the business has, by and large, agreed that restrictions on what customers do with the music they have bought is unpopular, and reduces sales.

But what we are able to do with other products we purchase is under constant threat. Apple is coming under a lot of criticism for the restrictions placed on the iPad, but some of the biggest threats are coming in that very traditional product, television.

Already in the UK, satellite and cable companies apply DRM to their proprietary High Definition products, such as recorders and receivers, restricting the supply to the market and what their chosen devices can usefully do for their customers. Now the BBC are making the same plans for their future HD channels.

Currently, Ofcom are considering whether the BBC should be allowed to apply a form of DRM to the programme guide and subtitles – in order to gain control of the vast majority of UK devices; and to exclude any software or hardware device that does not subject itself to control. Of course, the problems are not just about fair dealing rights in copyright.

They are actually about how the device market functions. All devices sold here will in practice have to be ‘UK compliant’. Those devices will have to especially make sure they do less for UK customers.

These are artificial market barriers just for the UK. That is why, last week, we wrote to the EU Commissioners responsible to ask them to examine this scheme as anti-competitive. Today, we urge you to do the same.