June 11, 2010 | Jim Killock

No news from Ofcom on BBC DRM

ORG and people concerned with the BBC's gradual locking up of content, with its consequent lock down on competition, innovation and usability, are still waiting for Ofcom's response to their consultation on BBC HD.

Ofcom said they were "minded" to allow the BBC to introduce backdoor DRM on HD broadcasts, which would hit disabled users and open source developers particularly hard.

Many ORG supporters then wrote to the European Commission, as a unique UK system of DRM would create trade barriers: HD television devices made for the rest of Europe would not necessarily work in the UK.

We received a brief reply from the EC today. They say:

Whether or not there is a violation of EU competition law depends on a range of factual, legal and economic issues. However, this initiative appears to introduce a de facto technical regulation which may impact the marketing of products in the UK and the trade between member states. The European Commission is monitoring the situation.

Clearly, there are in our view huge impacts on competition and trade. The BBC's desire to control how their copyright-licensed works are used is driving measures which are fundamentally anti-competitive.

This seems to be happening at least in part because the BBC - as a television producer - wrong-headedly thinks it can maximise potential returns from copyrights they create and own through excessive control. They seem to wish to use their position as both producer and distributor to push protection mechanisms onto UK-wide systems they control for their benefit alone, without regard to competition and innovation, or harm to users.

This is not what copyright is for, and it is not what government-mandated technical standards are for. As citizens, we must object to attempts to manipulate our regulators by narrow interests, even esteemed interests such as the BBC, and continue to press at all levels for the public interest.