Freeview Allowed To Use DRM To Curtail Online Piracy

Ofcom is allowing the BBC to operate its Freeview HD multiplex in such a way that only TV receivers and set-top boxes with built-in digital rights management (DRM) can see programmes’ electronic programme guide (EPG) data.

The BBC had sought the regulator’s permission to block EPG data access, for channels on the multiplex B which it operates, to “enable broadcasters to control the multiple unauthorised copying of broadcast HD content and its retransmission over the internet”, Ofcom says. Those channels are BBC HD, ITV1 HD, Channel 4 HD and S4C Clirlun.

We don’t know how many Freeview receivers out there don’t currently use DRM, which controls viewers what can do with the programmes. But the BBC says it will now freely license the intellectual property required for adding the technology to receivers.

According to these highlights from Ofcom’s approval, the broadcasters sought the restriction because studios would have denied them HD content – but the broadcasters have not publicly said which content would be affected…

“Without this change, the BBC argues that the ability of broadcasters on the HD DTT platform to secure content from third party rights holders on similar terms to those on other platforms would be reduced, thus limiting the range of broadcast content available to viewers on the HD DTT platform.

“The BBC, ITV (LSE: ITV) and Channel 4 provided confidential details on the acquired HD content that would be affected if an effective content management framework was not provided on the DTT platform, including the need to ‘blank out’ some HD content.

“The impact of the BBC proposals on the supply of receivers to the mass market is negligible.

“The BBC proposals do not prohibit the use of open source software in receivers, but we recognise the proposal may introduce some restrictions on how it is used. We anticipate that any such restrictions will have a negligible impact on the mass market for HD Freeview receivers as many manufacturers do not use open source software and in cases where they do can opt for an open source licence which is compatible with the BBC’s proposed licensing arrangements.”