02.08.08

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Microsoft ‘Pulled a BBC’ in New Zealand, ‘Stole’ from Taxpayers

Posted in Apple, DRM, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Windows at 7:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Same fiasco, different country

It is truly amazing to find the same story unfolding in the very same way in two separate countries, even independently. Under many people’s radar, New Zealand’s television turns out to have been abused — and also actively abused — in a BBC-like fashion. The Radar (O’Reilly) scoops up bits of this story.

The New Zealand Herald has an interesting article about state-owned broadcaster Television New Zealand’s on-demand streaming of media moving away from DRM (TVNZ has the same scope of programming and dominant market position as the BBC in England, though alas not the commercial-free public good mandate). TVNZ’s head of emerging business, Jason Paris (who was at the recently-ended Kiwi Foo Camp) said the ad-supported streams outnumbered paid-for downloads by “many thousands to one” and so they’re dropping the DRMed downloads.

[...]

TVNZ has been using Microsoft’s PlaysForSure digital rights management software to try to prevent downloaded TV shows from being copied. But just days after the launch of TVNZ OnDemand last March, the protection systems had been bypassed by viewers using software freely available on the internet.

“This ought to bring back to mind Novell’s help to Microsoft’s Silverlight, which is intended to create another type of lock-in with DRM included.”The story is almost a perfect copy of the Microsoft-BBC fiasco, which is far from over based on what we were recently told. There are far too many unanswered questions and there is colossal waste of taxpayers’ money. This ought to bring back to mind Novell's help to Microsoft's Silverlight, which is intended to create another type of lock-in with DRM included.

While the BBC has already received an “F”, it seems to aspire for a “D” at best. It fails to see that its problem is the proprietary software stack that was borrowed from Microsoft. Although the BBC intends to bring iPlayer to Macs, there is not a single word about GNU/Linux. The BBC announced that there would make available a Linux version in 2008, not just a Mac version as just reported by the BBC itself. And let’s not forget the obvious spit in the face:

Highlighting the marginal Linux audience is a risky move for Thomson, after his director of future media and technology, Ashley Highfield, got himself into hot water with open-source advocates last year by declaring the BBC website had only 400-600 Linux users every week.

An iPlayer equivalent could be very inexpensive to develop. The BBC would have delivered the software to all platforms simultaneously had it not relied on Microsoft’s stack and DRM-laden delivery of media (which it later gave up on anyway). Here is a new article from Wired where it is shrewdly implied that DRM ‘security’ is a matter of financial security for distributors and also an excuse for greater control.

With enough lock-in, a company can protect its market share even as it reduces customer service, raises prices, refuses to innovate and otherwise abuses its customer base. It should be no surprise that this sounds like pretty much every experience you’ve had with IT companies: Once the industry discovered lock-in, everyone started figuring out how to get as much of it as they can.

Mark Thompson already does some damage control. Sadly for him, it’s a blog, so he receives harsh comments such as this one:


I continue to be very disappointed in the way the BBC has handled the whole iPlayer project.

Mark, you continue to speak of “Platform Neutrality” and then go on to say how you’re looking into developing cross-platform DRM solutions. How is this neutral? This is you picking platforms to support, not being neutral at all.

Being neutral would mean publishing media using open standards so that anybody on any platform would be able to access your media.

The fact that you spout a term such as “market penetration” just further proves to me how far away you are from understanding this issue. Are you really saying you are prepared to completely shut out a minority group of viewers in such a discriminatory way?

As a licence payer I’m disgusted.


Stay tuned. The BBC makes baby steps, but too many people remain deeply disappointed.

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