Losing British Airwaves to Hollywood

The BBC is moving to encrypt public broadcast signals with lovely lovely DRM.

In early september the BBC submitted a petition to OFCOM to be allowed to encrypt the public airwaves. If it is allowed to go through manufacturers of receiving devices will have to apply for a licence if they want their products to be able to store or output the content it receives to another box as the content will have to be encrypted. This means that every box you have in your home media set-up will have to be compliant with the encryption or none of it will work together. Who has determined these licences? The same people that created the ‘Digital Transmission Licensing Administrator Agreement’; the US studios.

As it stands our current public airwaves are just that, public. Broadcasters are free to use them but in return we are allowed to do what we like with the content, as long as it doesn’t violate copyright laws. We can record it for later viewing, move it around to different devices or cut it up and play with it. If the content is encrypted we can’t do this and suddenly our public airwaves are just another proprietary conduit for US media that hate to see a distribution network that they don’t control.When I saw the Doctorow article that informed me of the BBC encryption it reminded me of a story from April this year.

After getting fed up with poor internet service from Time Warner Cable, the residents of Wilson in North Carolina set up a city run broadband network. It was high-speed and low cost and everyone loved it, Apart from Time Warner. Rather than improving their service and lowering their extortionate prices – like the city requested of them before they went ahead with an alternative – they instead thought the best option was to lobby for the outlaw of community ISP services; their argument being ‘we can’t make a profit’. The issue is still as yet not resolved, but the fact that it could even be considered an issue worth debating is rather unnerving.

As I have mentioned multiple times before, my firm belief is that the attacks on so-called ‘illegal pirate networks’ are not about copyright but about control of publicly produced systems of distribution. The media industries have had dominance over the conduits of media delivery and they don’t like the competition. This has become even more prominent when the industries move to close down legitimate public distribution systems as well as the supposed illegitimate.

The very awesome Open Rights Group has already set to work opposing the encryption scheme, head over and support them if you can.

Sources

Engadget – Time Warner and Embarq can’t compete with city-owned ISP

Daily Tech – Time Warner, Embarq Fight to Outlaw 100 Mbps Community Broadband

The Guardian – The BBC is encrypting its HD signal by the back door

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If Mandelson is Telling the Truth…

The Digital Britain team recently posted up some rebuttals to the accusations directed at the government, one of them being that Lord Mandelson did a u-turn on policy after having a hearty meal with David Geffen. According to team DB…

No discussion took place with David Geffen about Digital Britain. Peter Mandelson has said he doesn’t even think the issue is on Geffen’s radar.

Suppose then that this is indeed true. If we do accept that the dinner with Geffen and the policy change announcement are completely coincidental, does that dissipate the issue? According to The Independent

Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, is said to be persuaded by the argument for tough laws to curb illegal file-sharing after an intensive lobbying campaign by influential people in the music and film industry.

Stating that their decision to enact some very controversial policies is based on intensive lobbying from the media industry to me is not an absolution but equally damning. Considering that the Digital Britain report was produced based on taking the opinions of many different groups and developing a middle ground. From these recent developments I can only assume that the media industry were not content with a balanced solution and instead continue to demand preferential treatment. At least the British citizenry now know where they stand.

Mandelson Overturns Digital Britain

The government have the unenviable task of attempting to please everyone, however yesterday they appear to have failed spectacularly, and leading the way was Lord Mandelson. Yesterday he overturned the recommendations in the Digital Britain report – a year of consultations and debates down the drain – and stated simply that we need to move fast to stop filesharing. Moving fast means that rather than mess around with silly things like, courts, trials and rights we simply disconnect anyone accused of filesharing.

Maybe he was in a go getting mood after his holiday with David Geffen, record company billionaire. I know spending time out on a yacht with billionaires gets me back in the zone. Mandelson has denied that his coming back from his hols’ with a record executive, clutching a declaration of  war against piracy is linked… because if it were the case then surely he’d admit it. Apparently his change of stance is based on an intensive lobbying campaign from influential figures in the media industry… which is COMPLETELY different from spending time with ‘influential-figure-in-the-media-industry-David-Geffen’, so I’m cool with that.

As not all of us have luxury yachts and lobbying groups to make Mandelson do what we want, those who would prefer something resembling democratic process will have to make do with an opposition coalition formed on self interest.

Our strongest force is the ISPs who will protect consumers because it’s financially better for them to do so. If these laws come in they will have to spend a great deal on monitoring us (the amount of detail required to ascertain if data packets are copyrighted data packets is enormous), more on processing any claims, and will then have to deal with cutting off their own customers. I only have a GCSE in business studies but even that tells me that having customers is better than not having customers.

Another perhaps powerful opposition is the Tories and LibDems who have jumped on this as another sign of incompetent Labour, running with it as a mud clod for the general election; whether you like them or not they’ll also be useful.

Last but certainly not least we also have those working slightly more altruistically, primarily in consumer rights groups, the Pirate Party UK (PPUK) and The Open Rights Group, all of whom are pretty much foaming at the mouth right now (in politics that’s good). For the PPUK this has been a double edged sword as although foaming is occurring, they’re also picking up more members as angry citizens are given a reason to join (in the interest of disclosure: myself included).

Hopefully if there’s opposition the implementation will be delayed, if it’s delayed it’ll probably be stuck on the backburner till the next General Election and then all opinion polls suggest these guys will be out. Problem is Mandelson knows this is the case and the media industry do as well, that’s why the original Digital Britain report wasn’t fast enough for them and they’ve sent Mandy back with a new brief, ‘do it fast’.

ADDITIONAL

Torrent Freak have – as always – a thorough piece on this story… and they mention me!

Meanwhile, as one commenter indicates in a comment on the Digital Britain site, more people will be joining the UK Pirate Party,