Musings of a PC

Thoughts about Windows, TV and technology in general

Copy protection on BBC’s Freeview HD channel

Unfortunately, it looks as if the BBC are intending to proceed with their proposal to implement copy protection on Freeview HD. According to a blog posting from Graham Plumb at the BBC, the copy protection will be implemented using Huffman’s Look-up tables. The broadcast of the programmes themselves will be unencrypted. Instead, the information about the programmes will be encrypted so it will be difficult for an unauthorised device to find the channels and know when programmes are on to record them.

Although Ofcom’s consultation runs until April 2nd, they have said that they are “minded to grant approval”. There are some objections being raised, including this response from the Open Rights Group which explains in some detail why implementing copy protection would be detrimental. One only has to remember what happened recently when the BBC implemented SWF verification on iPlayer, resulting in the open source Flash players breaking.

The rather concerning aspect of this proposal, though, is the uncertainty of how it might impact Media Centre. On the one hand, it clearly isn’t an open source platform so Microsoft or the tuner manufacturers might be able to license the decryption keys and all will be well. On the other hand, however, it isn’t an entirely closed system and technically aware developers are able to uncover encryption keys and the like in order to break DRM schemes.

Part of me is hopeful that Freeview HD will become a reality on Media Centre but we actually need tuners first! There was an announcement from Renaud Bordelet (Group Manager, Windows TV Europe, Microsoft) that Microsoft were collaborating with NXP to deliver DVB-T2 tuners (required for Freeview HD) but that was before the BBC announced their protection plans.

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