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DRM comes to European digital TV

Seth Schoen
Chaos Communication Congress 23th (23C3) 2006
Indexed on
Mar 27, 2013
File name
File size
141.8 MB

European digital television standards (both free-to-air broadcast and pay TV) developed by the DVB project are exemplary for including no digital rights management. But now DVB is rushing to change that and impose new restrictions on receiving equipment. EFF has participated in DVB meetings on DRM for the past two years. We've learned how the broadcasting and movie industries consider existing standards (including the pro-competitive Common Interface, which can give free/open source software legal access to pay TV programming) obsolete because they were designed in the 1990s before the DRM revolution. Now these standards are being rewritten and retrofitted with DRM. Even unencrypted free-to-air broadcasts may be restricted with the European equivalent of the U.S. broadcast flag policy. And pay TV programming will be restricted by DRM even after you've paid for it and received it in your house, intentionally erasing the distinction between making people pay for TV and controlling what kinds of devices they can receive it on. The industry is explicitly looking to the U.S. models for post-reception DRM and device reguations: the broadcast flag rule for over-the-air broadcasts and the cable plug-and-play regime for pay TV. Both of these schemes require receiving equipment to be licensed, certified, and tamper-resistant, and both of them are a disaster for compatibility with software on the PC. Here, for the first time, we present a detailed account of exactly what DVB is up to in these areas, and how this work is inspired by U.S. industry demands. The plan to embed DRM into European TV standards has a lot of momentum, but maybe we can stop it in its tracks. We need to make clear that DRM-free standards are a feature, not a bug, and that standards should be made more compatible, not less compatible.

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