U.K.: Ofcom Blocks BBC's Freeview HD DRM

The BBC's plans to try to protect HD content from unlawful redistribution on its Freeview HD platform was dealt a likely fatal blow on Nov. 10 when the broadcaster's digital rights management anti-piracy initiatives were blocked by Ofcom, Great Britain's general equivalent of the FCC.

The national Freeview HD service is scheduled to ramp up in December and the Ofcom action is not expected to alter that timetable. The BBC's DRM action was designed to ease its own worries that once the free terrestrial platform was launched, it would quickly result in unauthorized redistribution of its HD content, according to BBC News in London.

The BBC's axed plans had called for allowing viewers to freely record HD programming in SD — with far tighter restrictions on when and how HD recordings could be made.

Despite the restrictions, the BBC said its proposed DRM scheme would be virtually invisible to viewers —but nevertheless the planned blockage prompted more than 200 mostly negative comments to Ofcom. One well-known party, the Open Rights Group, accused the BBC of attempting to enact a form of encryption "through the backdoor."

Ofcom, in statement issued to support its ruling, said, in part: "Ofcom received a large number of responses to this consultation, in particular from consumers and consumer groups, who raised a number of potentially significant consumer 'fair use' and competition issues that were not addressed in our original consultation."