Ofcom Does the Right Thing on the BBC's DRM


A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about the BBC being under pressure to add a form of DRM to its HD service. I included a copy of a letter I wrote to Ofcom, noting that I had only found out about this sneaky move at the last minute, and that comments had to be submitted immediately.

As is my wont, I gave Ofcom some tongue-lashing on account of this, and under the onslaught of Computerworld UK readers who responded to my call by sending in a flood of emails, Ofcom decided to extend the deadline. That was both to its credit and sign that it was getting a clue that things had changed.

Now, it seems that Ofcom has had a really serious think about this whole issue and sent a rather good reply [.pdf] to the BBC that contains the following paragraph:

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. In view of these responses we have decided not to approve a multiplex licence change without giving these issues further consideration. We remain keen to support the successful introduction of HD services on the DTT platform and are willing to consider a further round of consultation on the licence amendment if you could provide more information and evidence

I think this is important for a number of reasons.

First, it stops the BBC trying to push this DRM through without anyone noticing. Secondly, it shows that Ofcom is responding to comments from the “consumers” – you and me – and not just the industry and their lobbyists. And finally, it indicates that Ofcom is beginning to grasp the fact that “fair use” issues are no longer just some minor, peripheral detail these days, but go to the heart of how the digital world functions.

This result certainly encourages me to write yet more responses to these kinds of consultation (sorry, Ofcom), since it seems that it is actually listening. It also indicates that we are right to keep banging the drum about fair use and related issues surrounding digital sharing: people are starting to sit up and take notice.

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