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BBC wins go-ahead for Freeview HD content controls

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Ground rules

The DTLA has laid down ground rules for the restrictions, which are less onerous than some pundits had feared. They say that consumers should always be able to make at least one HD copy of a programme, and that the ‘copy never’ state won’t be permitted.

And perhaps in an acknowledgement of the fact that content isn’t protected elsewhere – notably in the US – they also say that the ‘copy once’ restriction can’t be applied to material that has already been transmitted in HD in major markets without content protection.

That would seem to suggest that major US series like Heroes, for instance, couldn’t be restricted to a single copy, in the UK as they’ve already been broadcast without restrictions in America.

Reg Hardware understands that much – if not all – of the Freeview HD kit on sale already includes the necessary Huffman tables to support the EPG and content restrictions, so it will simply be a matter of the switch being thrown to enable the system.

So, with no restrictions on what you can record on a Freeview HD recorder, no royalty on the Huffman tables needed to decode the EPG, all programmes able to be copied at least once in HD, it looks like Freeview’s control system is unlikely to get in the way of most viewers. But equally, is it really likely to do anything to stop piracy, either?

Studio Line

Although broadcasters have claimed that the desires of Hollywood are a factor in the need to protect content, they’re not the only people who have a vested interest in controlling the duplication of their material. With an increasing amount of material on the UK’s main TV channels being made by independent production companies, even programmes that many viewers may consider as ‘belonging’ to the BBC aren’t actually owned by the Corporation.

For example, popular series like Spooks and Ashes to Ashes are made by independent companies, and recent law changes mean that it’s they who have the rights to long-term exploitation of their shows, rather than the channels that commission them.

The full Ofcom statement is here (PDF). ®

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