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Great example of why rights management DRM sucks

I live in the USA, and I can’t access the BBC’s stream of John McCain’s acceptance speech… because “the media is unavailable in my territory”.

BBC NEWS | News Front Page
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Sure, this is nothing new to those of us familiar with online media. But equally, one has to ask why the BBC doesn’t secure worldwide distribution for ‘general news’, esp like in this case where it’s probably recording the broadcast live from the convention… it’s BBC copyright end-to-end.

And of course, it’s just plain stupid that I can’t watch John McCain’s speech here in the US from a website that is even served from the US (BBC serves international users mainly from servers in New York). Crazy.

Published in BBC News Website Thoughts and Rants


  1. Good post! location-based DRM issues infuriate me too!

    It’s funny that this is an example of how DRM regional restrictions can restrict people watching UK media in the US – as the most common restrictions are felt by non-US users trying to watch US content!

    Take Hulu for example, it’s common for most episodes to be US only – but the real question is why does this need to be location-restricted anyway?

    The answer is licensing… until the large networks (including the BBC) start agreeing worldwide agreements, and acknowledge the worldwide nature of the web – it won’t be going away soon. Sorry!

  2. I suspect the issue with the BBC might be funding rather than rights. It’s funded by UK license payers who might have something to say about giving away video badwidth to those abroad who aren’t paying a penny.

  3. Ben: I agree, but just a small point which doesn’t change your argument: we decommissioned the US-based servers about six months ago. (at least the ones, but I’m pretty sure the ones were decommissioned as well)

    Chris: non-UK bandwidth is actually funded by the Foreign Office, which pays for the BBC World Service, as part of the BBC’s purpose of “bringing the UK to the world and the world to the UK“.

    Brendan (BBCer on temporary leave in the US)

  4. Steve Steve

    It is unlikely that the McCain speech coverage will be BBC copyright end-to-end. Whilst the BBC will have reporters/presenters on site with cameras, the main speech feed is likely to be pooled, from an agency or provided via ABC News (who are the Beeb’s main newsgathering partners in the US).

    As a result the main speech feed may not be cleared for international non-live streaming/download…

    Whilst I am not a fan of DRM – the alternative would be no web streaming at all – as many of the rights agreements for non-BBC copyright content are non-negotiable (particularly where the internet rights are owned by other parties in other parts of the world)

  5. Andy L Andy L

    That, and the speech itself gets copyright protection and is John McCain’s copyright.

    Countries around the world have different rules on how much you can use as an extract without requiring permission.

  6. Chris, I agree, why should my license fee be wasted on making sure a worldwide infrastructure is in place so that the Beeb can stream content to the rest of the world.

    Brendan, and who do you think pays to keep the Foreign Office up and running? That’s right UK citizens.

    Why isn’t (worldwide site for news) run by BBC Worldwide (commercial arm of the Beeb)? or even better stick ad’s on the worldwide site (i.e. cnn) so that the BBC can afford to run the site for international users.

    RE: Hulu, their is no need for a country restriction on that site i’d gladly pay £20 ($40) a month to watch steamed content.

  7. Hey man. There has been so many times when I was told that I couldn’t access something in the US. Count yourself lucky.

  8. caro caro

    So much for the term World Wide Web – the future of the web is Local Wide Web. Customize content for users runs the great risk of shrinking the world to our own backyard.
    Is the internet now trying to be political correct? – great post. I live in Germany and I know what you are experiencing.

  9. ant ant

    Don’t want to contradict Brendan- top chap and knows much more than I, but I don’t think FO pay for non-world service bandwidth- that comes out of Worldwide coffers- different fish kettle entirely and a sore point in some areas.

    Also, the McCain speech would probably have had have had US territorial rights seperate too, and likely far pricer than, the rights package that the BBC picked up. It’s the framework that’s borked in this case- geography and rights haven’t kept up with the real world of web enabled media. DRM is just the lock and key, your issue is really with where they put the walls and doors.

  10. Jason Jason

    I suffer the same problem from the Australian ABC website. I cant stream quite a bit of their content due to being in US territory, despite still paying Australian taxes and hence I believe I am entitled to this content.

  11. Val Hayes Val Hayes

    I live in a rural area of the US and have not been able to buy net service that would allow me to even try to access BBC content. Finally after possibly a decade it became possible, and I learned that the WWW is a lie.
    I would gladly pay a monthly fee to access the BBC online. We can get BBCA through our satellite television account but that is hardly the same.
    Excuse me for complaining but having just now learned it is all a lie after waiting for so long is more than maddening.
    I just spent at least a half hour on the main BBC site attempting to simply contact them. I have the wrong postal code, etc.
    This is ridiculous! They could get a lot of people here to pay for net service.
    They are keeping a lot of us from simply enjoying their product. Shameful.

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