Yesterday Azureus announced that they will distribute a number of TV shows for the BBC via their Bittorrent platform starting early next year. The announcement was a little thin on the details of the deal. For example it's not clear yet whether the shows will be for sale or advertising-supported.

One thing is certain tho from what I've been hearing about the deal: The BBC content will be copy protected with a DRM wrapper. No word on the type of DRM yet, but it is supposedly playable on most major platforms - which narrows the field quite a bit.

The BBC previously experimented with both Windows Media DRM as well as Realnetworks DRM. The broadcaster most recently used Windows Media for a field test of their iMP media player. iMP allowed a limited number of users to download and watch archived BBC content for free. The content expired seven days after it was downloaded, which got some mixed reactions from beta testers.

A less restrictive approach has been in use for the BBC Creative Archive - a content repository that makes original BBC productions and news content available under terms similiar to those of a Creative Commons license. From the Creative Archive FAQ:

"During our pilot we will be trialling a patented Video Watermarking technology where a virtual barcode will be embedded into the video clips. This invisible stamp can be read through video editing and format changes so that any video sequence can be traced back to its source. This will not interfere with legitimate users, but it will assist the BBC in the event that any use is made of the material in breach of the licence terms."

I would guess that the DRM solution for distributiong shows via will be more restrictive, simply because the copyright issues of entertainment productions are usually far more complex that those of news content. They'll probably use something like Helix from Realnetworks - unless the BCC has worked out something on their own, which is entirely possible.

Either way, they should probably read up on what their own BBC World Service commentator Bill Thompson has to say about DRM:

"The content industries have a choice. They can suffer a painful restructuring as the full force of the move to digital unmakes all their plans and invalidates their business models; or they can suffer the same painful restructuring with a far smaller chance of success by alienating their one-time customers as they try to shore up their position with restrictive rights management."

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