XBMC and The BBC

Posted By: Team XBMC on Feb 02, 2010 in Site News

Several forum users have brought to our attention this article from the register. Here’s the scoop (from the article):

The BBC has quietly updated its hugely popular iPlayer with a verification layer that closes the door on open source implementations of RTMP (real-time messaging protocol) streaming, The Register has learned.

The Beeb applied the update to its online video catch-up service on 18 February, just four days after Adobe Systems penned a corporate blog post about its “content protection offerings”.

The tweak means that free RTMP plugins offered by the likes of the XBMC community – whose code is based on the GNU General Public Licence (sic) v2* – can no longer stream iPlayer content. The latest iteration of XBMC’s plugin was created in May last year and was being used by UK viewers to play TV and radio catch-up content from the BBC’s iPlayer service.

While we understand the BBC’s reasoning for the decision, we surely don’t agree with it. Add to that, a publicly funded media organization has far more obligations than a typical private one.

XBMC could easily be modified in a way that would allow playback of the streams, though it could never be included in the official binaries due to the wretched DMCA.

We hope that news of this change spreads quickly. Feel free to submit this story as well as the one from The Register to your favorite news sites. If anyone from the BBC would like to engage in a public discussion, we would very much welcome it; see our contact page for details. Also, be sure to take their online survey and tell them how you feel. Remember, this change affects far more than an XBMC plugin…  all open-source BBC playback implementations are at stake.

*librtmp, the library used to access these streams, uses the lgpl license.

Discussion - 23 Comments

  • Andrew Grady Feb 25, 2010 

    Survey done. I probably could have been a little politer…

  • Simon Powell Feb 25, 2010 

    “XBMC could easily be modified in a way that would allow playback of the streams, though it could never be included in the official binaries due to the wretched DMCA.”

    Has anyone found one of these yet? If this was implemented, could it be used to playback 4oD, Five on Demand, Sky Player, SeeSaw et al?

  • edz Feb 25, 2010 

    Survey completed, I’m not about to buy an unwanted console to watch iPlayer and I’m not watching Tv in the office. This action makes iPlayer totally irrelevant and surely will push those who where happy using an official service to unauthorised means of watching. To me, there is no mo official BBC catch up service.

  • Chris McLean Feb 25, 2010 

    I’ve completed the survey let’s hope they listen to what people are saying

  • Ben Edwards Feb 25, 2010 

    If XBMC can be modified to allow playback of the streams it should be offered as an OPTIONAL patch. for any U.K. users: the DMCA does not apply in the U.K. – and the BBC is a publicly funded institution – if you pay a license fee it would be a political nightmare for the BBC to take you to court.

  • theuni Feb 25, 2010 

    @Ben Edwards
    Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. It would be a logistical nightmare to host different binaries for different countries.

  • Oddsodz Feb 25, 2010 

    I was wondering why when ever I was watching a program it was dropping off. Now I know.

    But here is a funny thing. If you are using the “Watch live TV” part of the plug in. It stays open and can be watched for hours on end. I think the same can be said for the radio part also. Well have to look at that latter.

  • finid Feb 25, 2010 

    The most disappointing aspect of BBC’s recent behavior is that it is a publicly funded entity. And this is not the only stupid thing they are doing. You can’t view some of their videos if you are outside the UK. Unbelievable!

  • prupert Feb 25, 2010 

    I posted about this on the Boxee forum (as I have been Beta testing and they have a problem with the current closed Beta that means the iPlayer app doesn’t work on Linux).

    A senior Dev there seems to think they aren’t affected by this and their iPlayer app will still work:


    If it is because their app accesses the iPhone MP4 stream, can a plugin be converted so it access the same stream.

  • AzzX Feb 25, 2010 

    Disappointing especially coming from the BBC.

  • theuni Feb 25, 2010 

    Apples and oranges. We rip the stream. They use flash.

  • Andy Botting Feb 25, 2010 

    I’ve been working on a plugin for ABC’s (Australia) iView. It works the same way that BBC’s iPlayer does, but they enabled the SWF Verification some time ago.

    I’ve got a patch to libRTMP in XBMC to make it work.. but unfortunately, not sure how legit it is based on the DCMA letter from Adobe.

  • falafael Feb 26, 2010 

    @Andrew Grady

    Survey filled in, and a lashing sent of to them!, bloody suits at it again, i pay my fee, so i’m entitled to watch it on whatever platform i choose!!!

  • Dink Feb 26, 2010 

    If you would like to help please do take time to fill in the BBC Trust online survey on the IPlayer service. It’s an opportunity to give targeted feedback in particular about the lack of platform neutrality that has caused problems for this plugin.

    Survey is at https://consultations.external.bbc.co.uk/departments/bbc/bbc-on-demand-offerings/consultation/consult_view

  • TRH Feb 28, 2010 

    I to have completed the survey, hopefully they will listen.

  • aeiah Feb 28, 2010 

    is this in effect right now? i seem to still be able to use get_iplayer, although it does keep dropping and resuming which is awkward. according to the get_iplayer forums, some streams are unaffected by this right now, although this may change


  • mo Feb 28, 2010 


  • Martin Mar 01, 2010 

    To whom it may concern,

    I note that according to this story: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/02/24/iplayer_xbmc_adobe_swf_verification/ that you have blocked open source media centres from accessing iPlayer streams. Whilst I appreciate that you would prefer people to use the official version, closing the door on users who access this from within application such as XBMC is a real shame. I for one have enjoyed catching up on BBC programs from the friendly and intuitive interface of XBMC. I am a big fan of the iPlayer, but using the website on a home theatre computer connected to a large TV is a real pain. These open source implementations were designed to bridge that gap, I hoped that being a public organisation you would support the open source community rather than close the door on such exiting an innovative projects.

  • Martin Mar 01, 2010 

    Above – emailed to bbc trust!

  • Nathan Mar 01, 2010 

    finid :
    The most disappointing aspect of BBC’s recent behavior is that it is a publicly funded entity. And this is not the only stupid thing they are doing. You can’t view some of their videos if you are outside the UK. Unbelievable!

    How is the BBC blocking people outside the UK (who don’t pay the licence fee!!!!) unbelievable!

    I can see why the BBC have done this to protect their content, but i do wish they would work with projects like this. I certainly would be happy to see some of my licence fee put to this use.

  • Zuccster Mar 02, 2010 

    This also seems to affect the ‘official’ iPlayer client for the Nokia N-Series phones.

  • SiHa Mar 03, 2010 

    Um, do you pay the UK licence fee? No? Then stop complaining you can’t view their programming.
    Whilst I do agree that this iPlayer move is stupid, I find your comment even more so.

  • Mo Mar 05, 2010 

    Please complain directly to the trust. Looks like the BBC are sending out the message “No complaints have been received by the trust” Yet on there website they say you cant make complaints regarding iPlayer to the trust it is best directed to the survey (?!!!??) wtf?

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