[Edit 18/10: I’m not sure I’ve read enough about this, to be honest – I can’t find the actual media archive online, and rereading this third party account it sounds as though it’s meant for viewing through a TV not a computer. And of course I should research it properly before writing about it, but well, sorry, didn’t have and don’t have time. It seems like a topic worth someone investigating though…]
NRK put huge amounts of television content online. I payed for that content to be made, along with generations of other Norwegian tax-payers and licence fee papers. But I can’t access it easily, because they’ve locked it up in Microsoft’s DRM (Digital Rights Management) so that my Mac struggles to access it. If they’d released the content in an open format (and they could still, say, limit use to Norway by blocking IP-numbers outside the country if they wanted [edit 18/10: they don’t, to my knowledge, do this now, though I’ve never been able to play their web TV on my Mac]) I could access the content.

Cory Doctorow has a really good short piece about why locking content up in a proprietory format is a terrible idea. Here’s just one reason abdicating control to a huge monopoly is a bad idea:

Norwegian production companies rely on huge state subsidies, direct and indirect, to fulfill the crucial role of providing cultural identity to a small nation. But Norway’s many innovative tech companies provide an equally crucial service to Norwegians: offering economic independence and self-determination. To lock up Norway’s culture in a wrapper that can’t be opened by a Norwegian tech company is economic and cultural insanity.

10 thoughts on “sold more of our soul to microsoft

  1. nick

    This does give a whole new meaning to the term Microsoft tax.

    While there are certainly larger cultural and governmental contexts at work, it seems to me that this points to one of those rare cases in which the United States actually does something right. As far as I know, US taxpayer-funded media that is online (e.g., NPR, PBS, CSPAN) does not have any restrictions that allow certain privileges to US citizens or to people who access it from within the United States. I believe everyone in the world has the same rights and access to it. (Please correct me if I’m wrong about this, though.) The BBC and Arts Council England’s Creative Archive License, on the other hand, make some of their material available for noncommercial use only in the UK. And now I learn that NRK is preventing use of its programs outside Norway, which seems to be fine with Jill as long as she can play them on her Mac (when she’s in Norway, I guess).

    Presumably this has something to do with license fees and such, but to take a step back, what’s the big deal? If a Norwegian news program is leaked to the Swiss, are they suddenly going to learn all the top secret Pac Man patterns or something? Why not just let everyone watch this stuff?

  2. i1277

    Yeah, and why is it that the Google Maps for Norway suck so much? And how come we had to wait a lot longer than the Americans for iTunes to open?

    Seriously though, I wouldn’t mind if NRK opened their archive to everyone. NRK is an exellent TV organisation which carries a rich cultural heritage. All the commercial alternatives here pale in comparison. However, a lot of people are constantly bitching about the mandatory viewing licence – spending just a tiny bit of this money on foreign access wouldn’t make it easier to justify the arrangement. Kudos to NPR et al for allowing everyone in, though.

    Of course the interest for NRK abroad would be minimal, but this would hardly be the case with the BBC. The Creative Archive licence FAQ has more.

    I seem to remember reading that the Creative Archive might open up to countries where similar licenced archives are established, as a sort of pledge/trade – I can’t find any evidence of this though, so it was probably just speculations (or daydreaming…)

  3. Jill

    No Nick, I don’t think that NRK’s stuff is limited so only Norwegians can use it! I put in an edit, sorry about the unclearness of that. And even the BBC, well heck, I’ve was born listening the BBC World Service, which my (or my parents’) tax money certainly didn’t pay for – of course the BBC World Service is probably the most successful colonial tool the Brits have left, so British tax money was probably very wisely spent on that. It even ensured I had a more or less British accent as a teenager. Fortunately my Australian cousins teased that out of me.

    Apart from that: anyone with a satellite that can receive signals from Norway can watch Norwegian television. I don’t even think there are any encrypted channels (as, say, all the halfway decent US channels seem to be encrypted) although there are pan-European channels you have to pay for a decrypter for, like Canal Plus and so on.

    NPR, PBS, CSPAN are news channels, mostly, aren’t they? And CSPAN’s just a camera stuck in congress? NRK’s news and all their radio channels are online for everyone, well, except I can’t get the video on my Mac. But I’ve listened to their radio news online from the US and Australia.

    Having said that, you know, information sure never was free. Sure, in the 80s, occassionally I could get scratchy Radio Australia on my shortwave radio. It was always easy to get Radio Moscow (which spoke in US accents, presumably to trick us international potential recruits), that US world broadcast thign I’ve forgotten the name of, and the BBC World Service. I listened to the Norwegian international broadcast when studying in France in 1993, or was it 94, I forget. The Norwegians only broadcast for ten minutes each hour, news only. Tiny countries aren’t really that great with colonialism. The Vikings would no doubt have done things differently…

  4. Eirik Solheim

    “Apart from that: anyone with a satellite that can receive signals from Norway can watch Norwegian television.”

    Unfortunately, as far as I know this is wrong. Both Canal Digital and Viasat encrypt all the channels. If you want to buy an access card you need a Norwegian adress.

    Actually, as long as the content owners still work with a model that divides this planet into several countries and not 6 billion potential viewers this is a very important part of the system. Norwegian broadcasters buy rights to show series and movies in Norway. So, it is important that the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation is a Norwegian broadcaster and not a european one.

    The Thor III satellite that broadcast Norwegian channels in Norway cover huge parts of the northern europe. Of technical reasons this is impossible to avoid. That’s why they have put encryption on most of the channels.

    That said, I personally don’t agree with this system and think the content owners need to rethink their model. The internet will eventually force a new model onto the industry. Something that I have tried to illustrate here:

  5. Jill

    So you can’t watch NRK from Italy? That seems really stupid. But yes, it’s for legal reasons, not technical reasons these days – the same kind of reasons why I can’t buy music straight from the American iTunes store but have to wait until the Norwegian version of their store has cleared the rights to sell it to me, or whatever it is they’re waiting for.

    I totally get Bob the millionaire. There are so many cases where it is simply far easier to be a pirate than to buy something. As you’ve pointed out, in many cases it’s IMPOSSIBLE to buy what you want, even though it’s easily available through filesharing. It’s ridiculous.

  6. Eirik Solheim

    The satellites cover northern Italy, but you need a decoder card and that can only be bought by Norwegians with an address in Norway. So, basically – you can’t watch NRK from outside of Norway. Of course Canal Digital would like to sell more decoder cards, but because of rights issues they’re not allowed to sell cards to people abroad.

    This is also one of the reasons why NRK don’t stream NRK1 and NRK2 live on the net. They’re not allowed to. Not because they don’t want to, but because of rights issues. I hear people screaming “filtering by IP”. Well, you know what? Several rights holders don’t find that good enough. And now I hope you are screaming “stupid people!”.

    And why does NRK broadcast pictures from a fish tank several hours a day on their mobile broadcast? Because of rights issues. NRK are not allowed to broadcast their full television signal on mobile.

    And why can NRK only give you three weeks of archive on the radio channels? Because of rights issues. Not because they don’t want to or find the storage space too expensive.

    Cory Doctorow is pointing out very important issues, but it’s not the broadcasters only that need this message. It’s also the content owners, unions of the actors, the music industry etc…

  7. Jill

    Oh dear. That truly sucks.

    And yes. I’m a member of Kritikerlaget, the Critics Union, and one of the main issues unfortunately seems to be limiting digital rights. I mean, I do see that I’m lucky, my main income is secure irrespective of incidental writing I do. For a full time free lance book critic (yes, they do exist) it does suck that you only get paid once for your work and then the newspaper can republish it whereever they want without paying you extra. So in that sense I sort of see the point in stricter contracts that limit what newspapers can do with critics’ work without paying extra. But of course it also means most people will never READ what the critics write, because the newspapers won’t pay extra.

    It really is a rather tricky issue.

  8. Eirik Solheim

    And this is where all this new technology starts making my work really interesting. Consider this:

    Am I breaking the law if I stream NRK from my own computer at home down to my hotel room in Singapore? Probably not.

    Am I breaking the law if I give my friend in the US a login so that he can look at NRK and TV2 in the US from my computer in Norway? Maybe…

    Some business models are becoming seriously obsolete very fast!

  9. Jill

    Ah. Indeed, that is interesting.

  10. Jill

    Lars has a good post about this (in Norwegian) comparing it to the way Norway dealt with oil back in the 70s: foreign companies were given concessions, but with a lot of restrictions.

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