Inside the CBC, a new blog on the CBC, contains a discouraging post on the CBC Radio's Internet streaming activities. The posting includes background information on why the CBC streams with Windows media, explaining that it met the CBC's four requirements, including the availability of digital rights management technologies. The posting has led to a robust discussion with several critics sounding off on the pro-DRM approach and raises questions about why the CBC has not instead used OGG or MP3 as a more open format. Tod Maffin, who runs the blog, defends the CBC's use of DRM, arguing that DRM is required under its commercial music broadcast licenses and that the CBC invites lawsuits if it fails to adequately protect its streams.
While I'm a big fan of CBC's streaming services, the suggestion that CBC must use DRM is plainly wrong. First, there are many other public broadcasters who not only reject DRM, but have adopted open licenses (RadioBras in Brazil makes all of its content available under Creative Commons licenses). Second, there is no legal requirement to use DRM under Canadian law. If certain rights holders demand DRM use, the CBC has an alternative. It can reject those demands and choose instead to use only music that rights holders permit to be broadcast without DRM.
There is no shortage of such music. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of Creative Commons licensed songs and the thousands of classical music recordings in the public domain, the majority of Canadian independent labels reject the use of the DRM. Those labels are responsible for 90 percent of new Canadian music, so it seems to me that the CBC will have lots of Canadian content to choose from in its broadcasts and streams. Most of the music that may require DRM protection is likely that from foreign labels promoting foreign artists. While it would be great to include them in CBC broadcasts, Canada's public broadcaster should be rejecting DRM and moving toward as open a platform as possible. The inclusion of greater Canadian content and the ability to truly meet its mandate to be as accessible as possible to all Canadians make this the obvious path to take.