Steve Anderson steve at
Mon Apr 4 07:19:01 EDT 2011

On 3 April 2011 14:02, James Cook <james.cook at> wrote:

> every since Phil stopped further development of get_iplayer I been
> wondering about the legality of developing code for get_iplayer. I
> wonder if by uploading patches we are exposing ourselves to possible
> legal action..

First of all, IANAL. Take this as personal feeling/perception.

> Does anyone else here wonder about this?

I've pondered it for some time. First of all, get_iplayer doesn't do
anything *illegal* - it may get into woolly areas in T&Cs but it's not
a downloader and doesn't download anything other than publicly
available feeds and parse publicly available web pages to create data
that's more easily machine readable. You could use this data for
purposes other than downloading programmes, and this is what Phil has
done with iPlayer Search: (basically the Web
front-end to get_iplayer separated from get_iplayer's original
purpose). This data could be created using Yahoo Pipes, by someone
with enough time...

The downloading is generally taken care of by one of two separate
programmes, one of which makes no attempt to circumvent DRM systems
(flvstreamer), one of which does (rtmpdump). flvstreamer is a fork of
rtmpdump for people who felt a bit twitchy about three magic strings
being present in its source code, and is potentially the weak point
(which is why Phil took out the support for it originally). My feeling
is that it would be very, very hard to make a case against people
using rtmpdump and a case should be made against the authors of
rtmpdump first to prove that it shouldn't be available for use in the
UK. Adobe tried to kill the project and SourceForge dropped it, but
that was in the US.

There's several problems for the BBC, the biggest of which is that
they are broadcasting several unencrypted MPEG2 streams freely over
the air, 24 hours a day, at 720x576 (ideal for burning to DVD). My TV
has a USB port that will dump the Freeview transport stream straight
to a USB drive. It's like a VCR without a layer of decoding and
re-encoding. I could realistically get virtually everything on iPlayer
by using four tuners dumping all the streams I'm likely to be
interested in (no need for BBC News or BBC Parliament; CBBC and
CBeebies share with BBC Three and BBC Four), and the EPG would take
care of all the tags. A 1TB USB drive is so cheap now, and USB-toting
STBs are available in Argos - you could create a rig like that for
under £200, I reckon. Now, how is that in any way different to using
get_iplayer? The only difference is that the streams are being made
available on demand from the BBC's servers - this is a T&Cs issue.

Looking back, I used to record whole series of programmes to VHS, and
later to recordable DVD. They're for personal use - why is that
morally okay, but taking the same audio/video representation from
iPlayer wrong?

My feeling is that the true Achilles heel of get_iplayer is that it
has the word "iPlayer" in it. It would be so hard to make a case about
anything else without descending into a quagmire of technicalities,
but a straightforward trademark dispute is another matter.

Also, why go for get_iplayer when there's UK Nova? DVDs getting ripped
off? There's much bigger fish to fry than a small open source project.

I remind you, IANAL. This isn't legal advice. This is my own personal
opinion, which justifies my using get_iplayer to myself much better
than "well we pay for it".

> Should we consider some kind of anonimity?

I don't think so. It's a bit late now anyway, but as an outsider
looking in I'd immediately read that as shady behaviour rather than
that of a group of technically minded individuals making a publicly
funded service work better for them.

One more time. IANAL.


Irregular Shed -

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