Freeing digital downloads from the shackles of the BBC iPlayer

This content is 16 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

I’ve written before about my concerns with the BBC iPlayer but nevertheless, it is the only legal way to download BBC programming to my computer that I am aware of. Since I wrote that post, iPlayer has been improved to include streaming content for unsupported platforms but that doesn’t allow for offline viewing (catching up on TV episodes on the train, for example).

Well, there is a workaround and, as I figure that I am a BBC licence fee-payer and the content has been downloaded legally, converting it to watch it on another device is at least morally acceptable – even if the BBC may not agree. After all, it’s not as if I’m sharing the resulting files with other people. Based on my initial tests, it seems to work well – at least with the version of Windows Media Player that my iPlayer machine is using (v11.0.5721.5230).

All it involves is taking one copy of Windows XP, with a working BBC iPlayer installation, and running a couple of utilities to identify the keys to the Windows Media Player and remove the DRM from the .WMV files that make up the iPlayer content (by default, this is held at %allusersprofile%\Documents\My Deliveries\iplayer_live). The resulting file(s) should play in Windows Media Player without DRM restrictions – and, critically, will also play back on Windows Vista or MacOS X (using the Windows Media Components for QuickTime).

5 thoughts on “Freeing digital downloads from the shackles of the BBC iPlayer

  1. It seems that this method will also work for content from the Channel 4 On Demand service and presumably anything else that uses Windows Media as the DRM scheme.

  2. So, there I was, trying to avoid naming the tools in case anyone thought I was providing instructions to break copy protection and the BBC actually references them in one of their own news stories:

    Various tools have been created to strip files of the [Windows Media] DRM, such as FairUse4WM, a program released in August 2006 by a hacker named Viodentia.

    Nine days after the crack first appeared, Microsoft released a new version to prevent FairUse4WM from working. Within three days hackers released a new version of the tool.

    The tool can be used to strip DRM from programmes with the BBC iPlayer.

    (Thanks to Alex for highlighting that story to me!)

  3. I’m aware that after building a fresh Windows XP system with the BBC iPlayer (and applying the DRM updates that iPlayer requires in order to download content) the Mirakagi tool used to access the media keys no longer appears to work.

    Further research would seem to indicate that, even though Mirakagi v0.9 reports that no keys were found, Fair Use For Windows Media (FairUse4WM v1.3fix-2) can recover the necessary keys (as long as you have legally downloaded the content and acquired a license).

    This has been confirmed using Windows Media Player 9 on a fully patched Windows XP SP3 system – DrmClien.DLL v9.0.0.4503 and Indivbox.key v10.0.0.3646; however the optional Windows Media Player 11 update was not applied (who knows what havoc that will wreak on the setup).

    Note that I am not suggesting that anyone does anything illegal (like distributing the DRM-free files) – this is purely highlighted as a workaround for people who want to watch legally acquired BBC content on a platform other than Windows XP.

  4. Why is it ok to record stuff on a hard drive video recorder and keep
    it as long as you want and distribute, but not be able to watch iplayer downloads after 30 days….?

  5. @Darren – that’s the difference between analogue and digital… and the content providers have the broadcasters tied up in license agreements with digital downloads (hence the iPlayer limits).

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