British Telecom: please include freedom in your new music service

Dear BT,

British Telecom is a leader of telecommunication and digital content markets, and has a reputation for product innovation. Plans recently reported for a new not-for-profit music download service1 for BT's 5.5 million broadband customers have sparked much discussion, and once again placed BT at the fore of the future of digital content delivery in the UK.

Amongst those speculating about the nature of the new service are the growing number of BT customers who use Free Software2 web-browsers, operating systems, and multimedia players. Currently these and other Free Software users are unable to enjoy many popular content delivery systems such as Spotify, Steam, and iTunes, because they are not compatible with Free Software, or require the waiving of users' rights and freedoms in order to use them3 4 5. The nature of BT's new service, and the extent to which it respects the freedom of it's users, are therefore of particular concern.

Powerful new Open Standards6 like HTML5 and CSS3, combined with widely used Free Software codecs for rich multimedia like VP8 and Ogg Vorbis, make it easier than ever to build powerful cross-platform applications which respect user freedom whilst maintaining long term accessibility. Recent adoption of these technologies by established content providers such as YouTube, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, Dailymotion, and Deutschlandradio, reflect a growing industry trend towards platform independence through use of Free Software and Open Standards7 8 9 10.

In addition to these web-based technologies exists Free Software tools like Qt and Gtk, which continue to be used by thousands of companies11 to develop world-class desktop applications compatible with all major operating systems.

BT already makes wide use of Free Software12, and “recognises, and welcomes the use of open source software”13. Therefore we ask that you recognise the value of your customer's freedom as you design and deploy your new subscription service, and take the opportunity to benefit from one of the many Free Software technologies which will allow you to achieve this.

The Free Software Foundation Europe is happy to assist you with any questions regarding this issue or Free Software and Open Standards in general.

Yours Sincerely,

UK Team, Free Software Foundation Europe

Footnotes

  1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/pda/2011/mar/28/bt-illegal-filesharing-music
  2. http://fsfe.org/about/basics/freesoftware.en.html
  3. http://www.spotify.com/int/legal/end-user-agreement/#section-12
  4. http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2010-08-12-valve-on-steam-part-two-interview
  5. http://images.apple.com/legal/sla/docs/itunes.pdf
  6. http://fsfe.org/activities/os/os.html
  7. http://www.youtube.com/html5
  8. http://www.fsf.org/campaigns/playogg/sites/norway
  9. http://www.dailymotion.com/html5
  10. http://www.dradio.de/wir/ogg/
  11. http://www.digia.com/C2256FEF0043E9C1/0/405002251
  12. http://opensource.bt.com/ under "products and projects"
  13. http://www.selling2bt.bt.com/Downloads/BTOpenSourcePolicyextractsforsuppliersIssue1.pdf ("Open source software" and "Free Software" refer to the same thing with different connotations)