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Apple to Announce iTunes Movie Rentals? 347

Posted by Zonk
from the no-drm-is-safe dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Think Secret is reporting that the next Apple Worldwide Developer's Conference may be the company's platform to announce movie rentals via iTunes. The files would probably have a built-in shutoff timer, or only allow a certain number of viewings." From the article: "Apple is said to have ironed out agreements with Walt Disney, Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, and Warner Bros., and is currently in talks with other major movie studios as well. It's unknown to what extent content will be available come the August 7 announcement, or whether Apple will announce all of its studio deals at that time ... Apple had been trying for months to persuade the movie studios that the a-la-carte model of buying individual titles, as the iTunes Music Store offers with music, was the way to go. The studios, however, have been fixed on offering only a subscription or rental-based model."
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Apple to Announce iTunes Movie Rentals?

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  • Pirates announce a hack you can download from some website that turns off whatever that flag is, the studios go berserk as millions of copies of movies circulate from ipods onto some movie-napster-like site, and we start the whole music-anti-piracy rigamarole again but with ipod movies. Will no one ever learn?
    • help you fill in the list

      "some movie-napster-like site" = youtube.com
    • a hack you can download from some website that turns off whatever that flag is

      Let's look at the current iTunes audio system, though: You can burn a FairPlay-DRMed audio file to disc, re-import it, and the DRM is gone. Sure, there's a small loss of quality, but it's pretty small for us non-audiophiles.

      It seems like a pretty big loophole, it's VERY well-known, and Apple has never made a peep about it. It's almost like they're saying, "Hey, we WANT you to have unrestricted access to the stuff you buy; we

      • Apple has always given the impression that they aren't interested in expending a whole lot of effort on DRM, and pretty much do whatever they think the bare minimum that's necessary to pass the studio's "sniff test."

        Their attitude seems to be 'release whatever we can squeeze by the studios, and then if something becomes a major problem, we'll change it.' Hence the original versions of iTunes had some neat remote-music-sharing features, but then when they became major sources of piracy and the studios starte
  • by intrico (100334) on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @10:04AM (#15736592) Homepage
    If Netflix is on top of their game, they had better move quickly and setup deals with the studios to offer movies for download, or else they will quickly see themselves cast to the wayside.
    • by artifex2004 (766107) on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @10:10AM (#15736646) Journal
      If Netflix is on top of their game, they had better move quickly and setup deals with the studios to offer movies for download, or else they will quickly see themselves cast to the wayside.


      I can keep and watch a NetFlix DVD for days, even weeks if I choose. It takes up a slot of my subscription, but I incur no extra fees.
      Can I do that with a rented download?

      Also, am I willing to spend all day tying up my DSL downloading 8GB of data for a DVD-quality movie? No.
      Will downloaded movies that are much smaller have degraded video quality, lack extras and other things that equivalent titles on DVD have? Probably.

      Somehow, I don't think NetFlix is going to disappear quickly, even if they don't do downloads.
      • The movies would no doubt be in H.264 NOT MPEG-2 as a DVD is so you're not going to be downloading 8GB for a movie. It'll probably be less than 1GB if they keep it at the same quality as DVDs.
      • 1) You pay a monthly charge for NetFlix. If you keep a movie for weeks, you are paying for it in terms of a monthly subscription. If you wanted to do the same with an online rental, you too would have to pay for it. There is no difference there.

        2) Apple will use MP4, as they already do with TV and music videos. That means for "effective" DVD quality they compress to something like 1.4Mbps instead of the more normal 7Mbps found on DVDs. A fourfold decrease in bitrate means a full DVD quality movie is only 2G
    • You're making the assumption that Netflix users are using Netflix simply because they don't have an alternative outside of downloading a movie. While that might be true for a minority, it's just that: a minority.

      I imagine if Apple is going to be smart, the movie downloads are not only going to be for the iPod but also for your Mac that is now a home theater PC. A Mac Mini in every living room, and the kids can download/rent Sponge Bob Squarepants whenever they want.

      Movie downloads for an iPod or a computer
    • The original Netflix plan was downloading. But that depended sufficient broadband. Colleges with InterNet2 can download two hours of quality video in minutes, but it is still on the order of an hour for your average home broadband.
  • Video DRM? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by darcling (987237)
    I'm still appalled by audio DRM! And now they're trying to shove this down my throat? Yet another useless, restrictive technology that I will boycott (vote with your pocketbook).

    Hell, it seems to me that more restrictive formats give rise to more piracy (arrrr).
  • by trianglecat (318478) on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @10:05AM (#15736604)
    Dvd jon [wikipedia.org]... start your engine.
  • Steve sell us out? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Shivetya (243324) on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @10:07AM (#15736621) Homepage Journal
    Say it ain't so.

    I can't wait to see the sugar coating.

    Frankly, he should have told them to stuff it. I figure what happened is that they went full on developing the video iPod and supporting software figuring they could bully their way over the studios. Now with the hardware in hand and no progress he is being forced to do something to move the new product.... aren't shareholders wonderful - can't let the carpet ride end.

    Still, no way, no how. I don't care who packages the DRM of this sort. Its wrong. If I pay for it I want access to it when I want to access it. Otherwise refund me when it expires.
    • Still, no way, no how. I don't care who packages the DRM of this sort. Its wrong. If I pay for it I want access to it when I want to access it. Otherwise refund me when it expires.

      Three cheers for reading comprehension! This is for rented movies. You can access when you want to access it during the time that the rental agreement allows. Same thing goes at Blockbuster, Hollywood Video, Netfliz, etc. You can't just rent a movie and expect to keep it forever.

      I'm against DRM on purchased stuff as wel
  • by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @10:09AM (#15736641) Journal
    If it only costs a couple of bucks, and I can load it on my iPod, then connect it to my TV, I'm good. The music I've downloaded from iTunes I've listened to hundreds of times. Most movies aren't worth owning, and many of the ones I do own I've only watch a few times. If they can keep it under $3, my video store is going to lose a lot of money.
  • What if... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by growse (928427) on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @10:11AM (#15736656) Homepage
    What I'd like to know is that if it's the case where you're only allowed to watch it, say twice, does it count if you start to watch it? I mean, it's a film, so it's going to be longer than an hour. What if I pay my $28, download it, start to watch it and get a BSOD because I've got a buggy codec (and also, hey, it's windows)? I reboot, do the same to make sure it wasn't a freak incident and it BSOD's again. So now I've started to play it twice (say my limit is two) and been unable to watch more than 5 seconds of it and can't fix the problem and watch it again because the file's gone and locked itself.

    Do I get my money back?

    Not even that, lets say I get an hour through my hour and a half film, and there's a corruption in the file which causes it to stop playing. The player crashes, so I load it up again, navigate to 59 mins and it crashes again. Do I get my money back? How do I prove that it was corrupted on download and that I didn't fire up notepad and let my mind go beserk.

    This isn't so much of a problem for music, because the files are relitively small. With film, I'd guess that there is a higher chance of a problem just because the files are bigger and the codecs more complex.
  • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @10:15AM (#15736696)
    A significant number of people, sucking down 5-8Gb every day or so. I think we'll start to see the ISP's enforcing their (unwritten) bandwidth limits.
  • Renting 320x240 videos? Not like you can see any real decent amount of detail in such a small screen, without bringing it close to your face and squinting, anyways. And personally, I'd much rather Apple fix their current problem with their new iTunes update, which has prevented my fiancee's iPod from syncing up with his computer. (Computer sees iPod, iPod sees it's connected to the computer - iTunes fails as the intermediary transfer program.)
    • People are buying the TV shows at 320x240 and watching them on their iPods. It stuns me, but the convenience seems to outweigh the resolution issues for a lot of people. For movies you've got the additional hassle of the different screen shape; perhaps the latest round of iPods have a 16x9 screen.

      We see exactly the same argument whenever there's a HD article: lots of Slashdotters claiming that 640x480 is plenty for them and they don't feel the need to spend a lot of money on a new TV and player for the hig
  • ... not an official announcement.

    It's funny to see everyone commenting and producing all kinds of opinions based on a rumour from thinksecret. How many rumours have they actually ever gotten right?

    It seems unlikely to me that S. Jobs who has already explicitely stated he does not like the rental model on several occasions, would suddenly change his mind (though I would not rule it out as an option). And he "managed to be convinced by Disney et al."? That must be real hard for Disney to do(considering he is
    • Jeez lighten up. It's a rumour. On a site. That barely ever gets anything right.

      Indeed, I wouldn't at all be surprised if Jobs has convinced the studios to at least try a purchase model for movies. After all, iTunes has been an excellent vehicle for TV show sales, generating new revenue for the studios. While the media companies obviously see Apple as a competitor, if Jobs can convince them that iTunes is a distribution network that is already proven and ready for action, they may recognize that they'll

    • Not to mention the fact this is supposedly being announced at the WWDC.

      The WWDC. World Wide Developers Conference. DEVELOPERS CONFERENCE.

      I expect Jobs to be running around showing the new features of Leopard, but I highly doubt that a movie rental service is going to be one of them. The only people that will be able to make use of the service are those with Leopard? That makes no sense whatsoever. Ok, well, he'd be announcing a new feature of iTunes at the WWDC? In God's name, why? What next? Maybe he'

  • Good but.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gstegman (988905) on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @10:17AM (#15736708)
    Now if they could only get my iPod battery to last long enough to get through more than 70 minutes of video... I really don't think that movies on an iPod are going to be viable until the batteries improve. Either I will have to watch a movie in two parts or I will have to watch it tethered to my PC in which case I might as well use a service other than iTunes.
  • It is not known exactly how the coding system will work, but industry experts tell Think Secret that the software would likely either limit the number of playbacks

    1) Download screen and audio capture utility (google)
    2)Download movie
    3)Install screen and audio capture utility
    4) Run screen and audio capture utillity
    5) PLay the movie in full screen mode
    6) Burn recorded movie to DVD 7)Enjoy! and/or Profit!

    or provide unlimited viewing for a period of time, after which the movie will be "turned off
  • Assuming Apple uses some sort of P2p system like is being rumored AND it becomes wildly popular (Apple seems to have the Midas touch). Can you imagine the load that will be put on ISPs?

    Even if it DOES NOT use a p2p system all those people downloading multi-gig sized files is gunna really piss of the likes of comcast, cox, ect.

  • Conflicted Feelings (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pavon (30274) on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @10:40AM (#15736918)
    There are some things that I prefer renting over buying, and movies are one of those things. With the exception of a few "classics", movies don't have enough replay value for me to justify paying more to buy them. Heck, if DVD's were as cheap as rental I wouldn't buy them because they would just be one more thing cluttering up the house.

    However, the concept of rental clashes with the nature of the online and digital world. Everything that exists can be copied in exact form. You can't return data - you have a copy, not the original. The way I see it there are two options, the concept of rental can be preserved artificially with the introduction of DRM, or it can be abandoned in favor of purchases.

    As a consumer I don't have a problem with the general idea of DRM on a rental - my fair use rights aren't being violated, because I don't have the right to backup, timeshift, or format shift rentals to begin with (unlike media I own, for which any DRM is intolerable). Where the problem occurs is the proprietary nature of DRM. At best, the rental DRM would be an "Open Standard" meaning anyone who pays RAND* patent fees and signs an NDA will be allowed to implement a device, and be given keys (specific to them) to decode the data. Then I could buy online rental devices or software from any number of manufactures, and it would be guaranteed to work with any number of online rental stores. This is similar to the legal workings of DVDs, Blueray, WMV. At the worst you have proprietary technologies, where each company has it's own format and player, like with Apple or DVIX (the first one). In both cases there will never be an open source player - the best we could hope for is something like the new Real Player that has an open source core with proprietary plug-ins. Even that is unlikely, as the movie industry is demanding end-to-end security (HDMI, Trusted Computing) which an open source operating system would not provide.

    In the other option, the internet utopia dream was that the price of media would drop to the point of making rental unnecessary and removing the allure of piracy from the general public. The media industries are strongly opposed to this model of the future, and the only way it will ever happen is if independent media producers embrace it with success, and eventually put the current media companies out of business. This is also unlikely given the weight that the media companies have in government. Therfore, media purchases will also be hindered with DRM for the conceivable future, and will continue to be priced at traditional rates.

    So given DRM on rental verses DRM on purchase, I definitely prefer the previous, but there is another potential risk with DRM rental and it is a biggy. The media companies have shown themselves very fond of the idea of DRM rental, as seen with Napster. They like the model where people don't own copies of media, but instead just subscribe to services that provide them. If too many people embrace these services, we could end up in a situation where everything is locked up. We continue to hear stories about how the original archive copies of important cultural media is being lost due to the extreme length of copyright, and the mismanagement of the copyright holders (Dr Who, classic films). But in most of those cases, at least lower quality copies exist in the form of consumer media. However, if we can no longer record broadcast media, and there are no purchased copies of media, the copyright holders will be the only ones capable of preserving the records of our popular culture. Time and time again they show themselves inept at doing so.

    Anyway, I plan on sticking to buying CD's and renting locally for as long as those options exist, and continue to support those independent producers who treat their customers with respect. I'll keep trying to inform my representatives about the issues. But I'm not optimistic. We'll see what happens.

    * For the uninitiated:
    RAND = Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory
    NDA = Non-Disclosure Agreement
  • Jobs isn't stupid. An earlier comment said he likely had the video iPod in hand and he had hoped he could just run over the studios...almost certainly true. I'm sure this isn't his preferred method, and I think it's very likely he's actually hoping this does poorly (Rokr, anyone?) so he can go to the studios and say, "See, you were wrong and I was right. Now, do you want to make lots more money?"
  • Am I the only one who remembers when they tried this with DiVX? It didn't work then, it's not going to work this time either. Not to mention, for the majority of this country, I bet those movies will take a day to download... that sounds like fun!
  • the failed DIVX [wikipedia.org] experiment...sans the media. At least with DIVX we got a pretty cool comic character. [wikipedia.org] I mean look at him. [penny-arcade.com] Drunk electronic are funny, what do you think made Bender so great...
  • I don't know how accurate this may be...

    I can see buying a movie online, at DVD quality (or better yet 720p), for $10. That I can live with, I'd probably do so for some titles.

    I can possibly, possibly see renting a DVD quality movie online that went "Dark" after, say, a month. For... let's say $1. No, say $.50.

    That's why I can't see the rental angle here. How do you make any money at all when bandwidth charges for a movie are greater than any fee you could charge that people would accept? A Bittorrent
  • If this is like netflix with downloads instead of DVD, it would rock. I already pay about $20 a month to netflix to get movies. If i get unlimited downloads with the same amount, i would gladly shell out the money and cancel my cable subscription at the same time. This has the potnetial to really hurt netflix AND blockbuster really hard. Combine this with some sort of mac mini home theater set up and you are all set.

  • One word: DIVX (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dpbsmith (263124) on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @11:35AM (#15737491) Homepage
    What's this got that DIVX ain't got? DIVX, backed by the might and power of Circuit City?

    Or FlexPlay (EZ-D) "self-destructing" DVDs, launched into the stratosphere by the hit 2004 Christmas movie, Noel?

    Or RCA's single-play cassettes that would mechanically lock at the end of one play and could only be unlocked by the rental store with a special tool?

    You do remember all of these, don't you?

    You don't? That's funny. I wonder why not.
  • by Altima(BoB) (602987) on Tuesday July 18, 2006 @12:25PM (#15737903)
    Well, let me put a bit of context here,

    I have been a loyal ITMS customer since the onset, looking at my "purchased music" menu in iTunes (which includes TV shows) there's almost 900 items there (granted a couple of them are the 4 disc Final Fantasy soundtracks). I'm okay with the lax DRM on it, I burn CD's of the music for friends, and I burn both raw AAC files to DVD and AIFF copies on CD as backups. As I live in Ireland but use a US billing address, I use iTunes to watch the few TV shows I follow, namely Battlestar Galactica. Price-wise, an album costs less than half the price on iTunes than it does in shops here in Ireland (21 for a new album, that's about $29 - $30) so I haven't bought a CD in years.

    I also have a couple UMD movies that I got fairly cheaply for the PSP (so I can be a sucker too... But really, UMD was a better format than this is, higher resolution, on a better screen and the occassional special feature. It was killed by 2 things: dumb prices, it should be $10, not more than a DVD, and the fact that they flooded the UMD market with crappy movies from the studios back catalogue. Who's gonna shell out for Cheaper By The Dozen on UMD? They ought to have made all the initial releases out of box office hits and films that got oscar nominations...)

    But there's no way in hell I'll get a subscription based file. Thing is, I love movies, I am an animator in training so someday I may be working in movies... but the subscription model was why I could brag that iTunes was so much better than its competitors, now they buy into it... When I buy a movie, I like to scrutinize it privately, to observe editing, shot selection, etc, then I like to watch it with a few friends. I understand there's a hell of a lot of downright awful movies out there, but I dont even bother renting them, I wait for them to come on TV if I am at all bothered to see them. Thing is, the DRM on the iTunes music does allow you to share music with your friends just the same way CD's did, the only thing it stopped you from doing was making 30,000 copies or immediately dumping it onto limewire. It was designed to inconveniance people whose only intent was mass redistribution, but it let me give a copy to a buddy who was interested in it. The TV shows, on the other hand, don't let you burn the video to a readable DVD, thus, if I wasn't using it to keep up with TV shows that aren't in Ireland, it's just too closed for me to really be interested.

    The problem is that the industry sees you loaning a DVD to a friend as a threat, a lost sale. This is crap, someone who's only willing to watch something if it's loaned wasn't necessarily inclined to buy it, and if the product is legitimately GOOD, after they watch the loaned copy, they should be more likely to buy it for themselves.

    It all comes down to the industry finding ways to maximise profit without fostering good products. Sorry if the post is long and incohesive, I'm off to watch Zhang Ziyi on my PSP...
  • by beaverfever (584714) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @08:13AM (#15742661) Homepage
    Steve Jobs has long held that he does not envision the computer being television, nor the television being a computer [macworld.com]. So if iTunes were used for movie rentals, how would the movies be watched? Is a video Airport Express waiting in the wings?

    "Well, we've always been very clear on that. We don't think that televisions and personal computers are going to merge. We think basically you watch television to turn your brain off, and you work on your computer when you want to turn your brain on.

    Well, they want to link sometimes. Like, when you make a movie, you burn a DVD and you take it to your DVD player. Someday that could happen over AirPort, so you don't have to burn a DVD -- you can just watch it right off your computer on your television set. But most of these products that have said, "Let's combine the television and the computer!" have failed. All of them have failed.

    The problem is, when you're using your computer you're a foot away from it, you know? When you're using your television you want to be ten feet away from it. So they're really different animals."

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