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Download-to-own Films Coming Soon 335

riflemann writes "CNN is reporting that Universal Pictures will soon launch a service whereby films can be downloaded legally to own, i.e. non time-limited digital downloads. Currently most legally downloaded movies are time limited. Buyers will also receive a DVD version in the post. Is the movie industry finally listening? And how will they define 'own?'"
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Download-to-own Films Coming Soon

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  • 40$ for Kong? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrpotato ( 97715 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:52PM (#14985367)
    That's way to expensive. These guys still don't get it. Designed to fail.
  • Security Measures? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eMartin ( 210973 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:53PM (#14985374)
    "Security measures will make it impossible to e-mail the film to somebody else."

    What else will they prevent us from doing?
  • Still too much (Score:5, Insightful)

    by paiute ( 550198 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:55PM (#14985387)
    $35? It won't take off until it goes below $20.

  • Sounds good to me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MBCook ( 132727 ) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:55PM (#14985390) Homepage
    This sounds like a fine system to me. But there is always a catch. So...
    • The downloads will not be full resolution
    • This will only work on Windows
    • The DRM (which we all know is there) will be over the top (must use their player with no other open applications)
    • The compression will be bad
    • It will be in a hard to use format (i.e., can't put on your iPod or transcode it for that purpose)
    • etc.

    I predict at least two of those, probably 3. The second on the list (Windows only) is almost a certainty. Good luck to them, this sounds very good, but my experience tells me there are some major catches in there that we can't see yet.

  • Re:40$ for Kong? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:56PM (#14985397)
    Yes, but in the process of failing they appear progressive, with the intent of deflecting criticism.

    "You see, Mr. Congressman? We tried the newfangled approach and it just doesn't work, you can't sell things on the Intarweb, so we're going back to our old-fashioned screw-the-consumer oligopoly. We know we can make money with that."
  • by O'Laochdha ( 962474 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:56PM (#14985400) Journal
    Let's face it, most downloaders aren't in it for the convenience. Whether it's an ideological beef with the MPAA, lack of funds, or just plain stinginess, most people don't want to pay for these movies. This might catch on among people who don't feel like going out to the store or waiting for it to come via online stores, but it's not going to curb illegal downloading.
  • by DerGeist ( 956018 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:57PM (#14985404)
    This is definitely something that could be very powerful -- like iTunes, except you get the CD in the mail as well. My guess for the "ownership" part of the movie would be it only works on the computer you downloaded it to initially and is, of course, bogged down with DRM that requires you to authenticate each time you use the media.

    This service could really be huge if they implemented something vaguely similar to FairPlay in the sense that you can put it on a few other computers, and instead of putting it on your iPod, you could have a 30 day "timeout" -- if you don't connect to the internet in 30 days and reauthenticate your DRM'ed movie, you can't play it. This way it'll still work if you go on vacation or whatnot.

    The big issue here is we're talking about a movie -- a multi-million dollar venue, corporations don't lightly toss around the idea of letting you put a $500 million production on five other computers for nothing. Hopefully this is a step in the right direction and not just some kind of sick ploy, like if they load it with horrible DRM that eats your soul and then afterwards (when the service rightfully bombs) they just say "eh, there's no market for this kind of service" and never try again. Anyway here's hoping.

  • by sakusha ( 441986 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:06PM (#14985435)
    This is so obscenely overpriced at $35 per movie, hell, you could buy 2 or 3 DVDs for that price. Do the studios not realize that they are driving customers away by price-gouging? This is the same crap we heard from the music companies when vinyl records were going up to $9 and CDs came out, they were supposed to be cheaper than LPs because they were cheaper to manufacture. But music CDs are still way more than $9 (even accounting for inflation).
    The media companies look at every new format as an opportunity to raise prices, even when the cost of manufacturing and distribution drops significantly.
  • my anal-orgy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:12PM (#14985460)
    "And how will they define 'own?'"

    I OWN a car, I can lend it to anyone I please and I can drive it on all public roads in my country. Yes there are limitations, I can only accomodate as many people as the law allows. But if I am not allowed to lend it to anyone i like, I dont own it. So no, this does not actually satisfy my definition of OWN
  • Loaners (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mfh ( 56 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:14PM (#14985480) Homepage Journal
    I agree. I rent movies all the time and when I do, usually a few other people watch them with me. I also lend them out when I'm done with them. I might keep a film -- if it's genre inspiring (like Devil's Rejects, for example).

    Typically a factory-direct model like this is CHEAPER than going through the middle man. Why would we pay MORE for it?
  • No thanks (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt.nerdflat@com> on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:15PM (#14985486) Journal
    My bandwidth is too valuable to waste on stuff I can just go and buy at a video store for about the same price (and considering I could be back from the video store in about 10 minutes, I'd have the movie a lot faster getting it myself too).
  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:24PM (#14985522)
    What else will they prevent us from doing?

    Well, given how quickly every protection scheme that has come down the pike so far has been cracked, I'd have to say ... not much.
  • Re:40$ for Kong? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tinkertim ( 918832 ) * on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:26PM (#14985531) Homepage
    Ah no, they had to anticipate the new tier AT&T / Verizon surcharges into consideration when setting their pricing. I'm sure 'ma bell is going to want her cut of this too .. can't be making money off their network with 'cheap servers' like Google does, that would be simply unacceptable.

    It is bad enough the average parent can't afford to take a family of 3 - 4 to see a movie. Now they've gone and done this. Nimrods.

    What next, do I have to go buy my nachos at a cinema before I can watch the movie at home? Screw DRM, and screw them for gouging. Just wait till all of the torrent networks start forwarding traffic directly to them to let them know just what they think of the idea. You thought the slashdot effect baked a CPU .. heh. Ever try to reach an abuse contact in China?

    Bad move on that thar MS network guys. Bad Move.


    Off my soapbox.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:50PM (#14985620)
    Where has everyone been? The porn business has been doing this for ages, once again proving that pornographers are miles ahead of everyone and on the cutting edge of technology!
  • by Amouth ( 879122 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:51PM (#14985624)
    I think the file size alone will prevent "e-mail" ing the film to anyone..

    if i got a full length movie sent via e-mail to me and the mail server accepted it i would first fix the mail server then beat the person who sent it to me
  • Re:40$ for Kong? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by billcopc ( 196330 ) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:53PM (#14985631) Homepage
    Man can I borrow your soapbox ? Looks like yours has a big built-in amplifier :)

    Torrent networks don't "attack" things.. while it might be possible to add someone's IP to the list of tracked peers and generate bogus SYN traffic, it wouldn't accomplish much as Bittorrent clients are designed to initiate a connection less than once every 5 minutes to any given host or tracker.

    Rewinding to the main topic, the only way to communicate to these media conglomerates isn't whining on /. or threatening to pirate their movies. We are dealing with business.. big business. The only language businesses speak is the language of money. Don't buy their stuff.. any of their stuff! Stop buying DVD movies, stop going to the cinemas, tell little Nicky he can shove his Harry Potter up his ass. Now I'm not saying this will hurt the company, but their bean counters will notice and those bean counters are the ones in power. They won't listen to our voice, but they will listen to our dollars.

    The day common people understand the democratic power of money, is the day democracy will start working for everyone.
  • Betting On (Score:2, Insightful)

    by u16084 ( 832406 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:00AM (#14985653)
    For that Price... They are betting on "impulse" buyers. And everyone is right, it is setup to fail. Movies are not the sort of thing "You JUST MUST HAVE NOW". (Not for $35) If you consider thet latest articles on /. - The Taxation (extortion) that is proposed on bandwidth hungry sites. Shipping Costs etc etc. Yes, someone is going to comment on that the DVD/Movie industry is over priced and they could afford it. But which studio is going to come forward as say "Welp, the consumer was right, we were ripping everyone off, the new and improved price is $...." While the rest of the pack growls and attacks. (other studios) Price Structures are very difficult to change. Especially when it seems to be "a standard"

    To throw some oil into the water so to speak, in order to download A MOVIE... Youre talking about 2-3 hours for high quality... (your really think they'll use a fancy codec (xvid etc etc?) Thats 2 hours too long as your nearest blockbuster/walmart,bestbuy is 30 min away at the most, and you can take your family out for ice cream :)

    Theres ALOT at stake here. They have a HUGE piracy issue at hands, the wood they are throwing onto the fire better be wet.

    And no, I didn rtfa.
  • by Doppler00 ( 534739 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:00AM (#14985660) Homepage Journal
    What it essentially means is that these movies are not "download to own". They are probably only functional as long as your PC's generated key is properly validated against their servers. Once this mechanism no longer functions, you will not be able to watch the movies. Download to own this isn't.
  • by necro81 ( 917438 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:02AM (#14985665) Journal
    At the speed of my connection (at home, not at work, and (alas) no longer at college), it'll be faster for me to wait for them to mail me the disc. On the other hand, at the price point they're offering, I may as well just buy the disc online and splurge on the second-day shipping.

    Your feeble marketing skills are no match for the power of the Postal Service! You will pay the price for your lack of vision!

    I'm serious about that lack of vision thing. I give them kudos for at least trying, but trying in a way that is bound to fail isn't innovation - it is just plain stupid.
  • by Y-Crate ( 540566 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:02AM (#14985666)
    Apple is widely rumored to be in negotiations with the studios to add feature films to the iTunes Store, but the major hangup seems to be that the studios are insisting on a $9.99 a month subscription to keep a constant flow of cash coming their way, with an extra $13 or so on top of the monthly fee to keep movies after the term of the subscription ends. Jobs is having none of this, insisting on a $9.99 per movie fee with no monthly charge. You pay $10 and it's yours forever, and you don't have to keep spending money every month to maintain access to your files. The iTunes Music Store has had an enormous amount of success with this compared to the subscription models offered by other services, and it is more compatible with the existing customer mentality that when you pay for a film, it becomes part of your collection forever.

    The service proposed in the article is a perfect example of what we would get if the music industry got their way with iTunes music pricing. The labels are insisting they be allowed to charge more for newer, and more popular music (driving the prices of digital content closer to that of physical media) while offering "lower" prices for older content (Steve Jobs is resisting the increases). The Universal movie service will charge you $35 for new releases, and offer an "incredible" 50% discount on older films, which brings the price for the back catalog down to what you would pay for a physical DVD.

    Economics dictates that they can charge whatever the market will bear, but I think the past few years has proven that the market simply will not bear what the conglomerates are demanding. They have this fantasy that if online stores offer the same products that they aren't selling enough of in brick-and-mortar stores at the same, or a higher price than the brick-and-mortar stores, that sales will increase.

    The prevalence of file sharing had a lot to do with the convenience, but it was also much more a direct rebellion against the pricing schemes that the cartels had shoved down our throats for decades. iTunes killed two birds with one stone and took away the incredible premium they were demanding in retail stores, and adopted the convenience of the file sharing networks. Sales rebounded, and now they feel as if their original methodology was somehow correct and they can begin maximizing their profits by demanding more money for less product.

    They are unable to accept the notion that they have been wrong all of these years, and are terrified that Apple is increasingly making them irrelevant in the marketplace. They are not producing any physical product, the overhead and media itself is being paid for out of Apple's tiny cut (they've only recently passed break-even on the store) and they are collecting a lionshare of the proceeds for doing nothing but allowing Apple to reproduce the content they did not make. It's a zero-risk, zero-investment game with high returns for them and them alone. With fewer bands (even established ones) getting any attention from the marketing departments at major labels, the day is coming when they will be cut out of the arrangement altogether and bands upload their music on their own (as they can do right now when they lack a big-label contract prohibiting such things). If you're not getting any airplay, the only thing you need is GarageBand, a tour promoter and an iTunes merchant account. The 90% take the labels claim on each sale, and the indentured servitude they put bands in for the ridiculous expenses they charge to each group just isn't getting anyone but a few main artists any kind of return.

    The film studios are well-aware of the trap the music labels walked into, and want to ensure that any movie service has no room in it for the individual copyright holder and is arranged so if the movie studios are the only source for content, they get a monthly cut and there is no ability for individuals to upload their own films, as there is no way for them to tap into the monthly revenue stream going back to Hollywood.
  • Re:Own (Score:2, Insightful)

    by zcat_NZ ( 267672 ) <zcat@wired.net.nz> on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:11AM (#14985703) Homepage
    You will not make backup copies of your files.
    You will not have your files on more than one computer.
    You may not share the files under any circumstance.

    Standard DRM stuff. Wouldn't surprise me in the least.

    You may not playback the movie to more than 5 people.

    The usual wording is more like "For home viewing only. This film may not be rented or shown in public, clubs, schools, churches, prisons, etc" .. You have four friends over for poker, that's a club. Don't even think about letting them watch a movie with you! They make it pretty clear that they'd really like to fine you for letting anyone who isn't immediate family watch it with you, if only they could catch you at it. And somewhere an MPAA lawyer is working on a version that forbids viewing by families with more than four children too.

  • Re:40$ for Kong? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mix4pix ( 963253 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:13AM (#14985713) Homepage
    "Certain types of customers would love that sort of thing." Yeah, the ones with RAID arrays in their living rooms and time to watch hours and hours of un-color-corrected, noisy, botched takes. Hint: that footage didn't make it into the movie for a reason. While "providing all the original uncut footage" might be a wet dream for some fans, it would be horrible PR for the actors and director, and a total invasion of their privacy, not to mention COMPLETELY discounting the work of the editors, sound editors, visual effects guys, and music guys. The ONLY purpose of something like this would be to give the public an appreciation of what goes into making a film . . . something you seem to be lacking in as well.
  • Re:40$ for Kong? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MikeFM ( 12491 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:22AM (#14985750) Homepage Journal
    Maybe you could say, all unused footage that doesn't invade privacy. I'm not saying the film of someone taking a piss between scenes. As to the uncorrected, unorganized, horrible rest I suggest that you remember that one mans trash is another mans treasure. You may not see anything useful there but to some people it'd be a wealth of data to build wonderful things from.
  • Are they nuts? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Pedrito ( 94783 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:27AM (#14985771)
    $35 for new releases, $17.50 for older movies? What a bunch of crap. For the less popular new releases, you can buy the DVD for less than $20 and you still get the extra scenes and other junk that comes on the DVD. Why am I going to pay MORE for a lower quality version when I can go buy it cheaper and then rip it to whatever quality I want.

    I suspect their argument will go something like this: "See, nobody is buying them. Selling online doesn't work because everyone is pirating it." When I saw the headline I was surprised and optimistic, but then I read the fine print and it all made perfect sense.

    Oh well, the MPAA and RIAA are just putting themselves out of business. Too bad for them.
  • by alijsyed ( 957651 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:27AM (#14985773)
    Price the movies equal to the admission of a theater ticket (thereby eliminating the theater's slice of the pie) and they will explode in growth. I don't
    mind paying $8 for a movie that I can watch in comfort at home with my own food.

    I think they could really make it big. But at $30 it's a no brainer...no one would use it

    iTunes became big because it's fair priced. $1 is not that much and you feel good about not pirating.

  • Re:So when... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <aussie_bob@@@hotmail...com> on Friday March 24, 2006 @12:38AM (#14985806) Journal
    So when should we expect to see download-to-own software?

    Now. http://www.fsf.org/ [fsf.org]

  • by NotQuiteReal ( 608241 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @02:12AM (#14986097) Journal
    I don't buy many DVDs and CDs, but I do BUY, when they are priced right.

    What do I own? For both music or video it averages about $5 a disc (on sale, ebay, cdbaby, Costco...)

    Priced more than that? I somehow find other distractions to fill the time.

    For me (and I am in the uber-top % of wage earners, per this site [globalrichlist.com]) it just isn't worth more than about $2-3 for a whole CD of music or $4-5 for a DVD. For others it might be less - but it is worth something. Downloading stuff for "free" isn't free - it takes time, burning it to discs cost money, and hey, you have evidence of a felony laying around now... who needs that?

    I do have an iPod - But I have spent $0 at iTunes. Why? Because CDEX and my own Discs work just fine, thank you.

    All my CDs and DVDs are from eBay, Costco, the "bargin bin" at Circuit City, etc. Full-retail just doesn't cut it. Even the annoying "join-now-get-X-discs-free" clubs work out to about $6/disc if you join, do the minimum, and quit.

    Whatever happened to the concept of "making more profit on volume?" Media companies are missing out on a lot of sales, IMO, with their current pricing strategy.

    While broke kids will always download stuff "for free", regular honest folks will buy tons of stuff at "Wal-Mart" prices - or not at all, when it comes to non-essential items like music and videos.

  • Re:The UK price (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dr_Barnowl ( 709838 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @05:47AM (#14986639)
    WHY would I want to do this?

    If I can get the original media for, as you point out, £14 rather than £20, watch it, and if I so desire, trade it, sell it on, etc. I can then rip and transcode it, and play it on the device of my choice. Very useful for my work laptop, which is from the stone age and has no DVD-ROM.

    Or I can download it for *more money*. And get a complimentary physical backup of the DRM-ised file, which I cannot trade or sell on.

    They are either not thinking this through at all, or they are just waving it in the breeze as a token gesture to the courts ; "look, we tried, but those smelly hackers kept on breaking the law!"
  • by Ziviyr ( 95582 ) on Friday March 24, 2006 @09:58AM (#14987349) Homepage
    Don't forget, the car automagically stalls on a randomly defined half of the roads, because those roads don't support DRM (or the right kind thereof).

    It of course showed no signs of that on the show floor.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982