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Warner Bros. to Sell Movies Over BitTorrent 319

martinmarv writes "The BBC is reporting that Warner Bros. is to sell movies over BitTorrent. Disappointingly, the pricing is set to be about the same as the DVD, even though the download will only become available at the same time as the DVD release, and can only play on one machine. In distributing films via download, Warner will join the ranks of MovieLink and CinemaNow. Perhaps they should wait to see how their $1.50 experiment works out first?." From the article: "Other Hollywood studios are now likely to launch similar services. They believe movie fans will prefer to pay a reasonable price for a legal downloaded movie rather than risk illegally swapping a computer file that could contain viruses or be a poor quality copy of a film. "
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Warner Bros. to Sell Movies Over BitTorrent

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  • by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) * on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:09AM (#15292357)

    From TFA:
    Pricing for a feature film will be about the same as the DVD release.

    Warner added that whether a TV show or feature film, it will only play on the initial computer used to make the download.

    The downloads will not therefore work on other PCs or standard DVD players.
    So let me get this straight...I can download a feature film, but can only play it on the system I downloaded it to, while for the same price I could have a DVD that I can play anywhere I wish. Hmm.

    Also the issue of extra content (out-takes, deleted scenes, yadda yadda yadda) is not addressed. The article says I can download a 'feature film', but it mentions nothing regarding the bonus features (personally, I despise the bonus features, but I know many people who purchase DVDs with the bonus features specifically in mind). Even if the extra content is included (making for a hefty download), that still doesn't justify the price tag, seeing how the download is locked to one machine.

    This doesn't really sound like Warner Bros. "believe movie fans will prefer to pay a reasonable price for a legal downloaded movie rather than risk illegally swapping a computer file that could contain viruses or be a poor quality copy of a film"...it sounds more like:
    • Warner Bros. wants to appear as if they are supporting movie downloads,
    • Warner Bros.' actual objective is to discourage the adoption of downloadable content as a standard.

    Thanks for nothing, Warner Bros..

    Why aren't they trying the $1.50 experiment [msn.com] here in the U.S.? Apparently, we're not pirating enough.
  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:10AM (#15292369) Journal
    First off, I wish Warner Brothers would get it through their head that if they are to compete with piracy, they have to price the movies as such.

    If they price them as much as the hardcopies, who's going to buy them? Nobody. Your pirates are trying to escape high prices & your regular DVD buyers are going to balk at the offer for the fact that they could order a nice shiny cased DVD off amazon for the same price.

    I highly doubt anyone will use this service if they keep the prices on par with the DVDs. If they offer them at even half price, then you might see some movement from both sides (pirates and DVD buyers) to that middle ground and hopefully recoup some of your losses from the pirates.

    Offer downloads so cheap that you run the pirates out of business but leave quality lacking so true fans will always buy the DVDs.
  • Cost of bandwidth (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xiangpeng ( 324117 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:12AM (#15292380) Homepage
    So, I have to pay the same price for the movie, minus the physical media? Shouldn't WB be paying people who are helping to distribute the movie too? Users using this service will have to pay for their bandwidth AND the cost of the movie at the same price of a DVD?

    Thanks WB. Wonderful business plan you got there.
  • by Carthag ( 643047 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:13AM (#15292382) Homepage
    I'm wondering how they will go about using bittorrent and DRM at the same time, effectively. Bittorrent's strength lies in many people having the exact same file, so if the DRM is added post-download, it would be trivial to intercept the data before the lockdown and use it as such. If the DRM is added before the download, I am having difficulties seeing how BT can be used to any significant advantage.

    Encapsulating the movie in an encrypted executable that phones home for authorization? Ugh.
  • by UnixRevolution ( 597440 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:14AM (#15292396) Homepage Journal
    Perhaps it'd be worth it to not spend 8 days downloading the Swedish version of Star Wars Ep. I like my friend did, thinking it was english.
  • New Computers? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mizhi ( 186984 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:18AM (#15292420)
    What about when a person who upgrades their family computer and wants to be able to watch the movies he purchased and backed up? Is he forced to buy another copy of the movie to watch it because his old copy won't play on his new machine? Why should I pay for something that will simply be unusable in 5 years after I upgrade my computer?

    Count me out. I'll just stick with DVDs: the price is the same, without the gimping of the product (region codes aside).
  • by Xesdeeni ( 308293 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:23AM (#15292448)
    The whole using Bittorrent to distribute anything for a profit should be axed by users until they get a cut. No media, no home theater, single machine, no bandwidth, no storage, but the full DVD price!? Yeah, that'll fly.

  • by Hrshgn ( 595514 ) <rince2001&gmx,ch> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:28AM (#15292490)
    But people who buy DVDs today might download MORE movies if prices were lower. I only buy movies of which i'm sure that i'll watch them more than once. If prices were lower, i would also take the risk and download an unknown movie. hrshgn
  • Uh, no thanks. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sdo1 ( 213835 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:28AM (#15292494) Journal
    Warner added that whether a TV show or feature film, it will only play on the initial computer used to make the download. The downloads will not therefore work on other PCs or standard DVD players.

    A small step in the right direction, but no thanks. I'd gladly buy an un-DRM'd file that I can burn to DVD and shrink to put on my ipod.

    I require AMP (that's Absolute Media Portability). Can I play it on my non-network connected TV in the bedroom? Can my kids watch it in the car? Can I loan it to my friend? If the answer to any of those is "No", then I'm really not interested. If "Yes", then I'll be VERY interested.

    It seems incredibly stupid to me for media companies to waste money on physical distribution when they could be distributing bits. But I requite that I can do the same thing with those bits that I can do with physical media.


  • No use to me. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MartinG ( 52587 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:30AM (#15292504) Homepage Journal
    This is no use to me. What I want is simple:

    My preferred movie characterastics (in order of priority)

    1) No (or easily circumventable) DRM.
    2) Legal.
    3) High quality.
    4) Cheap.

    This matches 2 and 3, but misses my number 1 priority.

    The best match so far is a DVD, since its easy to bypass the DRM in order to copy the movies onto my home built media devices. Other times I end up downloading the odd movie which fulfils 1, 4, and often 3 as well.

    Currently for many downloading is the best option by far, which is unfortunate because of its questionable legality. If only the industry would lower the price and remove the DRM it would match all four for me and I would be jumping at it. I think they are just too scared and/or greedy to do that though.

  • by vadim_t ( 324782 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:37AM (#15292562) Homepage

    Kids, unemployed people maybe. Adults much less so. At some point you realize: "Hmm, I can either pay for this with 15 minutes of work, or spend 2 hours looking for a crack that might be loaded with spyware. Then I'll probably have to spend a day to reinstall Windows."

    If you don't have money, you just "pay" with your time instead. Give me MP3 at $0.1 per song and pirating will be completely pointless. Movies I'd be willing to buy at about $5, with no DRM, as a DVD image.

    Personally, I don't buy DVDs. Why? Expensive, insane industry, forced ads in content I'm paying for, DRM interfaces... like hell I will pay for that. Remove all that insanity, offer it with an easy to access system that works from Linux, and I'll happily start buying.
  • by Crayon Kid ( 700279 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:43AM (#15292611)
    I think the movies should be about $10 and be able to be burned once to a DVD Disc so that people can enjoy them elsewhere and not on a PC.

    You and mostly anybody else, but tell that to the Holywood execs. It's a simple problem, except they don't want to see it as such: they're competing with movies in 2 CD format, distributed for almost free, which only cost the downloader the Internet bandwidth and can be used however they please. How do you beat that? Hint: NOT with a 4+ GB download that plays on only one computer and is priced the same as a full DVD.

    So what's the big advantage? Don't say the legal aspect. If that was really an issue, we wouldn't be talking about this. I suppose it would be nice to feel 100% legal, but under our conditions, not theirs.

    So what they should do is sell downgraded versions about 1 or 1.5 GB big, without any restrictions, for at most 10 bucks. That and the legal bit would be worth it and make a good offer, but I reckon it's gonna be a while until we see that become the norm. Oh well, joke's on them. Any year that passes without such services is a year they don't collect from them. Let's see if they can match this would-be income with the money they get from lawsuits. No? Didn't think so either.
  • Re:But! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:44AM (#15292620) Journal
    And why would the risk of a low quality DL matter?
    The first torrent was bad/poor? Download a different one.

    I only say this because their product has the same release date as the DVD, which means that a DVD Rip/Screener is already going to be out.

    Maybe the user base just needs to be 'educated' about nomenclature [vcdquality.com] & downloading the sample first.
  • by zxnos ( 813588 ) <zxnoss@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:49AM (#15292659)
    you have to pay for the vehicle and the gas to get to the store. (at least many of us). actually this is a just a ploy. when it flops because fewer people pay full price for less of a product, WB will say: see, that doesnt work, they just want to pirate... i would pay a buck or two to download a movie and watch it. not full, media in my hand price though...

    personally, i have received a number of free rentals through movielink. i will never pay for the service because the cost of a rental from them is the same as if i went to my local rental store. i will stick to waiting 2 months and going to the theater 1 mile from my house which only charges a 1.50$ to see a flick... ...and downloading the occasional free movie when the offer is there.

  • not to mention, if nobody is seeding it all you paid for is a headache!

    This brings up an even more interesting point. So let me get this straight - WB will charge DVD prices for a less-than-DVD quality download crippled with DRM - and will use other people's computers to serve the bits.

    Wow - lower quality, same price point, crippled DRM, and they don't even pick up the cost of hosting.

    I'm sold - how do I get my computer to act as a server for them? Because I've always wanted my $45/m for internet to be used at the will of media companies to avoid the hosting fees associated with "allowing" users to download DRM crippled overly-expensive movie releases. Huzzah!

  • by spacemanspiff18 ( 883238 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:58AM (#15292737)
    Sometimes the most effective way to oppose is to publicly support in a format in which is likely to fail. You see this in all kind of political arenas. Seems like WB is just adding another example to the list.
  • Re:But! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ilex ( 261136 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @09:59AM (#15292744)
    Exactly!. How do they expect a DRM encumbered download which costs as much as the DVD to succeed against a superior quality free download which you can play in your standard DVD player and came out months earlier.

    This is a token gesture which offers nothing of value and is designed to fail. Hollywood just wants to crow about being able to offer legal alternatives, their not at all interested in giving the consumer what they really want.
  • As I'm currently pricing out the "every couple of years" computer upgrade, it's on my mind to wonder how they might enforce this?
    It would really bite if I lost the ability to play content I'd actually purchased over BT just because I upgraded to a newer box.
    The article is deathly light on any sort of details on how the technical aspects of that kind of content protection might be done.
    And yes, before everyone chimes in, I KNOW that they'd like me to buy it every time I upgraded my PC ... but that's not what I'm wondering here.
  • Re:But! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by grub ( 11606 ) <slashdot@grub.net> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @10:16AM (#15292854) Homepage Journal

    How do they expect a DRM encumbered download which costs as much as the DVD to succeed

    I don't think they do expect it to succeed. When their half-assed attempt at legal downloads fails they'll have more FUD to spread to lawmakers about evil downloading hurting their bottom line.

    At least their accountants will work out a way to write off the losses for the hardware, networking and other things required for this.
  • by bensch128 ( 563853 ) <bensch128@@@yahoo...com> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @10:25AM (#15292927)
    Hummm, I'm not sure that its a token gesture.

    If the studios offerred the movies at $1.50 and it only played on WMP, I'm sure 80-90% of computer users would be satisfied with the deal. People get their cheap entertainment without spending hours online trying to find a good/downloadable version.


    PS. Hell, I'd go for it if it played on linux. Finding downloadable stuff on bittorrent is a real pain in the ass nowadays.
  • How It Works (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Brown ( 36659 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @11:14AM (#15293305) Homepage
    It will use the DRM mechanism built into Windows Media Player:
    • The file is DRMed before being distributed

    • User downloads DRMed file from BitTorrent, using a modified client. This is the clever bit; it will use a distribution network of dedicated caches created and run by CacheLogic [cachelogic.com] - see a press-release on a trial of this technology [cachelogic.com], which act as 'super-peers', greatly increasing download speeds and reliability. This also cuts the amount of upload bandwidth for users.

    • When the user plays the file, WMP reads the DRM header, which has a URL to get a licence

    • WMP goes to the URL, which contains a username/password form; user logs in, and receives a licence, for that computer. This also allows the distributer to manage/bill users.

    Magic, the authorised user can play the content on his computer, but it can't be copied (or rather it can - but won't be playable without an account!). (I previousply posted some of this before logging in, just to make it clear I'm not pinching it)
  • Re:But! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gsslay ( 807818 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @11:22AM (#15293369)
    their not at all interested in giving the consumer what they really want.

    But what is it that the consumer really wants? By your argument what the consumer really wants is the DVD for free, months before the legitimate release, with the ability to pass it on for free to as many of their friends they like.

    Are you expecting the movie industry to provide that? Are you seriously saying that any industry should be expected to compete competitively in a market against their own product being given away for nothing? Because, guess what, the industry actually producing the product and trying sell it at a profit is going to lose out in that particular comparison. It is not a fair market and demands that they match this are ridiculous.

  • Video Quality (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Danathar ( 267989 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @11:25AM (#15293396) Journal
    The key to drawing many bittorrent users is video Quality. If they can get a Hi-Def version of the show online that they can't get via TV then there is a reason to get it from the studio.

    A 45 min episode of LOST in 720p Xvid Hi-Def looks GREAT. H.264 would be nice but most computers just can't hack it yet.
  • by debest ( 471937 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @11:26AM (#15293400)
    I like the idea of being able to download DVDs legally from the studios directly. However, I would NEVER pay the same price as the normal DVD and only be able to play the movie on one machine.

    That's because they want this initiative to fail. It is explicitly designed to fail, miserably.

    Distribution of digital files over the Internet is enemy of the content industry. Their entire business model is built upon keeping the supply of their product scarce. The Internet is frightening to them (and always will be) because scarcity of easily-reproducable data is impossible to maintain on a free Internet. The business model that works for the industry is physical media, purchased one at a time. This way control is maintained. The media industry will never stop trying to prevent the free movement of all data on the Internet, because any data could be their data!

    This is a smokescreen, nothing more. The movie studios want to be able to go before congress during the future hearings for ever-more restrictive copyright initiatives, saying "We tried to offer legal online distribution: no one would pay for it! Piracy continues unabated! We need to regulate the Internet! NOW!"

    Then they will be able to go back to printing physical copies and stomping on the occasional soul who tries to share a file. In the process, they would like to see ISPs be forbidden to provide customers with actual Internet connections: they would like them to be crippled to prevent anyone from providing any content at all. We should good little consumers and buy what they provide: how dare we be allowed to actually contribute anything! Why, that might make the content industry irrelevant. Horrors!
  • Re:But! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bastian ( 66383 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @12:07PM (#15293789)
    What I think we're seeing here is the recording and music industries trying to do everything they can to make electronic distribution look unviable and only popular with pirates. The reason they would want to do this is that the only thing that keeps the big boys of the RIAA and MPAA in existence is that they control the means of production and distribution.

    If selling music and movies over the internet becomes standard practise, then nobody needs them anymore. Why would I sign some ridiculous recording contract so some record producer can get fat off my work, oftentimes screwing me in the process, when I can go record the music at a studio, find my own guy to do the production work on my music. Right now, the one reason I would is that I don't have access to equipment for pressing CDs and DVDs. As soon as artists don't need people with CD and DVD pressing equipment, the recording and cinema industries will inevitably be democratized and the RIAA and MPAA fat cats will go the way of the dinosaur. So they will fight electronic distribution tooth and nail even though it is in the best interests of everybody else.

Building translators is good clean fun. -- T. Cheatham