Okay, so you’re just getting to grips with the new range of triple-play DVDs featuring a digital copy, a regular copy and a Blu-Ray version (some of which are now playable in 3D providing you have a compatible TV and a new receiver) and you’re trying to work out if the Blu-Ray disc is region-coded to your player (some are, some aren’t, whereas regular and digital DVDs are). If that annoys you, you’re really going to hate Ultra Violet, a new system apparently driven by Warner Bros that abandons physical copies of discs.
New Ultra Violet add-ons in sets are hitting the shops, and films like ‘Green Lantern’ and ‘Horrible Bosses’ already offer it. What it does is provide you with a copy of the film but also gives you a code to a virtual copy held in a cloud available for you to stream or download to any five portable devices you choose, including phones, tablets and laptops. So far every major studio has signed up for it except Apple, Disney and Amazon.
You lease the digital rights to the movie, so long as you set up an UltraViolet account and set up another account on the software system that will play the movie for you. Then it’s yours on everything you own. So that’s a good thing, right?
Wrong. What they’re not telling you is something only industry insiders are excited about at the moment. The long-term plan is to get everyone used to the system, then start charging for your continued right to hold onto the movie by time-limiting that right, so you have to renew it when it runs out if you want to continue to own the film.
This can happen now because the film process is finally entirely digital, from theatres to the home to your phone. It’s an interesting move because this time we’re not being sold a piece of software but an intangible contract between consumer and supplier. Studios are already consolidating on this – Paramount has just closed its worldwide offices so that it can control everything from under one roof in LA, and other studios will follow – and the smart movie is on not owning physical copies of anything. HMV, the last big high street store to stock discs, is close to receivership.
So, if you’d rather not be groomed for the idea of paying over and over for media in years to come, keep a hard copy of everything you buy, from movies to books to music. And hang onto something you can play them on. Although of course, the book is the one already perfect media item you can’t improve on, so it must be killed off.