The Next Big Hollywood Rip-Off


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.

3 comments on “The Next Big Hollywood Rip-Off”

  1. Helen Martin says:

    Feeling a little down, Chris? We’ll stick to books, then, and hope that films are still shown in theatres. Unless, of course, you record them off the tv. Oh, but that is stealing, isn’t it? I’m waiting for publishers to realize they can do the same: put a timed self-destructive device in books so that people have to come in to an outlet to have their ownership renewed. Thinking about that is making me feel a little down.

  2. Cat Eldridge says:

    One minor correction: neither Amazon or Apple are studios.

  3. Kevin says:

    They are obviously trying to roll the clock back fifty years. To be honest, the concept of ‘owning’ a film is a relatively recent one. When I was a kid, these companies made their money from cinema ticket sales – and a cinema ticket only gave you the right to see a film once.

    Cinema tickets were relatively cheaper then, and you were much more willing to take a punt on an unknown film – and most films were unknown then. I still remember going into the cinema showing Mad Max for the first time, with absolutely no advance knowledge of what I was about to see.

    Of course, with the internet being around now, that chance of being surprised by a film is almost impossible. It is much easier to find out what a film is really like beforehand (I don’t mean the publicity put out by the studios), and whether it is worth ten pounds of your hard earned money to go and see it just once.

    I think there have been about five in the last five years, for me.

    I’m not sure this approach is going to make them as much money as they think – it’ll cut their costs, and allow them to make more profits in the short term, but they need to put that money back into film production, or they will have less and less product to sell us.

    Of course, if people go for it and make it a success, then maybe we deserve everything we get – or not get, as the case may be.

    But lets face it, it has never been easier for film makers to make their films and get them to their audience without involving distributors at all. I still think these companies haven’t really come to terms with what the internet is doing to their industry. Maybe they are going to attempt to live on their back catalogues, but as we all get older, those films are becoming increasingly irrelevant to a larger and larger proportion of the population. And the ones that do revere them, have now become used to owning their own copies.

    If they are going to alienate/get rid of that portion of their customer base which are collectors, who will buy the Kubrick films that they don’t like just so that they have got the full set on their shelves, then they may be attacking the only people left who are interested in seeing a lot of the films that they have in their vaults. There are a lot of other things that people like to do with their time now.

    It’s going to be quite interesting to see what happens.

Comments are closed.