One of the reasons I buy Blu-Ray discs is for the combo packs that include the Blu-Ray copy, the throwaway special features Blu-Ray which I never end up watching, the DVD for my mother and father who don’t yet own Blu-Ray players (or HDTVs for that matter) and a digital copy I can watch on my PC, iPhone, laptop, whichever suits my fancy on a given day.
But lately, some movies, particularly those produced by Sony Pictures and Warner Brothers have been shipping with “Ultraviolet Digital Copies”, which I considered rather benign at first but now hate with a fiery passion. Why? Not because Ultraviolet is inherently bad and the promise of being able to stream my movies from the cloud any time I like (and near a suitably quick wi-fi hotspot) certainly has merit but it comes with a cost that I’m not too fond of paying. The cost of freedom.
You see, the Ultraviolet service is its own form of DRM, and, to the best of my knowledge, the copy of The Amazing Spider-Man that I just downloaded from its servers won’t play unless I’m constantly connected to the internet for the sake of authentication. This isn’t a big deal on its own since I’m always connected to the internet with this PC but there’s another, larger issue that pissed me off.
The issue is the fact that, not only did I have to download a proprietary download manager courtesy of Sony Pictures, the movie file that was downloaded wasn’t even a standard format like an mp4 or an iTunes friendly m4v, no, the file wasn’t even a single file at all. Rather there are thousands, literally thousands of files with no extensions stored in a single folder, along with some images of the latest Men in Black film. Why? I couldn’t tell you. Maybe Sony threw an ad in with my movie download, free of charge.
Just imagine I rolled my eyes there.
So, instead of having a file I can use on multiple devices of my choosing, I have a proprietary format that I can only on my computer with one proprietary program that I can’t transfer to any portable device. Lovely.
Oh, and the picture quality sucks considerable amounts of ass compared to iTunes digital copies as well. So, there’s that.
This is the kind of thing I hate. This results in less options for the consumer, As much as I dislike iTunes as a program since it’s a bloated, memory hogging piece of crap on Windows, at least the digital copies distributed through iTunes’ store gave me some options (however few) and if I want, I can always strip the DRM and play the films anywhere. With Ultraviolet, that’s not even an option, because there’s no one file to convert.
But I guess this is our digital future, with everything living in the cloud and no real ownership of anything. We should’ve wised up when iTunes DRM locked their music files but c’est la vie, as it were. This is the price we pay in the digital age, an age where ownership is a distant memory and every piece of content we have is merely licensed to us, to do as we will, as long as “what we will” falls within the guidelines of “acceptable” consumption by content creators. And really, this is what lies at the root of the problem. The idea that the kind of pervasive and restrictive DRM Ultraviolet and other purveyors of digital goods employ can be acceptable is unacceptable in itself. But that’s a story for another day, a long and thoroughly complicated story.
But getting back on topic, Ultraviolet can go to hell. I am absolutely disgusted with the idea that one of my favorite movies of the year, The Dark Knight Rises, released on Blu-Ray with an Ultraviolet digital copy in tow. It can be argued that iTunes digital copies aren’t much better but it’s certainly the lesser of two evils, problematic in itself but not nearly as bad as Ultraviolet. I don’t like pervasive DRM that restricts my ability to do with my content what I will (short of selling copies of it for profit) but if we’re going to make any progress toward a DRM free future (perhaps too lofty of a goal to be realized), services like Ultraviolet need to go away or change their method of operation and content distribution.