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Ultraviolet Can Go to Hell

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.

About Justin McBride

My name is Justin McBride and I’m a guy who enjoys writing, playing games and writing about playing games. Sound lame enough yet? Well, I have other interests as well such as hanging out with friends, watching TV, going to the movies from time to time, surfing the internet, listen to good music, drive at speeds I shouldn’t be driving at and so on. The problem is, that’s all stuff everyone likes to do, so why write about it? Oh wait, seems I just did. Oops.

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  • I can’t tell you how much I agree with this post. UltraViolet is the most useless POS I have ever seen. Here I have Harry Potter Deathly Hallows Part 1 with it’s digital copy from iTunes….then I have HP DH Part 2….no iTunes copy…only UltraViolet.

    Oh not to mention my outdated iPod Touch and 4th gen Nano (Which both still work so why would I want to trade them in for some newer, uglier product Apple is throwing at me.) can’t make use of my UltraViolet digital copy because it has to go through a POS app. My Touch is too outdated to download the iOS 4.3 update that this app requires. Looks like I have a digital copy I can’t freakin’ use.

    I think that might be the whole point. They want us to have so much trouble and issues with the digital copies that we won’t make use of the copies. I say they really made a great way to protect against piracy….because that is what we have to turn to in order to view our movies the way we want. Argh Me Mateys

  • I’ve said this to many other posts, so I’ll add it here as well. My main gripe with this all, is that the consumer is now being forced to use UV rather than being given the choice of which digital format to choose.

    To my mind, the likes of Sony and Warner should follow Universal – they give you (at least in the UK) a FULL bundle – for example, ParaNorman comes with the 3D Blu-Ray, 2D Blu-Ray, DVD, iTunes digital copy and UltraViolet.

    Whilst I really dislike UV, I do understand that some people like it – so just give us the choice – it can’t be that difficult surely!


  • Tinks

    As a hater of DRM because of how much of a pain it is for the completely legitimate consumer, I actually like Ultraviolet. You CAN download copies of your videos to watch offline. Ultraviolet syncs up with other services, meaning that you can pretty much watch your entire library on any device. Services like Cinema Now and Vudu are common to find on most devices. Ultraviolet links with them, meaning if you can use those, you can watch your movies. This gives a lot of options.

    While the whole thing isn’t perfect and seamless yet, its a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to get rid of DRM anytime soon. The movie industry would seemingly rather have no one watch their movies than give you half a chance to pirate it. If they’re going to insist on DRM though, they need to make it convenient for their paying customers, and I think they know that. I see Ultraviolet as a step in the right direction, and the more it is adopted as the universal standard, the more accessible your movies are going to be.

  • halo36

    I keep seeing “hating” on UV everywhere, but I don’t see anyone mentioning using it with / through Vudu. Admittedly I have not used it a ton, but the premise seems promising. I can have all of my physical media converted to digital copies compatible with UV. I can access all of my Vudu movies and rentals. I can watch any UV movie (regardless of studio). This all done through an interface that has an app for basically every platform (mobile devices, smart tvs, computers, PS3). I can understand the frustration with trying to marry many different studios or platforms, but if someone / some company has already done this for us, why is everyone complaining instead of using the readily available solution?

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  • Phred

    I toss the codes and the digital copies in the rubbish. I rip my own discs.

  • joe fiore

    Ultraviolet is far superior to Itunes or ‘ripping your own’.

  • Kurtster

    UV is a horrible user experience and a money grab by studios.