Swing and a miss with the “Digital Copy,” WB…

So I was a little surprised when I cracked open the Blu-Ray copy of Sherlock Holmes that my wife got me for Easter and found a disc boasting a digital copy of the movie alongside the main feature. “That’s neat! I prematurely thought, comparing it to the Blu-Ray edition of Up that first bought that offered copies of the movie in nearly every format imaginable! How much cooler did it make Blu-Ray that the studios are finally coming to terms with how consumers want their content and are going to be using this new format to distribute their movies in multiple formats at the same time?!

Well, then I read the fine print…

“Digital Copy offer expires March 28, 2011. Offer is intended to be available for a limited time for discs purchased near initial release date.”

You know, because us consumers don’t want to always be able to play copies of content that we purchase on our digital devices … a limited time should be just fine.

You know, maybe I should’ve known better than to expect a giant like Warner Bros. to finally get over the idea that people are willing to buy multiple copies of the same content for multiple devices, but then again, on the other hand you’ve got Disney who surprised me with the aforementioned Up Special Edition which I can actually watch online over the web whenever and wherever I want simply by logging onto disneymovierewards.com! All I had to do was enter a code that came with the DVD, which I would’ve normally already done anyways because they also give points for each purchase that can be later redeemed for prizes and whatnot. And that was in addition to the DVD and Digital Copies that they also bundled with the main Blu-Ray disc.

A copy that I can only watch for less than a year doesn’t do anything for me at all because I don’t have the foggiest idea when I’ll watch this movie next. It’s not like I’m going to watch the Blu-Ray, and then next week say, “Man, I could really go for some more Sherlock Holmes – let me at that digital copy!” No – more likely I’m going to think about it three or six months down the road when we’re getting ready for a trip and I realize that this would be a good choice because it’s already in a portable format. Do I want to have to take an expiration date into that equation??? Not so much.

Now I understand that with this situation, we’re kind of exploring uncharted territory because traditionally we haven’t been granted supplemental copies of content free of charge and only in certain circumstances has multiple-use even been possible, however let’s be clear – that’s a problem. When I download a movie, I don’t want to purchase a license to view that content in a predetermined fashion. I want to be able to watch that same video on my DVD player in the house, the one in the minivan, on my iPhone, my laptop – anywhere. And I know that formats are going to be a conflict, but frankly, formats should be the only conflict because converting between formats isn’t the problem. Specifically forbidding said conversions by making them ILLEGAL is the problem, primarily because the recording and movie industries have lobbied that the only reason one would need such control would be to enable the piracy of their content.

I guess for a fleeting moment there I had just hoped that maybe we had gotten past all of that and one of the largest studios was going to show us how content distribution should work by giving us a digital copy for other devices upfront. I guess as long as I only want to watch their movie on my iPod before next March, I’ll be fine, but as for our overall goal of freedom across whatever devices us consumers desire … for that we’ve still got a ways to go…

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