Hollywood's Digital Movie Locker Finds a Home in Amazon and Samsung's Hallways

Illustration for article titled Hollywood's Digital Movie Locker Finds a Home in Amazon and Samsung's Hallways

The UltraViolet Initiative hasn't exactly been the iTunes-killer Hollywood had hoped for. The File-Locker system, designed to simplify the process of owning one piece of content across multiple formats, has floundered in its first few months with poor reviews, unhappy customers and little industry support. But now that Amazon and Samsung have both invited UltraViolet over to the cool kid's table, it might actually have a shot.


A little UltraViolet background, since not a lot of people use it yet. UV is basically an online storage system that allows users who have purchased a film—either as a download or as a hard copy—to play it on any desktop or mobile device. It employs a "household account," rather than a conventional individual license, that allows up to six users to access UV content on any of 11 registered devices: phones, tablets, game consoles, connected Blu-ray players, and the like.

Amazon announced today that it's going to support UltraViolet rights for an unnamed studio. Basically, all that means i that if you buy a digital movie from Studio X through Amazon, you'll be able to adjust your sharing settings however you like from your own personal UV locker.

On the physical media side of things, Samsung's going to add "disc to digital" authentication technology to its Blu-ray players starting later this year. This will allow users to add digital versions of DVDs that they've already purchased to their locker; however, they'll will have to pay a nominal fee if they wish to upgrade their DVD version to digital HD.

Will the big-name partners help pull UltraViolet out of its funk? Many initial adopters have been less than pleased with the numerous steps needed to actually get a movie out of the locker. To play a movie on an iPad, for example, the user would have to create not one, but two new online accounts—for UltraViolet itself and also for Flixter. It's not clear whether Amazon or Samsung are going to help streamline that process at all; but they'll certainly publicize the hell out of it. [The Verge - Yahoo - PC Mag - GigaOm]


The Ghost of James Madison's Rage Boner

My problem with UV is that, as a copyright lawyer who is all too familiar with the overreaching and misbehavior of the big content owners, I simply don't trust the motivations behind this project.

The studios are not doing this to make it easy for consumers to use their content across multiple platforms. They don't want consumers using their content across multiple platforms, at least not without paying separately for each one. They're only doing this because they have no choice in the face of legal (iTunes) and illegal (torrents) competition.

The reason it's such a pain in the ass to use UV (as people have complained below) is because UV was set up to prevent piracy, not help you move your content around. They've giving you the absolute minimum they think they can get away with while focusing all their real efforts on making sure no one uses UV content in ways they haven't approved.

I personally don't intend to ever purchase any UV enabled content. After the Sony rootkit fiasco and the numerous cases of studios abusing DMCA take-down procedures, I have no faith at all that there aren't some backdoor methods being used to track your use of other content on your system, legal and otherwise, no matter where you got it.

Trust me, I work with these people, and many of them have essentially sold their souls in the fight against piracy. From their perspective, this is war, they're the good guys, and you've got to break a few eggs to make an omelet.