Eric Stewart: Running Off At The Mouth

The Abomination that is UltraViolet Digital Copy

by Eric Stewart on Nov.13, 2011, under Movies, Technology, The Internet

Some things to declare outright:

  1. If you’re a pirate, there’s actually a large part of this you won’t like.
  2. If you don’t legally purchase movies, games, or music, obtaining your copies through your friends or shadier sections of the Internet, see #1.  You are a pirate.

Next, a few definitions:

  • DRM: Digital Rights Management.  It’s how content providers occasionally attempt to prevent piracy.
  • Digital Media: Some form of entertainment (usually movies or music) that exists in a digital format.  Not VHS tapes – they are a form of physical analog media.  But then we get in to splitting hairs and that’s not what this post is about.
  • Digital Copy: This is a version of digital media (usually movies or music) that doesn’t exist on a media such as CD, DVD, tape, etc., but rather exists as a file or collection of files on your hard drive.  For a majority of people, it’s music.  For those of us who actually use their iPad to watch movies, it’s the copy imported into iTunes that we can put on to our iPad.
  • Streaming: When you view digital media without having a full digital copy of the media in your possession, either physically or an actual digital copy.  Pandora does this for music, as does Netflix for video.
  • UVDC: What I use as a short hand for what is advertised as a type of “digital copy” that uses a “cloud based” DRM known as UltraViolet.

Where I’m coming from:

Well, I understand the issues some folks have with DRM.  It can be annoying, over-restrictive (see Spore), and usually doesn’t stop piracy.  However, I’m a firm believer in the rights of media producers to ensure that someone who can be considered as “owning” a copy of a song or movie has at least paid for it once and didn’t just get a copy of the CD or MP3 files from a friend who paid for it.  I know there are those of you out there who disagree with this basic premise.  Go back to #1 above.

Thing is, when you come up with something that, at least to me, seems to punish the honest customer, you’re crossing the line.

I not too long ago purchased the first seven Harry Potter films (in a couple of cases, again).  This time, however, it was a set of discs that came with the Bluray, DVD, and a Digital Copy version.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (HP7-2) was not available at the time.  I figured that eventually, I’d be able to get the same type of collection for HP7-2 when it’s available.  So, when I was buying CDs recently (yes, I’m old-school that way and still usually buy the full CD and then rip it myself to DRM free MP3 format) I checked my chosen online retailer (no need to tell you who they are since the second longest river in the world doesn’t give me any money for advertising) to see when HP7-2 might be available.  I noted that it would be sometime in November and that I could preorder it …

Just as I was about to do so, something caught my eye.  It was a customer review railing that the “digital copy” that was offered was going to be a new format known as “UltraViolet Digital Copy”, which would require the following to work:

  1. A live Internet connection, as it isn’t actually a copy of the movie, but rather rights to stream it.
  2. A special app.

My employment situation has changed recently, so there’s no longer the threat of regular travel requiring hurtling through the air for a couple of hours or so, but my main reason for having digital copies is so that if I find myself on a plane, particularly one without Internet access, I can just fire up a movie on my iPad and watch it.  I have also used this in a couple of other cases (when I’ve had a long time to wait for one reason or another, and I have my iPad with me).

So, given this, I got just slightly offended.

Admittedly some of the offense is just because I can’t simply buy movie #8 in the same actual format as I bought the other 7.  It’s highly likely that on my shelf (when the movie cases actually make it there) things will look just slightly off, and that bugs the shit out of me.  WTF?  There was nothing at all wrong with the previous method of digital copy.  What collection of idiot dumbasses thought there was a problem and came up with this UVDC shit?

I personally will be doing the following when HP7-2 becomes available:

  1. Buying a copy on iTunes, so that my collection is complete.
  2. Buying a Bluray only copy from somewhere, so that my collection is complete.
  3. Making damn sure I don’t purchase any other movie in any format if the only digital copy version available is UVDC.

You’re here, so there’s very little chance that one could consider me as shoving my opinion down your throat.  If you, by any stretch of the imagination, are beginning to think that, stop reading now and close your browser.

I wouldn’t encourage you to write a letter.  I won’t call you names for purchasing movies using this format.

All I suggest is that, if you agree with me on this, don’t purchase the combos that have UVDC as their Digital Copy (unless by some amazing chance they start providing an actual Digital Copy, like one you can import into iTunes or Windows Media Player).  I would go as far as to suggest that you avoid purchasing the movie in any format until the practice changes.

Of course, the first movie to come out like this was Green Lantern, and from what I understand (not having seen it yet), there wasn’t a great risk of a lot of people buying that …

UPDATE: I should have mentioned this some time ago …

Via the Ultraviolet support page ( you can (at least for HP7-2) request an exchange of your UVDC for an iTunes version.

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2 Comments for this entry

  • mwieberg

    I’m not sure if this still applies or not. I have a “UVDC” account that I access through my Flixster account. My current library has 5 movies and it gives me the option to download a copy as well as stream instantly. I hope you find this useful.

    Mike Wieberg

  • Eric

    I did note recently that they have the option to “download” movies in their app. It also sounded like that, at one point, you almost needed two accounts to utilize the service properly.

    I think my main complaint is that manufacturers aren’t selling their DVD/BR/Combos in multiple “DC” formats. For example, if I have all my digital copies in iTunes (like I did with the first 7 Harry Potter movies), all of a sudden they try to get me to sign up to another service to get the digital copy of the 8th one.

    At least they were nice enough (via their support page) to exchange digital copies for me. But I don’t think I should have to do that.

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