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Oh My Tech!: Hollywood making downloading hard

Published December 13, 2012 10:05 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

My name's Timofey. I'm from Russia. I've read your article, "Here's what Ultraviolet feature does and does not do." Thank you! I have a situation. I've got a friend in [the U.S.]. Her birthday is coming, and I've decided to gift her a movie. I registered on Amazon to get a code to watch it online. However, during purchasing, a message has appeared that reads, because of the terms-of -use policy, it's not allowed to be used with "Amazon Instant Video" in my region. Even if I've finally bought a movie, could I give that code to someone else? I thought about gifting her an Ultraviolet copy, but as I read it in your article, a person can get it if she or he has got the DVD or Blu-ray disc. I don't know where she lives, so I can't send her the disc. Do you have any ideas how I can actually give her this present? — Timofey Klyzhko.

Timofey has run into a common problem whenever you deal with Hollywood and its movies. The studios want to make sure you buy their films over and over and over again.

Timofey is referring to a fairly new digital movie streaming service called Ultraviolet that comes with some DVD and Blu-ray movies. It's a code included that when entered on a website unlocks a digital version of that movie so you can stream it to a laptop computer or a mobile device such as an iPhone or iPad.

Ultraviolet is Hollywood's way of introducing digital versions of movies for people on the go so they don't have to illegally make copies from the disc. Users pay extra for DVDs or Blu-ray discs that have the Ultraviolet version, so don't think that Hollywood is doing this out of the goodness of its heart.

But in an effort to prevent piracy, the studios have placed certain restrictions on these Ultraviolet copies, as well as on other similar digital downloadable movie services, such as the one at Amazon.

One is that users cannot trade or give away a movie code to someone else because it would violate terms of service. In reality, it means the studio would rather the user's friend fork out the money to buy his or her own digital copy of the movie.

Another probable restriction is that these codes, like the movies on DVD and Blu-ray, are region coded. In other words, they are programmed to play only in certain areas of the world, again to prevent piracy. So, an Ultraviolet code from a Russian DVD probably wouldn't work with an American download and vice-versa. I suspect it's also the same for iTunes redemption codes.

It's also a violation of the terms of use to sell Ultraviolet codes. It appears some users have posted their codes for sale on eBay. In one case, an Ultraviolet code of "Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol" on eBay was stopped by the site for copyright infringement.

So, if Timofey wants to buy his friend a movie in the U.S., he will have to buy the whole movie on DVD or Blu-ray with the Ultraviolet code. He also will have to purchase the movie in the right region code so it can play in this country.

The bottom line is Hollywood studios would rather squeeze every last bit of money from film fans rather than make it easier for them to watch their movies.

If you have a tech question for Vince, email him at ohmytech@sltrib.com, and he'll try to answer it for his column in The Salt Lake Tribune or on its website. For an archive of past columns, go to www.sltrib.com/topics/ohmytech.






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