Tuesday, July 19, 2011

UltraViolet - Movies may show the way

The movie industry has generally come to grips with media and market changes, after a while.  The typical pattern is initial resistance to innovations and new media, but fairly rapid adaptation once they found that the new media forms offered even higher revenue potential than the basic film/theater business model.  First with television, cable movie channels, videotapes and DVDs (both rentals and sales), and videogaming, the movie industry first tried to keep its content off the new media, but then found that the new media also opened up new, expanded, markets for its content.  Markets that in some cases overshadowed the revenue potential of the tradition theatrical release market.
The pattern repeated somewhat with the rise of digital networked media - initially, reactions focused on using copyright to try to keep their content off those networks.  Over the last few years, the movie & TV industries have started to embrace digital online distribution and the notion of making content available across a range of display devices.  Starting with licensing their content to online streaming services like Hulu and Netflix, providing some content in multiple formats (combining DVD, Blu-Ray (HD), and digital copy (playable on computers & digital devices) versions in a single package), and allowing online stores to sell digital copies of content.  But the adaptation that may be the most significant may be coming this Fall.

Sometime this fall, a group of studios will launch the UltraViolet project.  Purchasing a Blu-ray or DVD disc of a film with the UltraViolet feature will provide users not only with the physical disc, but allow them to stream or download the film forever from digital archives.  The UltraViolet project is based on the digital rights management approach called "media lockers," where rights focus on allowing licensed users to access content held online, the basis for the recent spate of media Cloud announcements for music (Amazon, iTunes, and Google).  In operation, UltraViolet is closest to what Apple plans for its iTunes-based cloud service - with users indicating what content they have rights to, and the media locker or cloud allowing users to access content directly from their archives through a variety of devices.

Perhaps most importantly for the long term, UltraViolet poses, finally, a good workable solution to the inherent conflict between intellectual property rights (copyright in particular) and digital networks and devices.  Rather than placing the focus on limiting the making of copies, UltraViolent focuses on licensing and rights to access content, recognizing that in most every digital device, multiple copies of content are made.  After all, the demand for the content is based on access and the ability to watch and/or listen, not on how many transient digital copies exist in a device.  And increasing accessibility will tend to increase value.

Source: "Buy Once, View Anywhere: UltraViolet Ready for Launch." VidBlog (MediaPost)
UltraViolet website

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