Once Blu-Ray emerged as the clear victor in the so-called Format Wars with HD-DVD a few years back, that was the green light to embrace hi-def home video. Since then, I have been an enthusiastic convert, building up a growing library of new releases and upgrades of my favourite classics. With the latter, there’s no doubt that Blu-Ray is a veritable minefield of “double-dipping” – but, let’s face it, it is difficult to turn down the prospect of films like The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, Close Encounters of The Third Kind, Taxi Driver, Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Back To The Future and The Lord of The Rings Trilogy in stunning, fully-remastered transfers. At least, that’s what I tell myself.
Of course, one of the inherent ironies of Blu-Ray is that, in many cases, double-dipping is part of the package, with a DVD version offered alongside the Blu-Ray disc. Initially, I thought this was resoundingly pointless – why would you want another copy in lesser quality? – but, actually, it’s become rather handy, as it gives me a version that I can show to my students via my laptop (which has a B-D drive, but which doesn’t function with the university’s overhead projectors). In “Triple Play” editions, you also get the added bonus of a “Digital Copy” – to play via iTunes or Windows Media Player – which perfectly caters for the vast increase in mobile consumption. Again, it’s handy to have a stash of movies available on your laptop, readily available if, say, you’re travelling.
Except, I discovered that the generosity of a digital copy turns out to be an irritatingly limited gesture.
Recently, I upgraded my laptop and transferred over an existing selection of digital copies that included regularly-watched fare like the JJ Abrams Star Trek, Inception, The Hangover, Watchmen and others. When I tried to play them on Windows Media Player, the DRM (Digital Rights Management) kicked in and asked me for the code that came with the Blu-Ray. I got the case for Star Trek off the shelf, got the code and typed it in… only to be told that I have exceeded my one-time-only use of the code. With the exception of one film – The International – all of the others did the same thing.
So, basically, the effusive promise on a Blu-Ray’s packaging that you have “a digital copy to watch whenever and wherever you want!” has a hidden caveat – so long as you don’t upgrade your fucking laptop/desktop/tablet/iPhone. (Which, I add, is an anathema to every consumer electronics manufacturer in existence.). The digital copy is undoubtedly offered a means to offset the hugely-damaging effects of online Piracy, so why apply such a limitation? I suspect the answer may lie in a corporate eye for future dividends ie – “Upgraded your laptop but want to have a digital copy of Inception to watch on the go? Well, come and get it on iTunes for just… etc“
Except: why in the hell would I want to do that? I bought the Triple Play Blu-Ray set for £2o, so surely I should have the right to have the contents available for perpetuity. I’m certainly not going to buy the Blu-Ray set again – although I’m quite, quite sure the studios would love that! As a friend of mind rightly pointed out: “DRM hurts no one but the consumer.” Of course, this isn’t the end of the world: I do have two versions of the film to watch, but it’s irritating that the version that’s purposely meant to allow more flexible viewing has been taken away because I simply purchased a new laptop. Yet, the biggest irony of all is that such behaviour by the studios is surely utterly self-defeating. If you’re determined to have a digital copy of your favourite film and have been denied ongoing access thanks to the vagaries of DRM, then there is one avenue that can sort your issue out with no added cost: Bit Torrent.
Now, that’s worthy of a hearty “D’OH!”…