Why iTunes Digital Copy Is Bigger for Consumers Than Apple TV Movie Rentals

apple itunes digital copy family guy presents blue harvest dvdNow that we’re in the clear of the post-Macworld buzz machine, it’s easier to take a closer look at the announcements made by Apple. Everyone is talking – whether positively or negatively – about the Macbook Air. On top of that, the Apple TV announcement seemed to get universal applaud. However, one of the announcements made may end up being more important for consumers than being able to rent HD movies via your Apple TV: iTunes Digital Copy. Though it was only granted minimal coverage during Macworld, this development may say more about the industry than the rest of the announcements combined.

Since DVDs hit the market, there has been software to rip and copy them. And since that time, the MPAA has fought against users rights to make a “backup copy” of a movie. During this time, another trend hit – converting DVDs into movie files. Similar to how users were ripping CDs into MP3 files, users were now ripping DVDs into video files (of varying codecs) to use on devices other than a DVD player. Whereas the RIAA has taken a somewhat neutral stance on whether users have the right to rip CDs to music files, the MPAA has been on a war-path against consumers ripping DVDs. Various studios have created DVDs that are increasingly hard to rip and have gone after the software developers who made it easy to rip those DVDs. In the MPAA’s eyes, owning a DVD does not entitle you to a digital copy of that movie. If the MPAA and the studios had its way, you would pay them for each copy of a movie that you own. This has been one of the most anit-consumer stances taken in recent years.

That’s why the iTunes Digital Copy deal with Twentieth Century Fox is so important. Whether the digital copy is encumbered with DRM is not at issue here. Whether that digital copy can be used in Windows and Linux is also not a salient point. Even the rights around the use of that file are not important. What IS important is the fact that one of the studios has acknowledged that owning the DVD entitles you to ownership of a digital copy. It is a complete shift in the existing movie studio mentality and one that could have far reaching implications.

Consider this: All the major music publishers are now selling their music in DRM-free MP3 format. However, that trend started with EMI. The first salvo in that change was not ideal – the mp3s cost more than their DRM-encumbered counterparts and the catalog was somewhat limited, but it was a first step in the right direction. EMI introduced the idea of giving consumers what they’ve been asking for. As we all know, it wasn’t too long before the other major music publishers followed suit.

That’s why the deal with Fox has the potential to be huge for consumers. Even if the initial offerings from Fox are paltry (Family Guy?) and restricted to Apple’s preferred formats, the significant change here is in the mindset. And if history is a teacher, this deal by Fox and Apple could very well change the entire movie industry mindset of what buying a DVD truly entitles you to.

So, enjoy using the Apple TV and renting HD movies and argue the merits/pitfalls of the MacBook Air. The 2008 MacWorld may end up being remembered most for the deal that began the end of the MPAA war against the consumer.

Filed in: Content Providers

  • http://www.alexandergrundner.com Alexander Grundner

    Just a side note. I saw this Family Guy DVD at Blockbuster yesterday and it stated on the back cover that its copy protected (ref. to DRM). Thought that was kind of interesting. I wonder if it’s using the new Macrovision RipGuard DRM.