Why Hollywood’s “Digital Copy” is Failing


Before we dig into the meat of the topic, let me paint you a picture of the recent experience that led to my conclusions…

I’m a huge Firefly fan. For those of you unfamiliar with the series, Joss Whedon set up a universe wherein we’d used up all Earth’s resources and had to find a new home. That home turned out to be a new solar system with many “central planets” that were “civilized”, and rugged moons and planets further out which resembled the “Wild West”. After the series was cancelled a big-budget motion picture was released: Serenity. If you haven’t seen either the series or the movie, I highly recommend them both!

Despite being a “tech savvy” guy, I still don’t have a BluRay player at home — I haven’t had the need. I watch TV and movies on my Android-powered smartphone and streamed over the web to my big-screen TV. I’m of the opinion that the physical media distribution model of home entertainment is all but dead.

However, I’m also a “prepper”, and don’t like to build a heavy reliance on things beyond my control. Depending on the Internet to deliver my entertainment is a large potential breakdown point. For that reason I have a stockpile of books, games, and some of my favorite movies and TV series on disc. Which brings us back around to Serenity.

I saw a deal where I could buy Serenity in a multi-format package (BluRay, DVD, and “Digital Copy”) for about the same price as the BluRay version. I jumped on it. The DVD plays great on both my laptop and my media-server, though it’s obviously not HD. I still don’t have a BluRay player, so I’ll just hang on to that. It’s the “Digital Copy” that got me excited! On the front of the case were the words “Watch it anytime — anywhere”, which sounded great!

I navigated to the website provided on the “Digital Copy” insert (which contained an unlock code — which isn’t guaranteed to work after a certain date — strike one). From there I had to chose which of four formats I wanted it in: Android wasn’t one of them, but there was a “mobile device” link on the page that looked promising! I followed it and was pleased to see that they support pocketBLU, a “Digital Copy” player for Android. I downloaded and installed the app.

Download from the Android Market

I had to set up an account before I could use pocketBLU. This included forking over my name, email address, and full date of birth — just to watch a movie (that’s almost strike two, we’ll call it a foul-ball). After my account was set up I clicked the link to add a code and typed mine in. Serenity wasn’t in the list of movies that I could download. So much for the “Play anytime, anywhere” promise (that’s another foul-ball). Apparently only half-a-dozen titles are currently available for Android.

Until such time that an “unlock codes” never expire, titles can be watched on any device running any OS, and any of my devices (including those registered to family members) can watch a locally-stored title, Hollywood’s “Digital Copy” doesn’t have a chance.

Now I’m left with no option than to rip my own “digital copy” that I can copy to my Android and keep on my media server for archival purposes, which is significantly more difficult and time-consuming than it should be, and wouldn’t be necessary at all if Hollywood had gotten their own “Digital Copy” scheme right in the first place.

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About The Author
Joe Levi

Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple’s Newton, Microsoft’s Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow’s “Android Guy”.

By day you’ll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you’ll probably find him writing technology and “prepping” articles, as well as shooting video. Read more about Joe Levi here.