Wal-Mart's New Video Offering Demonstrates That Copy Protection Kills Value

from the once-again dept

Plenty of companies have tried their hand at offering a video download service, and for the most part, they’re all me-too offerings that offer little value to the consumers. None seem to get that consumers want an easy-to-use service, unbridled by usage restrictions and device lock-in. The latest to throw its hat in the ring is Wal-Mart, which has been behind several forgettable internet offerings. Starting initially with just one movie, the latest Superman, for a few extra dollars, consumers will be able to buy a digital version of it, along with a store-bought DVD. Of course, there are all the usual restrictions, like it can only play on some devices, or on computers with Windows. But it’s interesting to note that the pricing for the digital version is such that the company is charging more for more flexible digital versions; in other words, it costs more to buy a copy that will play on your computer and device than it does to buy one that just plays on the computer. This may seem silly, but it’s also telling, as it’s an admission that the more flexible a product is, the more valuable it is. This is a point, we’ve been driving home for some time. It seems doubtful that the industry will get this message, however, seeing as Wal-Mart itself doesn’t even seem to get the lesson it’s teaching, as evidenced by how locked down the whole thing is.

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Comments on “Wal-Mart's New Video Offering Demonstrates That Copy Protection Kills Value”

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mooch says:

Re: How do you explain the ipod

“Then how do you explain the iPod?”

err… easily? itunes is the service, whereas an ipod is simply a device for media playback – it doesn’t force you to play DRM-laden files, hence I have an ipod but I have never bought music online. Instead I use the ‘old-fashioned’ method of ripping CDs in to plain ol’ mp3.

Aaron says:

Not Wal-Mart

Videos offered by download services are all the same. It’s not because they all had the same idea, it’s certainly because the MPAA controls how they are distributed.

They got the edited-video industry all but shut down for doing unauthorized things with copyrighted works, and I’d bet my left arm that the only way distributors are allowed to distribute digital copies in the first place is to agree to include whatever DRM the MPAA agrees to.

Wal-Mart has taken it’s lumps for a lot of things, but those in charge are not stupid. Everybody wants to move into this much-demanded space, but the end-points of the distribution line can only do as much as the source will let them.

Jamie says:

They got the message

“it’s an admission that the more flexible a product is, the more valuable it is …. seems doubtful that the industry will get this message,”

No, they got the message loud and clear. They have simply decided that they don’t care. They want more control and are scared of losing their positions of dominance. They really don’t care what the customer would prefer. As long as the customer is still forced to buy from them, they can dictate terms to the customer.

smokebreak says:

Digital Bliss

Tired of all the drm in downloadable content, just buy your dvd and convert it to divx. Sure it’s illegal to “bypass” the copy protection, but I think that issue will be resolved in the next few years. Best part is you can fit a divx movie on a 700 mb cd-rom. Divx compatable dvd players are down to about $50. So you can pay X$ for the drm’ed up version that sux, or you can purchase the dvd, with all the art and fixings for $20, take it home and convert it, burn it to a $.03 cd-rom and have a copy that is flawless……you can even cut out the anti-piracy warning. I like to leave it in though ๐Ÿ™‚

Stu says:

WittyName – precisely

Haha – thank you

Devil’s Advocate – thank you also

You guys got my point without me spelling it out.

And there hasn’t been a bunch of replies about the greatness of iPods in reply – yet. :))

I have no argument with anyone who wants an iPod, or other locked in product. Just be aware of what the situation is before you plunk down your money.

dude rancharoni says:

Hell… you can download about any digital version movie/tv episode/porn/whatever the hell it is you want right from the net, bearshare, bit torrent, whatever… who wants to pay the extra money from walmart.. And as for a device with lockdown… shit, you can even play any of these movies on most newer cell phones..converted with IMtoo

Corey says:

I dont think the reason that iPods are so popular is because people are stupid, but because they are largely ignorant of how restricted the music they buy from the iTunes store is. I imagine as other players begin to compete with iPods, and previous iPod owners begin to start purchasing these players, that they may experience some dismay that they can’t play the music they bought from iTunes on their new MP3 player. I think this is the point that the (below)average (technically) user will begin to become aware and educated about DRM, and then hopefully, more people will start to fight it, either by refusing to purchase DRM’d files or by voicing their aggravation to the industry, or whatever. That’s just how I see it possibly rolling out…

bmojo says:

How do you explain ipod?

I dont have any problems with my ipod being too “bridled” and in fact havnt bought anything from itunes. i get all my music from ripping cd’s or from sites like archive.org and allofmp3 and they work fine on my ipod. So i dont think ipods are an example of people “not minding” unbridled content because you can put antyhing you want on it….its the content they sell on itunes that sucks.

what the hell is going on with alltunes anyway? Recently they stopped taking Visa and now mastercard too?

Devil's Advocate says:

Corey, Smokebreak and Stu

Corey: Begin to compete with iPod? We had better players before the iPod and we have MUCH better players now. Surprisingly enough, Apple didn’t really invent anything new with the iPod, they just mainstreamed old technologies. If that sounds a bit like what they used to blame Microsoft for doing it’s because it’s true. I still think higher of them than MS. As for the mainstream crowed getting disillusioned by buying other players – it’s already happening. I follow the forums for my Cowon A2 player, and plenty of people go through the normal “What, no DRM?” -> “What’s DRM good for anyway?” -> “How do I bypass the protection or get unportected copies?” stages.
Smokebreak: In many countries (not that familiar with American law) backing up your movies isn’t illegal, hence circumventing the DVD protection isn’t a criminal offense but simply the breaking of a contract (the EULA or whatever you want to call those piracy warnings you mentioned) – one who’s legality is questionable to begin with (no, you can’t legally bind someone to anything just because they willingly made a purchase).
Stu: Personally I don’t care what they buy. Don’t see much point in bothering with their collective stupidity – if we wanna solve the problem there’s an easy feasable solution. Remove the safety labels off everything and let the problem take care of itself.

Anonymous Coward says:

“consumers want an easy-to-use service, unbridled by usage restrictions and device lock-in.”

“Really? Then how do you explain the iPod?”

Well then, how do YOU explain all the efforts to circumvent the restrictions on the iTunes software so that your downloaded music will play with other software and other portable players?

Largely speaking, most people don’t care about principles, such as fair use and whatnot, unless it seriously impedes their ability to be happy with their goodies. In the case of the iPod + iTunes combination, both the hardware and the services are exceptional enough that if you simply ride the bandwagon, you will be able to get lots of music and videos and stuff for a reasonable price and be able to listen and view the media comfortably. Granted, it would be an even bigger hit if there weren’t quite so many restrictions in place, but the fact is that it’s reasonable enough to the point where people don’t mind the restrictions. I believe Microsoft has fallen flat on their face in this area, because I hear the Zune is a joke and apparently so is the software that is required to use it.

The infamous Joe says:

I own several...

I, too, am a bit confused as to what you think is wrong with the ipod.. I have used it for quite some time, and have never had a problem with it.. don’t get me started on itunes, we all know that it sucks, but the ipod is a nice, easy to use mp3 player.

The few restrictions that they did put into the ipod (such as one way music transfer) can be easily circumvented– even without a third party program.

As for Allofmp3.com and credit cards, I quote the allofmp3.com website “Direct payments by credit card to Allofmp3 have been blocked. The music industry has ‘persuaded’ Visa and MasterCard to stop processing payments to Allofmp3. You can still pay by credit card via the Alltunes application and Xrost. “

I think techdirt or slashdot highlighted this when it happens… not sure which.

Devil's Advicate says:


Reasonable price? Comfortable? No offense but you sound more than a little uninformed. I suggest you run a quick search on other portable players, music and media, and you’ll learn you can get much better content and plenty more features for a lot less money. Of course if having the Apple logo on the back of your player is a big part of your entertainment experience you’re more than welcome to stick with your iPod. There’s worse ways to irretionally squander your money. (and if you think it’s not a fashion accessory at least as much as it is a media player explain the sudden surge in sales of the before widely unpopular generic/competing white earphones)

Old Fart says:

I don't get it...

Hell, back when cassette tapes were IN, any of them could be copied so long as you had that technology to play it. FYI – They did not go out of bussiness. I could legally play it in any tape player I owned. Now, these freakin’ people want me to pay for a copy on each device that I own. It is no different than microsoft software, or adobe, or any other for that matter. I have recently bought less stuff because I know it is restricted to one device. That is too restrictive and expensive. Why should I pay for multiple copies of anything? That reminds me, that is how they made money in the days of cassette tapes – people stole them or I lost them and had to buy another. I must have bought that dang Boston tape 6-8 times.

I would be glad to pay for the dang movie as opposed to spending time to copy and render as my time has become more important than in past years. But as is, I pay the damn cable company $150 dollars a months to keep from getting ripped of by the stupid movie industry. Yes, I stay 6 months behind, but at my age, I have nothing better to do than wait.

hoolahoop says:

when will they learn

when will these companies learn that forcing people all of these various DRM schemes only influences piracy, think about it, would you rather have the version that costs money and is very inflexible or the free version that you can do anything with.

I don’t care how spectacular they say the DRM protected version is, i will never buy it even if that means not being able to watch it at all. On the other hand i respect the company that releases media with minimal protection because they realize that piracy isn’t going anywhere and no matter what they do someone will crack it, DRM just makes it more difficult and cumbersome for the average consumer. In fact the MPAA has spent more money fighting piracy than they have lost (Goldkorn 2005).

The point is, people want flexibility and these companies need to accept piracy because it isn’t going anywhere, put the customers before profits and piracy might not be such a problem.

Goldkorn, J. (2005). “Music and Movie Pirates: If You Can’t Lick Em’…” Retrieved September 28, 2006 from http://www.danwei.org/ip_and_law/music_and_movie_pirates_if_you.php

Confused yet amused (user link) says:


Darn Readonly Music(Movies):

I am amazed at the record companies, and now the movie companies. I’ll pick on music first though because they are easier. The new pop artists suck so nobody buys their junk. Look at what’s being downloaded, it’s all 60’s, 70’s and 80’s bands, some 90’s. Gee wonder how much Britney Spears gets pirated, cough cough, gag.

As for the movies, it’s the samething. First of all, WHY would I want to buy a movie when I can rent 4 or more for the price of one. Sure, there are some good ones out there,but I can only think of a dozen I don’t already own that I would bother buying. Now you throw in DRM, hmmmm, guess I won’t be buying those babies anytime soon.

This is what happens when accountants and lawyers try to control technology.

|333173|3|_||3 says:


HTe copyright warning is one of the first things to take off, since it serves absolutely no purpose for the end user who is watching a copy he pirated himself. The only thing which might get taken off sooner is the dozen forgien languages which you don’t speak. I know of a shop where a man sells from the back door 10TB of warez, AU$2 per disk, HDD poa. WHile I have not shopped there, since the annoyance of getting capped is greater than stopping off on the way back from the city to his house, one of my friends has sought there anything his boss hasn’t pirated at his work (computer shop)

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