Hollywood: Where Up Is Down, and 'Anywhere' Is Actually A Small Number Of Places
from the truthful-advertising-and-other-non-sequiturs dept
The latest Batman film, The Dark Knight, released on DVD this week, and I saw a TV ad for it the other night, touting the “digital copy” of the film you get if you buy certain editions of the DVD. That sounded like a great idea, and then the voiceover guy finished his sentence, saying that the digital copy could be enjoyed “anywhere.” Given Hollywood’s long and storied history of using a different dictionary than the rest of us, I was more than a little curious to see what exactly “anywhere” meant to them. The first thing I learned was that different studios use different copy protection, so the digital versions of different movies can be played on different sets of devices, which is a really nice way to make things easy for consumers. So I clicked around and found out that The Dark Knight is a Warner movie, and followed the trail over to its site, where I discovered Warner’s “anywhere” means an internet-connected Windows XP or Vista machine and PlaysForSure-enabled portable devices. So Macs or Linux machines, iPods and other portable media players without Microsoft’s copy protection (you know, the one they’ve been wanting to shut down), apparently aren’t included in Warner’s definition.
While it’s not surprising that the digital copy will play on a narrow range of devices, Warner’s advertising of these as “anywhere” is more than a little grating. It reflects the mentality that they know what’s best for consumers, and they should get to determine exactly where, how and when people get to enjoy their legitimately purchased content. For Warner’s purposes, iPods, other brands of PMPs, Macs and Linux machines don’t exist, so in their own minds, saying the digital copy can be enjoyed “anywhere” is true. And thus the mentality that gives us the current state of affairs, in which the MPAA thinks that by limiting how people can playback their legitimate content, they’re doing them a favor is explained. In addition to being the year’s highest-grossing movie, The Dark Knight was also the year’s most pirated film. Given the wide availability of the film on file-sharing networks, what incentive does a consumer with a playback device outside of Warner’s “anywhere” definition have to buy a legit copy? And how can that be good for Warner?