VOD Service Acetrax Shutting Down, Forcing Customers Through DRM Hoops To Retain Their Purchased Movies

from the controlling-the-horizontal-and-vertical-but-mainly-the-'purchases' dept

Does DRM stop (or even slow down) piracy? This question's hardly hypothetical. It's been answered with a resounding "no" all over the internet. Of course, it's been argued that DRM was never about piracy prevention, but instead was a vehicle for content owners to control the technology in the hands of the end users. If so, the answer isn't much different. It may provide a sense of control, but those who want to enjoy their purchased content on devices outside the confines of the imposed restrictions will easily find a workaround or two simply by doing a small bit of searching.

Whatever DRM's stated purpose is, there's only one thing it does extremely well: inconvenience paying customers. Acetrax, a video-on-demand service that serves millions of customers across Europe, is closing on June 21st. Unlike other service closures, Acetrax is at least providing a sort of "exit strategy" for purchasers, but it's one filled with busywork and limitations. [h/t to Techdirt reader techflaws for sending this in.]

After [the June 21st shutdown], owners of Windows PCs can download their films. Mac users can forget it, as can anyone hoping to re-download HD films. Even on Windows, it's standard definition only from that point.

Movies that users have previously downloaded will cease to play from that date, so re-downloading films is mandatory if you want to continue to be able to watch them. Re-downloaded films will be tied solely to the machine on which they're first played. Because they use Microsoft's Windows Media Player DRM, the films can't be transferred to any platform that doesn't support the copy-protection technology.
Acetrax has provided a FAQ that details everything purchasers can and can't do with their purchased movies. As stated above, purchased movies are standard def only and are tied to a single device running Windows Media Player. Purchasers will also need to set aside a bit of time to validate their already-purchased movies (and hope they're not rubbing up against a providers' data cap).

From the Acetrax FAQ:
If you're watching on a laptop or PC (not including Mac), movies you've bought in standard definition (SD) are available to download directly from Acetrax.com. Just go to ‘My Movies' and click on the download icon. Once the download is finished, you'll need to have the latest version of Windows Media Player installed in order to watch it. Make sure you have the necessary rights on your computer and at least 2GB of hard-disk drive free on your PC or laptop so you have sufficient space to store the movie. Once the movie has successfully downloaded, you will need to play the movie for at least 5 minutes for us to validate the movie licence on your computer.
This sort of time-killer is only going to make former Acetrax customers more hesitant to purchase digital downloads from online services and, obviously, those who have spent the most money will be wasting the most time re-downloading and re-verifying movies they've previously purchased.

On a more positive note, Acetrax isn't limiting its offer to apologies and DRM to-do lists. Purchasers of HD movies are entitled to refunds, along with customers carrying unused credit on their accounts. (Caveat: refunds limited to those with PayPal or ClickandBuy accounts -- another unnecessary limitation, but at least it's the same as the options allowed for purchasing and renting.)

While Acetrax is handling this shutdown better than others have in the same situation, the decision to lace its offerings with DRM causes the greatest headache for those purchasing the most. If Acetrax had decided to go DRM-free (not likely, considering the amount of major Hollywood films it carried), this shutdown would have been painless for its paying users.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    weneedhelp (profile), May 23rd, 2013 @ 9:02am

    provided a FAQ that details everything purchasers can and can't do with their purchased movies.

    Um any time you need to provide an FAQ for what you can and cant do with legally purchased content... the pirates have won again.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), May 23rd, 2013 @ 9:17am

    It's happened before, and it will happen again

    With music.

    Microsoft created Plays For Sure. They partnered with third party media player makers, and with content owners.

    Later Microsoft decided to copy Apple's strategy more closely. So Microsoft announced that they would be shutting down the DRM servers for Plays For Sure. Better get your content onto the final device you want to rest in peace on.

    Next, Microsoft introduced the Zune. Microsoft is the only device vendor. Microsoft controls the store. Microsoft partners with content providers. This time you can trust DRM -- you won't get micro shafted -- for sure!

    Later, Microsoft abandons Zune. So Microsoft announced that they would be shutting down the DRM servers for Plays For Sure. Better get your content onto the final device you want to rest in peace on.

    Amazon and others have had episodes like this with ebooks and other content. There have also been episodes of purchased books magically being 'disappeared' from customer devices for various reasons.

    Never trust DRM. Don't buy it. Don't participate. If they are 'selling' you something with DRM then you are getting screwed.

    Rented or streaming content isn't quite as bad because it is clear up front that you are merely renting for a limited time, or are streaming while that content is offered and available.

    Is it any surprise that physical DVD's seem to be disappearing from the market?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, May 23rd, 2013 @ 9:18am

    Actually, had to shut down because of piracy!

    You can't compete with free.

    Also, all DRM is due to piracy.

    So this article is, if read with any sense at all, despite the silly denials, arguments against piracy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    Akari Mizunashi (profile), May 23rd, 2013 @ 9:21am

    I'd like to offer a counter to the article's summary.

    If Acetrax didn't have any DRM to begin with, it's more than likely they wouldn't be shutting down at all.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2013 @ 9:23am

    Re: Actually, had to shut down because of piracy!

    "You can't compete with free."

    Well, I guess Microsoft and Apple are screwed then, what with all those free Linux distros out there.

    Their combined market share must be minuscule.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    Zakida Paul (profile), May 23rd, 2013 @ 9:23am

    Re: Actually, had to shut down because of piracy!

    "You can't compete with free."

    Just another way of saying "I don't want to compete, please protect me"

    "Also, all DRM is due to piracy."

    Absolute rubbish.

    "So this article is, if read with any sense at all, despite the silly denials, arguments against piracy."

    Wah wah, look at me, give me all your attention

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), May 23rd, 2013 @ 9:24am

    Re: Actually, had to shut down because of piracy!

    You can compete with free by adding value. See Microsoft, Apple, and Bottled Water.

    If you can't compete with free, then you are a dinosaur and should not be in business.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2013 @ 9:25am

    Re: Actually, had to shut down because of piracy!

    "...all DRM is due to piracy."

    Not true. I'm willing to bet a ton of piracy after this debacle is going to be due to DRM. If you want to get shafted on something you legally purchased go right ahead, but anyone who doesn't turn around and acquire unrestricted versions of the stuff they legally bought is throwing money to the wind.

    For example, I keep records of all the games I own through steam, so if the service ever pulls something like this, I know what games I own and what games to look for through other means. I do the same for every gatekeeper system I purchase content through.

    So this article is, if read with any sense at all, despite the silly trolls, arguments against DRM.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), May 23rd, 2013 @ 9:26am

    Re: Actually, had to shut down because of piracy!

    DRM is not due to piracy.

    DRM is due to a desire to control how you are allowed to use media. But most importantly DRM is to prevent new technology from gaining hold in the market, or at least control its growth.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2013 @ 9:27am

    Re: Actually, had to shut down because of piracy!

    "Also, all DRM is due to piracy."

    About this.

    DRM is not a piracy stopping tool. It is a competition stopping tool.

    DRM + DMCA anti-circumvention clauses means that you can't create competing devices to play protected media without either paying for licensing or violating the law. Hence, total an complete monopoly on both the product and the consumption channels.

    DRM was never about piracy. It is about control and keeping the competition away.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    icon
    Zakida Paul (profile), May 23rd, 2013 @ 9:27am

    Re: Re: Actually, had to shut down because of piracy!

    Not to mention every musician making a living from music in the face of piracy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2013 @ 9:30am

    "After [the June 21st shutdown], owners of Windows PCs can download their films."

    THIS is why I hate the current trends in proprietary media. Window's is only a small segment of the media viewing market. Tablets, laptops, PC's, smartphones, ipods and more are all capable of viewing internet media. How do media companies respond to this? By trying to tell you that you aren't allowed to view or support their content on any but a narrow range of systems.

    Here's a quick tip. When something is scarce, you control the market. When you try to CREATE scarcity, you offend the market.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2013 @ 9:32am

    Re: Re: Actually, had to shut down because of piracy!

    Just like how the GIMP and Inkscape are totally killing Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    Zakida Paul (profile), May 23rd, 2013 @ 9:42am

    Re:

    "Here's a quick tip. When something is scarce, you control the market. When you try to CREATE scarcity, you offend the market."

    Comment of the week right there.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    RyanNerd (profile), May 23rd, 2013 @ 9:48am

    DRM is about control not Piracy

    This reminds me when I got my first Razr from Verizon. After trying to get MP3s loaded on to the damn thing I learned that Verizon had intentionally crippled features that were built in to the Razr. In an attempt to force me to buy their crap music/media software (only $35) so I could upload my music, sync my calendar, and manage my contacts. After about 20 minutes I found a rogue firmware update that allowed me to do what Verizonís crap software would do for free. Did this violate my warranty? Yep, you betcha, but it certainly was not piracy and it certainly was not illegal. I did not download a cracked version their crap software. I simply found a workaround for Verizon's gouging scheme.

    In fact I had a number of friends that had Razrís and I charged them $10 to fix their firmware so that their phone were no longer crippled. So, I made a few bucks from Verizonís DRM stupidity.

    DRM has really never been about piracy. Itís about control and being able to squeeze $ from your customers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    PRMan, May 23rd, 2013 @ 9:59am

    Re: Re: Re: Actually, had to shut down because of piracy!

    And Amazon isn't making ANY MONEY WHATSOEVER with their DRM-free MP3s. They're drowning in red ink.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    Greevar (profile), May 23rd, 2013 @ 10:10am

    Re: DRM is about control not Piracy

    Mainly, it's meant to segment the market so they can charge an individual price for each segment instead of a lump charge to get access to everything.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2013 @ 10:19am

    Re: provided a FAQ that details everything purchasers can and can't do with their purchased movies.

    Hell, any time you can be told what you can or can't do with legally purchased content...


    ...Sorry I couldn't finish that sentence. I think I just got a concussion from my head hitting the desk.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2013 @ 10:28am

    Re:

    And it's also likely they would have had little desirable content to offer, because sadly, they were probably forced to use DRM by the content providers whom they were distributing content for.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2013 @ 10:31am

    DRM is just an ongoing digital game.

    There are two sides the programmers and the hackers. The programmers get to play first. The hackers then get to try to get past the programmers play. So far the hackers have won nearly every round.

    Pick a side and come play!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    The Pale Scot (profile), May 23rd, 2013 @ 10:43am

    Can you remove the drm?

    A question, if the media file is already on a HD, isn't it possible to just recode the movie into a different format like avi, mp4 or DV and avoid the drm? I know wmv sucks to work with but there are so many free video recoding apps out there how hard could it be?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2013 @ 10:49am

    Re:

    There are two sides the programmers and the hackers

    the hackers are probably programmers, too

    the programmers are actually highly skilled workers taking orders from a crotchety old man looking to say something like "stay off my lawn, unless you pay me $1"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2013 @ 10:56am

    Re: Actually, had to shut down because of piracy!

    "You can't compete with free"
    Then why do people buy things that can be obtained for free?

    "Also, all DRM is due to piracy."
    Also, all knee-jerk reactions are due to outside forces... doesn't mean it's the correct reaction to outside stimuli.

    "So this article is, if read with any sense at all, despite the silly denials, arguments against piracy."
    Really? When you buy a DVD at Target and a Target employee comes to your house later by order of the President of Target and snaps your DVD in half the sensible moral of the story is we should buy more DVDs from Target?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2013 @ 11:18am

    Ive said it before, Ill say it again.

    DRM = Digital RENTAL Media

    You will NEVER own what you buy with DRM attached!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2013 @ 11:24am

    You know what's funny, I bet the majority of people using The Pirate Bay has no clue what DRM is.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    Keroberos (profile), May 23rd, 2013 @ 11:25am

    Re: Actually, had to shut down because of piracy!

    Nope, Looks more like they were bought-out by a larger company wanting to compete in that space then subsequently killed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2013 @ 11:28am

    Re: DRM is about control not Piracy

    " I had a number of friends that had Razrís and I charged them $10 to fix their firmware"

    You sound like a great friend.....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2013 @ 11:29am

    Re: Re:

    Quite often the hackers are far more skilled than the original programmers.

    You only have to look at Sony's multiple mistakes in DRM on the PS3 to realise this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    Keroberos (profile), May 23rd, 2013 @ 11:33am

    Re: Can you remove the drm?

    Theoretically, yes--if the DRM system used has been cracked. I don't purchase DRM encrusted downloads, so I don't know if Windows Media DRM has been cracked (it probably has been--Google it).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Manok, May 23rd, 2013 @ 11:48am

    2 Gb free hard disk space for a standard resolution movie? C'mon, everybody knows that those movies are 700 Mb ! Oooh, perhaps the DRM takes up the rest of those 2Gb?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2013 @ 4:03pm

    Re:

    Wait, I can get a movie *with* DRM?! Holy crap, I didn't know what I was missing all these years!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2013 @ 9:11pm

    Now that I think about it, this would be an AMAZING opportunity for some research. Monitor the traffic of major torrent sites for spikes following closures of 'legitimate offerings' like this, and if possible see what sort of files are seeing the uptick in popularity.

    If it co-relates to older titles carried by the service then you have some convincing data that closing legitimate services and binding legal purchases simply increases piracy.

    I mean, we all know that its the case, but published data is useful for the nonbelievers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Sacredjunk, May 23rd, 2013 @ 9:19pm

    So what happens if my PC (The only one i'm allowed to play the movie on) crashes?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    icon
    techflaws (profile), May 23rd, 2013 @ 10:07pm

    Re:

    You're out of luck.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), May 23rd, 2013 @ 10:18pm

    Re:

    Oh they probably know what it is quite well, given DRM almost certainly drove a good number of them there.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), May 24th, 2013 @ 12:54am

    Re: Actually, had to shut down because of piracy!

    "You can't compete with free."

    It's funny how you're so obsessed with commenting on this site, yet you've somehow missed that this is exactly the claim that most articles here completely disprove. Why, it's almost as if you're dishonest and never bother to read anything!

    Either way, simple reality proves you wrong. Apart from all the physical example of why that's a lie (bottled water sells very well despite every home having it literally on tap), there's a wealth of history that shows you're a liar. iTunes and Amazon are very successful at selling music despite the existence of both piracy and free radio. Books sell despite libraries, eBooks sell despite piracy. We've already had one of the top 10 internationally grossing movies of all time this year alone despite free alternatives. Linux hasn't shut down paid OSes, OpenOffice hasn't shut down MS Office, people still pay for phones and texts despite the existence of Skype and WhatsApp.

    Reality proves you are a liar.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), May 24th, 2013 @ 1:14am

    Re: Re:

    Hopefully one day the studios will realise that DRM is a losing game and offer DRM-free content as the record labels were forced to a few years ago (with no direct increase of piracy or loss of sales as a result).

    Whenever that day is, that's the first time I will even consider buying a digitally distributed movie from any non-independent source.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), May 24th, 2013 @ 1:21am

    Re:

    It's pretty pathetic really, as the studios seem determined to follow every mistake the record labels did rather than learn from what went before.

    DRM on music was a disaster. It did nothing to stop piracy, and fragmented the market giving Apple a monopoly on digital music distribution while those left over had to deal with the horrendously incompatible Microsoft DRM. It created a huge number of issues for consumers, putting many of them off even trying digital purchases, and destroyed consumer confidence when servers started to shut off. It's only when they dropped the demand for DRM and allowed universally compatible MP3s to be sold that sales took off, and true competitors like Amazon began to challenge Apple's dominance.

    Here, the same thing's happening with movies. Restricted files, compatibility issues, lack of device support, artificial monopolies, competing DRM systems - and no appreciable reduction in piracy. It's about time they follow the example of the music industry and dropped this mess, before they lose even more sales from the simple fact that they refuse to offer what consumers are demanding.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), May 24th, 2013 @ 1:36am

    Re: Re: DRM is about control not Piracy

    By saving them at least $25 and a lot of hassle so that they had a workable phone? He does. Or, are you saying that he can only be a friend if he doesn't charge them anything for the time and effort he's spending on free work for which many professionals would charge $50+/hour labour?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), May 24th, 2013 @ 1:50am

    Re:

    You download a torrent, with no moral objection since you're only trying to access what you paid for.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    icon
    Niall (profile), May 24th, 2013 @ 1:52am

    Re: Actually, had to shut down because of piracy!

    "In news today, after the Grand Bank Heist city police put up roadblocks every half-mile throughout the city and announced that these roadblocks would remain for one month, or until the perpetrators were caught."

    "In follow-up news today, massive traffic jams have brought the city to a grinding halt, with 'rush hour' now lasting from 4am to midnight as people wait to get through any of the average of 10 police roadblocks on their way to anywhere."

    "In news today, following the city police's controversial bid last week to stop armed robbery by roadblocking the city extensively, five separate banks were hit by robbers. Amazingly, in three cases they fled by foot; in the other two either pushbikes or motorbikes were used. Due to the gridlocked traffic for the last week, police responders were unable to respond.

    Police have now announced that they will do full strip-searches of anyone within a half-mile of a bank."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    icon
    Niall (profile), May 24th, 2013 @ 1:57am

    Re: Re:

    That's true. I was recently looking at buying some movie downloads that were on special offer. I already had the movies on video (up to twice) and some on DVD, but I was interested in digital copies I could just watch on a whim. But the thought of DRM and assorted looniness made me pause, until I missed the offer and the company missed my money.

    And there I was in the mood for some Star Trek II... DRRRRMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    icon
    Niall (profile), May 24th, 2013 @ 1:59am

    Re: Re:

    Yes, but they don't need to keep up with the latest permutations.

    "Ultraviolet? Isn't that a clearance level in Paranoia?"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), May 24th, 2013 @ 2:41am

    Re: Re: Actually, had to shut down because of piracy!

    "... police did however apprehend one citizen who had picked up and was about to carry off a bag of money one of the robbers had dropped while fleeing. When asked by police why he didn't attempt to turn in the stolen money, he reportedly told them 'Hell, you guys are already treating everyone like criminals, so I figured there was no reason not to start acting like one.' "

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    icon
    gab4moi (profile), May 24th, 2013 @ 6:00am

    VOD DRM? phttt...

    There are many free, legal and simple to operate apps that will convert any VOD, DRM or not, to any other format required, the whole thing is a crock except for those who have very, very little digital video tech knowhow...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    icon
    Anonymous Howard (profile), May 24th, 2013 @ 8:04am

    Re: Re: Re:

    hackers do not have cretin, incompetent, greedy managers, deadlines etc.

    Also, "programmers" are on the defensive in a battle badly tilted against them, mostly because their bosses choose to piss against the wind instead of turn around.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), May 24th, 2013 @ 10:33am

    Re: Can you remove the drm?

    A question, if the media file is already on a HD, isn't it possible to just recode the movie into a different format like avi, mp4 or DV and avoid the drm?

    Why bother? Much easier to just get it from a torrent site, and no different morally. You've already paid for the movie, you're just letting someone else format shift it for you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    icon
    Stephen Smith (profile), May 29th, 2013 @ 2:00am

    DRM Evolution

    To me, I think it's important that we remember that devs don't think DRM is ideal, but it's the lesser of two evils.

    Devs aren't morons, they realise that poor customer service - like this article highlights - will drive customers away. However there needs to be a development in DRM itself to make the process as painless as possible for all involved.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
    identicon
    Pissedoffcustomer, Aug 8th, 2013 @ 1:36am

    And so I lost my purchased movies

    I discovered too late the service was shutting down and now I lost the movies I purchased. I'm not really crying because having to watch them just on a PC, with windows, is laughable. I don't want to have to connect my laptop to my TV and, more so, I don't want to have to use windows to watch MY movies. They should have refunded EVERYONE who bought a movie from them. The article is dead right, I'll be very hesitant to buy DRM "protected" movie in the future. It's very likely I'll avoid that altogether from now on.

    Now I'm here waiting for a refund of my credit. We'll see hoe that goes too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This