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.