Tuesday, May 03, 2011

I want to watch it now

We decided to watch the Harry Potter movies together as a family starting with "The Philosopher's Stone". The only problem is it was a Sunday evening and my wife and I had shared a bottle of wine and and were in no position to drive to a store that might have it. A couple of phone calls to neighbours within walking distance turned up every episode other than the one we wanted to watch.

"Can we download it?" I wondered. I have become so used to the instant gratification of digital game downloads that I assumed that the world of digital movies must have moved in the same direction. Although I am not really a film and TV buff I have noticed references to Netflix and LOVEFiLM in some of the blogs I read so I assumed that a movie would be similarly available on line.

Sadly neither Netflix nor LOVEFiLM would take my money. It turns out that not only are there far fewer legal movie downloading services than there are game download services but the few that there are adhere to rigid geographical borders. Indeed the only company I could find who wanted to legally sell me the film online was Apple through their Itunes service. Further kudos to Apple for offering a rental price as well as a purchase price. Unfortunately the machine that Itunes is installed on is not a machine which can easily be hooked up to a TV and a bit of googling convinced me that Apple's rigid drm enforcement would not allow me to easily transfer the movie from one PC to another so my attempts to legally download the movie ended in failure which surprised me somewhat.

Of course my various searches also turned up a large number of links to sites of considerably more dubious provenance. Many of these sites it seems were willing to let me watch the movie instantly sometimes freely sometimes after payment. I was offered the choice of dowloading the movie directly, torrenting it or streaming it. I have a vague notion that streaming is somewhat less illegal than direct downloading which in turn is somewhat less illegal than torrenting but needless to say none of these "alternative" sources felt particularly safe to use and many of them appeared to have very dodgy advertising policies. The  prospect of your children's viewing being interrupted by advertisements for prostitutes (who "just happen" to live in your home town) is rather unsettling.

Did I succumb to the dark side and obtain the movie from one of those dubious sources? I think I will leave that question for you to wonder about.

I will say we bought  a full Harry Potter box set the following morning.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yep, you've highlighted why Itunes even came into existence. Apple owes it's very existence to the Web and music sales. M$ would have easily squashed Apple long ago. It's mind-boggling how averse the music and movie industries are to what's happening all around them. How on earth did they miss out on something so obvious?

It's almost ideological in that they reject the notion of downloads simply because there is a chance of sharing without them knowing.

The music studios, unlike movie studios, is doing a great job of fast-tracking their own demise with the huge amounts of aggressive suing and blanket blaming pretty much every consumer of being a pirate.

I guess it's a bit like the music shops themselves - total and utter lack of coordination. There could have been a much better system of total cataloguing and distribution even before the Web.

The music industry has only itself to blame. All credit to Apple for taking up the obvious.

Not that I would ever use Itunes myself for the reasons you've already highlighted. But the DRM is more to do with Apple getting access to studio catalogues me thinks.

Point is that even this crippled DRM method is better than what the industry itself ever produced. ie: A total void!