iTunes movie rentals

iTunes movie rentals: Think Secret is reporting that Steve Jobs will announce a “rental” model of iTunes Store movie downloads at the upcoming Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, August 7.

Quote:

It is not known exactly how the coding system will work, but industry experts tell Think Secret that the software would likely either limit the number of playbacks or provide unlimited viewing for a period of time, after which the movie will be “turned off” and no longer available….Apple had been trying for months to persuade the movie studios that the a-la-carte model of buying individual titles, as the iTunes Music Store offers with music, was the way to go. The studios, however, have been fixed on offering only a subscription or rental-based model.

My take: This is a situation where good is the enemy of great — but it may be the only way to get there. As in the previous post, I mentioned a helpful tool Snapz, that allows me to record screencasts. (Hint to the hard of understanding: It is a means to record all the video and audio taking place on ones computer — like, in theory, when a video is playing on it.) If I can’t “own” the movie I download, why couldn’t I as a consumer, use a tool like that to record (as I can on my digital video recorder) what I rent so that I can watch it when I want to watch it? In the U.S., the Supreme Court has granted me that privilege, so I’m not suggesting anything illegal. Placating the movie studios with some easy to work-around DRM scheme is, perhaps, Apple’s role in moving things forward. I’ll postpone further rants until I actually try the new service out.

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  • Jackson

    Yeah, that is why the DRM from iTunes doesn’t bother me. It usually stays out of my way, but I can get around it when I need to.

    Now, I usually only watch a movie 1-3 times. If I can pay less and ‘rent’ it and watch it those 3 times whenever I want, that would be a great deal. I would greatly prefer that to a limited time rental.

  • scott

    i have a feeling the mpaa wouldn’t buy your sony argument. the license that you would be agreeing to per the usage of itunes would not allow re-recordings of the material purchased/rented. apple and the mpaa would then come out and say snapz (or similar product) is reverse engineering their drm protocols in violation of the dmca and blah blah blah. using snapz is effectively no different than hymn project software designed to work around the itunes drm…and apple isn’t a fan of that.

  • rex

    My iTunes store license also allows me the right to hit the “burn to CD” button which, in effect, strips out Apple’s DRM. As for my using the Sony decision as an analogy, I’ll leave that up to the blawgers to debate. However, if I’m merely time-shifting, i.e., what I do when I record a Pay-per-view movie I purchase on cable and record using my DVR so that I can watch it a second time, how could that possible not be analogous to the Sony decision. Again, that is a rhetorical question. I’m not equipped to put aside common sense and argue this the way lawyers would.

  • scott

    Well, IP law and common sense rarely go together these days. In my opinion, it’s time for a massive reworking of the 76 Act. What I was trying to get at is that the forthcoming ITMS license for movies will not allow you to re-record the content you are purchasing using a program like Snapz. Otherwise, what’s the point in licensing it for a limited duration or limited number of playbacks? The fact that the MPAA forced Jobs to accept a rental-based model shows that they do not want you to have the freedom to use the content as you the consumer sees fit. It’s the same reason they’re pushing the broadcast flag, went after XCopy, went after pvr’s, gone after tech that allows the skipping of commercials, and are now going after Cablevision. Note that Tivo had to concede and include Macrovision copy protection on ppv and vod programs to limit what you do with said content.

    As for iTunes DRM, Fairplay simply grants you (per the license), the ability to do limited things, like transfers to 5 computers, burning a playlist 7 time, etc. the DRM is still on the original file that you purchased from the ITMS, which is different than Hymn Project, which completely strips it from the purchased file. While you certainly can burn a disc and then reimport the song as you see fit, the lossy nature of the files implies at least some reduction in quality. It would be interesting to see how fairplay would be amended if the ITMS actually moves to selling higher quality, lossless files as is rumored. They’ve already changed the fairplay license once (going from 3 to 5 computers but reducing buring from 10 to 7 times), and i bet a move to lossless would require more changes.

    anyway, sorry for the long reply.

  • rex

    I feel pretty certain I agree with you, Scott. Although I don’t understand the nuance of rights and regulations. And, as I’ve admitted here, the degredation of quality in the burn, copy-back approach is outside my range of sound-appreciation. However, I agree with you that these hacks and my lack of discernment in quality are not the real issues: the lack of common-sense in the law and the approach of mpaa/riaa is the issue. My stance (if indeed I have one) is that Apple is at least moving the ball down the field in getting the idea of downloading video into the mindset of a growing market. The more people who download video — legally and via a simple interface like iTunes — the more liklihood of non-technical people realizing how non-sensical are the regulations governing how they can actually use (and reuse) or not use the media they are purchasing. It is this transitional role I think Apple is well-positioned to play.

  • scott

    if you want to see the mpaa and riaa go nuts, just wait until the next round of place shifting lawsuits involving companies like slingbox come up. Anyway, I think Jobs was in a bit of a bind due to his dual-roles at Apple and Pixar, or at least I think I read something to that effect about how he was trying to do some kind of internal balancing act of what made the most sense in his head. This is probably the best he could come up with. I really don’t have a problem with the rental idea either – it certainly has some advantages. I’m guessing it will have to be cheaper than a blockbuster rental in order to be successful, though. I’m not sure how cheap they can do it when you factor in server space, royalties and apple’s profit margin. If they can do it at $2.99, I think they have a winner for the mass market. This assumes that the time it takes to deliver a movie to your computer and your ipod is not ridiculously long. I’ve never picked up anything off the ITMS, but a 2 hour movie compressed to work well with the ipod screen must be a large file. There will always be a large group of technophobes who do not know how to rip their own movies, do not have the space, or simply lack the desire to do so. If it comes in at the same price as blockbuster’s rental fee, I think they’ll run into at least one problem. at $4.50, a good chunk of the tech-savvy crowd will bypass it simply continue pillaging the racks at Blockbuster and Netflix, ripping the dvd’s with all of the bonus features to their hd for later encoding into their ipod or burning to a blank dvd.

  • pwb

    I’d say it’s the consumers who won out. People watch most movies once. If you want to own it, get the DVD with all the special features.