Novato (CA) - It's hard to justify more than $25 for a movie that you download and then is stuck on your hard drive. A new deal between Movielink and Sonic that allows users to burn a movie onto a DVD however may drive download services finally into the mainstream. But while the technology is already available, it is ultimately up to the movie studios to unlock the feature.
Last April Movielink and CinemaNow announced movie download deals with major film studios for their websites. Back then, we questioned the value of a service that clearly states that users have to "agree and acknowledge that [they] shall not acquire any ownership rights by downloading any Retained Content from the Service." While users have to shell out up to $27 per movie, they have fewer rights than buyers of a DVD: For example, such a movie can only be played back on the device it was downloaded to and not on another PC or TV.
The deal between Sonic and Movielink could address the disadvantage of downloaded movies by allowing customers to burn their movies on a DVD. According to an announcement sent out by the two companies today, Sonic's video-on-demand (VOD) service "will enable consumers to burn downloaded movies onto recordable discs in a protected format for playback on standard DVD players." As part of the agreement, Movielink said it has licensed Sonic's DVD-on-Demand technology to permit home users to move downloaded movies to recordable DVD media.
"We are anticipating an industry resolution to establish rules for converting secure Internet-delivered Movielink downloads into a secure format compatible with DVD players in the market today," said Jim Ramo, CEO of Movielink. "This gives consumers a more flexible product while providing copyright holders with adequate protection of their content."
Not so fast, some might say. In the end, independent distributors such as Movielink and technology providers such as Sonic would have implemented such a capability a long time ago. The real hurdle are content owners, especially Hollywood's major movie studios. It's a nightmare come true for studios to lose grip of their multi-million dollar investments and see consumers copying their content left and right. In the end, some Hollywood studios such as Universal for example, are open to the idea of allowing consumers to create one digital copy of their movie on the hard drive of a future digital entertainment device. But Movielink moves into the opposite direction: Content is tranferred from a hard drive to portable and potentially vulnerable media.
Sonic spokesperson Chris Taylor told TG Daily that Sonic's video-on-demand technology is capable of integrating DRM solutions, including today's CSS or other "anti-ripping" and "watermarking" protection technologies. What may calm down studios a bit is also the fact that Sonic also confirmed that it could restrict the burning process to only one copy per movie: "We can ensure that the movie is wrapped and secured throughout the whole process," Taylor said.
So, when will downloadable movies that can be burned on DVDs and played back on regular DVD players be available? Both Sonic and Movielink to declined to predict the availability of such a service, as Movielink still has to convince the studios to jump on board.