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Up in the Clouds?

20 Jul, 2010 By: Thomas K. Arnold

The concept of UltraViolet, the newly branded movie storage and retrieval system championed by most everyone in entertainment and technology except for Disney and Apple, is indeed an enticing one (see our story here).

Imagine being able to buy movies, either a physical disc or a download, and then sending a copy up into the cloud — a giant mega-server — that will store it forever. You can access your purchased content anytime you like, for play on whatever connected device you choose — be it the home-theater setup in your living room, the tablet on your plane or your smartphone while waiting in line at the bank.

There are no compatibility problems and no clutter. Heck, you can even toss your discs once you’ve purchased them because UltraViolet will always be there for you.

It certainly sounds great in concept, and if it does, in fact, come to fruition, I am sure it will be wildly popular.

And yet, I have these nagging doubts that UltraViolet may not be for everyone — me included. You see, once I buy something, I don’t want to send it up into some cloud. If I own it, I want to see it, touch it, feel it. I’m the type of guy who still buys CDs, and when I do buy songs through iTunes, I always burn a CD, as a backup.

Once I buy something, I also want to be able to do with it what I please. I won’t buy a home subject to HOA restrictions for the same reason — if I pay good money for a house, please don’t tell me what color to paint it, or how to landscape my front yard.

About six months ago, I was burning a CD from my iTunes library. Apple wouldn’t let me burn one of the songs. I kept getting a message saying I had reached my limit and the song couldn’t be burned anymore.

So much for ownership. I haven’t bought anything from iTunes since.

My fear is that UltraViolet will impose similar restrictions — maybe not at launch, but at some point down the line — and then the movie I bought won’t really be mine.

As observer Jef Pearlman wrote on the Public Knowledge website, “The media you buy is yours to do what you like with. …  But in the world of DRM, the copyright owner gets to decide when, if, and for how long you get to do those things ….”

Michael Robertson, of MP3 fame, shares those sentiments. He was quoted as saying, in Pearlman’s blog, “Do you own your digital property? If the media companies can say, ‘I know I sold you that, but you can’t play it on a portable device or put it on the Internet,’ you’ve turned everything into a rental or a lease.”

Food for thought.

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