My Issues With Digital Copy

Granted, I’ve got warm fuzzy feelings for the concept now, not the least because of the program letting me have a no-credit-card-needed iTunes account. But there are some real problems.

1) The WMV version requires Windows Media Player 11.

This would normally be just an issue of ‘Oh, I need to run Windows Update to get the newest version’. In fact, that would have been true through Media Player 10.

With 11, there is no longer a way to backup media licenses manually. The content provider gets to decide how many times – and if at all – you get to ‘renew’ the license.

In other words, if the kid the DVD was bought for gets a computer of his or her own in high school, you may have to forget transferring it over from the parental machine it was registered with.

I chose the iTunes version because of this.

An iTunes account has leeway of allowing four complete No Chance To Deauthorize computer crashes and still having the file readable on one device. As long as older devices are deauthorized, the file can be moved from machine to machine as a child grows with no problem. If she wants to take the complete Disney princess collection with her to college on her laptop, no problem even if the files were generated years ago so long as there’s an open authorization spot for the laptop. (Well, problem if her classmates don’t think college students should like Disney princesses, but that’s not Disney’s or Apple’s problem.)

Windows Media? From what I’ve been reading online, a DRMed WMV or WMA file may not be readable after an intentional and planned OS reinstall. I tend to reimage at a frequency of under 6 months, and from what I can tell the WMP identifiers for protected files aren’t in the factory image I use.

2) Differences in policy for WMV versus iTunes

Someone choosing the Windows Media option? Only gets one chance to make the file. After that, the code is used and there is no second chance. If a small child accidentally deletes the file from the system instead of just from a playlist, tough luck unless you made a backup. And backing it up requires about 2 gigs of space, or a blank DVD and DVD burner.

The iTunes version? Can be remade at any time using an iTunes installation authorized for the same account. I’m not sure if it still works after the expiration date, but at the very least until then the file can be remade whenever. I’ll test it once mine is supposed to expire (with the file stuck safely away from iTunes’ view, rather than just flat-out deleting it, of course).

This mattered greatly to me. When I started making the file, iTunes tried to put it in a location that didn’t have enough room. I had to point my library to a different location and then start the ‘download’ over. If this had happened while using the Windows Media option, I’m not sure I’d have gotten a file out of the process.

3) Digital Copies? Expire.

No, not the file you make. Don’t worry, Disney is not just renting you the digital version of the movie.

However…

They have set it up so the code in the DVD case is only good for a year… from the time the DVD was released.

So, if someone gets into Narnia movies with the release of Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which is only just now in production, the digital copy in a DVD set of Prince Caspian will have expired before it was even purchased, even if bought new. (Even if bought directly from Disney.)

If a child with a July birthday receives as a present a DVD released for the previous Christmas season, half or more of the activation window will already be gone.

This also means that someone knowing they will be changing systems or upgrading an OS in the next few years cannot just sit on the WMV version until making the transition. They have to make a choice about what to do, given instructions that even in the online long form assume that the current OS install and system will be used in perpetuity or that there’s a way to move Windows Media identity with the system change (see #1 above).

4) And yes, I know it’s a corporate sore point at the moment, but…

Could there have been a captionable option?

I mean, okay, chances are if you’re carrying a Digital Copy around on an iPhone or iPod any text overlaid over video is going to be well-nigh impossible to read. I watched Between The Lions on someone’s video iPod once, and there was no reading half of what was meant to be read from across a room in the broadcast version.

But that’s not true for netbooks and laptops.

Leaving out the standard arguments of accessibility, I wrote papers in college that referenced C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. I took film courses. I’ve even considered talking about the differences between the movies and the books here, because I am one of the people who does like both as what they are.

Not all movies that have Digital Copies are aimed at the little kids. And there are some serious academics who look at the Disney movies that are aimed at the little kids.

Being able to quote accurately without having to break out the DVD or look for a transcript of questionable legality would have been a godsend in those film courses. It would be a godsend when discussing films online.

And really, given the price of 1 TB portable externals on the market now, technologies like Digital Copy should become industry-standard, in my opinion, for the good of the movie companies. The space makes it too easy to just .iso archive an entire film library, and if the MPAA doesn’t want people doing that or using CSS breakers to rip the video, there ought to be legal alternatives that don’t require much effort on the part of the user.

Developing the technology for doing that with Digital Copy and similar programs would also spread the capacity around for downloadable video files. Need the entirety of the original Star Trek series for a paper, and need it quotable? The free youtube series channel does not have captions or subs. Someone might be willing to pay just for the captions, even if the same image quality was free elsewhere.

But right now, the parent of a Deaf child can rip the video off a DVD with the subtitles there, and can’t chose to show captioning at all with the Digital Copy that came with that DVD. A student working from a netbook in a noisy dorm may find looking for that online dialogue rip easier than trying to get hallmates to quiet down.

And sooner or later, that’s going to need to change.

As it is, Digital Copy was incredibly easy to use for me. The process of setting up an iTunes account was quick, and the file was created in less time than it would have taken to watch the opening credits.

But for others, who need the subs or captions to watch anything at all, this isn’t easier than looking at the not-legal rippers.

Shorter version: I like it. I’m pleased. I’ll probably post again with reasons I’m pleased. But like any relatively new technology, it needs some work – and a lot of it is not Disney’s problem, but issues with the technology that was widespread enough for them to use.

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