In the ongoing battle between Hollywood and the P2P movie download pirates, there’s a knight in shining armor that you may not have even heard of. Billed as the embodiment of the “pay once, view anywhere” ideal, UltraViolet has lofty aspirations. And with the backing of most of the major studios, cable companies and telcos, as well as services like Netflix and Vudu, it looks like it has the potential as well. But is it really the piracy killer for the movie industry? Is UltraViolet the movie industry’s file sharing holy grail; a “killer-app” that has been so elusive to the music industry?
What is UltraViolet?
If you want to watch your movie on physical media, like your DVD, you need a player. If you want to watch that same movie on your mobile device, you need to rip your DVD and put a copy of the movie on your device. The problem is, according to the MPAA, ripping a DVD is illegal! Great, I bought the movie, but the industry gets to decide how I view it?
UltraViolet tries to solve this problem. It’s all about linking your physical media, like DVDs and Blu-Rays, with digital media that you can stream on your device. The goal is to give you both viewing options with a single purchase. If you’ve purchased any DVDs or Blu-rays since late 2011, you may already have access to the technology and not even know it.
When you buy a physical disk that displays the UltraViolet logo, you immediately have access to an electronic version of the same media in the “cloud.” When you want to watch the movie at home, you use your disk. When you’re out and about and want to watch your movie on your device, you stream it from the cloud.
The concept sounds like a victory for all parties involved. The consumer gets a “pay once, view anywhere” solution, and the industry gets the authentication and copy protection it requires.
How does UltraViolet work?
Once you’ve purchased your UltraViolet compatible DVD or Blu-Ray, you need to create an UltraViolet account online. Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as one would think. You first create an account on the UltraViolet site, where your rights for each movie are coordinated and managed. But, then you need to create an account with the studio that released your movie as well – a second account, with a second user name and password. And, each studio has it’s own site on which to create an account:
- Paramount: www.paramountmovies.com
- Sony Pictures: ultraviolet.sonypictures.com/redeem
- Universal Studios: www.universalhidef.com
- Warner Brothers: redeem.flixster.com/ultraviolet
Multiple accounts with multiple usernames/passwords to remember… weee!
If that’s not enough, here’s a fun account of one user’s problem with UltraViolet and having to endure multiple download times to watch the same movie on multiple devices/platforms.
Setup problems aside, the service does have it’s merits.
A single UltraViolet account can be shared by up to 6 users, on up to 12 devices. It also supports up to 3 simultaneous streams on separate devices in different locations. This should keep mom & dad and the kids happy.
Also, the system seems to work both ways. If you purchase an UltraViolet compatible DVD or Blu-Ray, you will have access to the online streaming version. Conversely, if you purchase a streaming version of an UltraViolet compatible movie online and later decide that you want a hard copy to use with your DVD player, the system will let you download a version that you can burn to your own DVD.
Is UltraViolet good for you?
In theory, UltraViolet solves the problem of not being able to view the DVDs and Blu-Rays you purchase on your multiple devices. They idea is, you’re not just buying a piece of plastic, but an actual license to view the movie, thereby releasing you from the limitations of a given medium.
When you buy a movie from a participating retailer, it’s automatically added to your UltraViolet Collection so you can stream it or download it, depending on your preference. So, it can be very useful in a multitude of situations – if you travel, if you have several devices, if you have family members to share your movies with, etc.
Movie Download How To bottom line
Dispite a rocky start, UltraViolet does show some promise. If you can get past the ugly signup process and download quirks, the service offers some nice perks in terms of movie-viewing convenience. And the every-growing library of titles and both-direction availability show that it may have a future.
Will it stop illegal P2P movie downloading and file sharing? Highly doubtful. But, it does provide a viable, legal alternative that seems to have staying power. That alone is worth the price of admission.
As always, I’d like to know what you think. Comment below.