Look, Big Media Companies: I don’t want to buy physical objects retail.
Your humble GD crew has opined on many occasions that we think that the BMC’s “strategies” for releasing their content electronically doesn’t make sense, that it doesn’t discourage piracy, and that it’s just plain nonsensical. Today: a perfect example.
Consider the movie X-Men: First Class. As of last Friday, it was available on both DVD SD and Blu-ray. Not available on iTunes until Tuesday, but that’s okay–that’s the way it always works on iTunes. No big deal.
But here’s the thing with the iTunes version: you can’t buy an HD version. Also, you can’t rent an HD or DVD version. So if you’re unsure whether you want it or not, what are you going to do? Pay the scratch to buy the SD version? Wait until Netflix has it available . . . a month from now? Or . . . pirate it? I did a quick search–just took seconds–and found that some “kind” soul has already ripped the Blu-ray, converted it to MP4 HD, and uploaded it to the web.
And this is why BMCs are so friggin’ stupid, in my opinion. I want to be legitimate; I am fine with paying a rental fee, even though I find the iTunes rental restrictions stupid (I can rarely finish a movie in a 24 hour period, e.g.), and their implementation incredibly buggy. (I have never successfully moved a rental from my iPad to my laptop and back. Or from my iPad to my laptop and been able to watch it. Or from my laptop to my iPad, for that matter. But I tend to break software, somehow; it’s my gift and my curse.) But they won’t let me. I don’t want to buy it; the reviews weren’t that great, and I may not want to own it. (And even if I did, I’d want the HD transfer, not the SD one.) I don’t want to wait a month. I certainly don’t want to rent it from Blockbuster. So where does that leave me? Where have they left me? Nowhere! And what do people do when they have nowhere to go? To illegal download sources, of course!
This is completely analogous to what Carly Z and I harp on all the time with regard to eBooks, with J.K. Rowling being the classic example. I am happy to pay for the books–I have them in two different formats already, and certainly am willing to pay for the third. But Rowling (until very recently) didn’t want that. Which leaves the eBook desiring person . . . where, exactly? Not reading it, or heading over to one of the dozens of sites that has copies of her books pirated. (And there are many.) I understand not having time to convert an author’s entire back-catalog–while it’s disappointing that I can’t get Nova or Babel-17 or Lord of Light or Julian May’s Pliocene books in eBook format, I understand it. But for new books and movies? For hugely popular authors with immense followings? (e.g., Starship Troopers wasn’t available in eBook form until last month?) It’s insane.
But with films, it’s even worse. Why can I buy a movie one month in HD, and then it disappears from iTunes entirely for a year, and then they re-release it in rent-only format? Where is the logic in releasing a movie like Cameron’s Avatar . . . in SD only for over a year, and then making the HD version available? Sure, it takes some time to convert back-catalogs, but I’m talking about new movies here. It makes no sense.
When guys like me–guys who honestly are *fine* with paying the money–are considering piracy because that’s the only way to access the content, you know something’s bat-shit wrong. And that’s the irony; the BMCs tell us that they are doing this all to combat piracy, and yet for your tech-savvy nerd, all it does is encourage piracy.
Like I said: insane.