Cloud-based movie ‘locker’ UltraViolet was once portrayed as an excellent piracy alternative. While the service brought in millions of users over the years, its recent shutdown announcement shows how flaky the concept of digital ownership can be.
When UltraViolet was first launched eight years ago, it was portrayed as a convenient alternative to piracy.
The cloud-based service, backed by major Hollywood studios, allows users to store digital copies of purchased films and TV-shows, which they can then easily access on various platforms and devices.
In the years that followed UltraViolet amassed over 30 million users, but in recent times things went downhill. The number of supported retailers slowly started to drop and this week parent organization DECE threw in the towel, Variety reports.
According to the official announcement, the planned closure on July 31 was triggered by “market factors” including the rise of new platforms.
“In the years since UltraViolet’s launch, we’ve seen the emergence of services that provide expanded options for content collection and management independent of UltraViolet. This and other market factors have led to the decision to discontinue UltraViolet,” the statement reads.
While it’s not uncommon for services to go out of business when technology and markets progress, with digital content it’s often a sensitive issue. Especially for a platform that was once seen as a modern piracy alternative.
Those millions of UltraViolet users now realize that ‘cloud’ ownership is not the same as a physical Bru-ray or a DRM free download. The movies they own in their digital lockers will soon be locked up for good.
With this in mind, it’s interesting to revisit some comments industry insiders made about the service in the past.
Former DECE CEO Mark Teitell, for example, said that UltraViolet fulfills “a real belief among consumers that if they own [content], they should be able to watch it. No fear of losing things you buy, with the additional value that cloud storage eliminates problems if discs are lost, broken or scratched.”
Or what about Thomas Gewecke, former president of Warner Bros. Digital Distribution, who previously described UltraViolet as “a new service for giving consumers a new relationship with ownership.”
This new relationship with ownership certainly has a new meaning now. After July 31, users can no longer access their movies on the UltraViolet service.
The good news is that in ‘most’ cases, users can still redeem their UltraViolet codes through the retailers which are still operating. This includes VUDU, Kaleidescape, and Sony Pictures.
“In most cases, we anticipate very little impact,” DECE notes. “While there could be some disruption, we do not anticipate this on a broad scale and are working diligently to minimize and avoid such instances.”
In all fairness, the digital ownership caveats are in no way limited to UltraViolet. Any digital media platform can ultimately go out of business. Or just as bad, depending on the rights, a movie could simply disappear from your library, including iTunes.
There is simply no guaranteed perpetual right of digital ownership for movie customers. But at least there are no scratched DVDs either.
Many thanks to TorrentFreak for the breaking news.