When You Download It…What Do You Really Get?

If you saw my previous post about DVD sales, you know what people in the home entertainment business have known for a while: sales of physical objects are falling (DVDs) and downloads and streaming are on the rise. digitaldownloadBut when you download a movie…what do you really get? Let’s take just one example: iTunes. When you purchase a movie on iTunes you are allowed to transfer it to up to five computers (plus some other Apple devices). Now, chances are, that is probably enough for you to enjoy the movie and maybe share it with family members. You can back up the movie on DVD, but, and this is interesting, only for data backup purposes – not for playback on a DVD player. Compare that with the old days when you went to the store and bought a DVD. You owned that physical object and the content on it. You could play it on as many DVD players as you wanted. You could take it to as many friends’ houses as you wanted. You could even stick it in your computer and play it. And, perhaps most interesting, you could resell that DVD at whatever price you could get for it. This last one is notable. Purchasing a digital download does not give you right to resell that file (i.e. the movie). So the old system (DVDs) gave you a larger stake of ownership. Is this a trend that is good for consumers? Do consumers care? There are, of course, some advantages to downloading a movie. You don’t have to get in your car and drive to the store. It’s very convenient. The selection of movies available for download online is enormous – as opposed to the selection at a brick-and-mortar store, which is limited. So, I’m not saying that DVDs are better than downloads. It’s just interesting to me that in a small way the content providers have taken away a certain amount of consumers’ ownership rights. If you think about E-books, it’s a very similar situation. You may buy a book online for your e-reader. You have some rights to transfer it to different devices. But you do not have the right to resell that content – as you would if you had bought the physical book. I’m not a copyright or intellectual property lawyer, but I do find this trend interesting. Have any thoughts on this? Drop me a line at ryan@dva.com.

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