UltraViolet sounded good. "UltraViolet is DVD for the Internet. Just as the DVD logo means that you can buy a DVD from any seller and expect it to play in any player with a DVD logo (DVD players, DVD PCs, DVD entertainment systems in automobiles, and so on), the UltraViolet logo means you can buy UltraViolet movies from any seller, keep track of your 'online locker' or 'virtual collection' of movies, and expect them to play on anything with the UltraViolet logo (PCs, tablets, smartphones, Blu-ray players, cable set-top boxes, and so on)." Oh well, lots of things sound good at first.
I really liked the idea of having a networked copy of my movies. As it is, I've been converting my DVDs to Apple TV MP4 friendly formats with HandBrake. It's not hard, but it is time-consuming. It would be great if every time I bought a physical DVD I'd also get a digital copy, and that's what UltraViolet seemed to promise.
Alas, my hopes were dashed when I finally looked at UltraViolet's fine print. Instead of "owning" an Internet-capable copy of my movie or TV series, all I really get is a license which includes, "streaming from the selling UltraViolet Retailer, at no extra charge above the original content purchase price, for at least one year after purchase. This no-extra-charge streaming will be offered to specific apps/devices, and via streaming means, to be determined by the selling UltraViolet Retailer. Streaming of a given title from the selling UltraViolet Retailer more than a year after its purchase, or at any time via Streaming Services other than the selling UltraViolet Retailer, may incur fees and if so any such fees would be presented to the consumer in advance of streaming titles, with the consumer having the option to accept the fees or not use that Streaming Service."
But can't I download "my" movie? Maybe yes, maybe no. "Titles that come with UltraViolet Rights may be offered by the selling UltraViolet Retailer with certain rights to download files. In this circumstance, the number and type of devices to which downloads are permitted may vary by retailer and title."
Even if I can download them, I still may not be able to make a permanent copy. Instead, I may be "offered the opportunity to buy a version of that UltraViolet-enabled title that allows them to have a single physical-media copy (e.g. the title copied onto a DVD or flash memory)." Wait, what's that? Didn't I already buy the movie? Well, yes, but if I want to make an archival copy I have to pay extra for that.
I can also take some of the movies I already own to Wal-mart and, for an additional fee, they'll make an Internet accessible copy of the movie... for up to a year. What a deal!
Put it all together and what do you get? You get just another digital rights management (DRM) system designed to make sure you never actually own the movies and shows you buy. Eventually, its corporate supporters will abandon it, leaving us without Internet copies of our videos.
I say that because we've seen this before with Microsoft PlaysForSure and Wal-Mart, which is now, via VuDu, UltraViolet's biggest retailer. In both previous cases not only did you never own the videos, you were unable to play them at all when Microsoft and Wal-Mart abandoned these earlier DRM schemes. There is no reason to believe it will be any different this time.