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UltraViolet is ready. Now Hollywood needs to make it work.

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It has taken three years, but the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) has finally completed all the backend work needed to roll out services based on its UltraViolet initiative. With the heavy lifting done, now Hollywood needs to work on spreading the word to consumers about what UltraViolet is, how it works and most importantly, why they will want to buy movies again.

Unlike today’s digital media ecosystem, where purchasing a movie generally means you only have access to it in one file format, one device or one service, UltraViolet was built to enable consumers to buy a movie once and have access to it anytime and anywhere. That means consumers will have their choice of watching a movie on a Blu-ray disc, streaming it to a connected TV or even downloading a file and saving it to watch later on a mobile device.

Thanks to the DECE’s standardization of a common file format and the creation of a new “digital rights locker,” consumers will also be able to buy a movie from one digital service or retail location and then watch it across any number of digital storefronts. So, for instance, consumers should be able to buy a movie from Best Buy’s (s BBY) CinemaNow service and watch it on Walmart’s Vudu-connected devices. (s WMT)

In addition to the technology problems the consortium has sorted out, the DECE has also worked to sort out some of the legal and business rules associated with sharing a piece of content across multiple devices and streaming services. UltraViolet GM Mark Teitell said in a phone interview that the technology part was easy, compared to sorting through some of the business issues.

Now that the technology and business rules are in place, and UltraViolet can be licensed to studio and retail partners, it will be up to them to actually create services that hook into the consortium’s digital rights locker, which is powered by NeuStar. But Teitell said there are companies working on beta programs now and services based on the initiative should be available this fall.

While the technology should make owning digital video easier, companies that want to take advantage of UltraViolet still have a lot of work ahead of them. Purchases of Blu-ray discs are growing, but not quickly enough to make up for lost DVD revenues, and digital isn’t filling the gap quite yet. Given the growth of video-on-demand (VOD) services like iTunes (s aapl) and Vudu, as well as subscriber gains by subscription VOD services like Netflix (s nflx), there’s some evidence to suggest the decline in disc sales isn’t just a move to digital media instead of physical media, but a movement toward a rental model instead of an ownership model for video.

15 Responses to “UltraViolet is ready. Now Hollywood needs to make it work.”

  1. There was an imposter posting as us on cnet do I will make this clear here. STR3EM is looking into adding the UV services as part of our product and fully support the DECE even though we can not be a member at this time. Again, we deliver 100% of the UV promise and look to show the world that this technology does exists and does work.

    Many regards

    William Grecia

  2. The only way this would work is if the rights locker is carried and maintained by the consumer. But since the movie folks dont want you to actually ‘own’ any content at all this is DOA, because the locker will never be secure enough nor will the cloud that holds it.

  3. If consumers buy into the Ultra-Violet they will be giving up all notions of ownership. They will no longer be able to decide where their purchases play or can be moved. They won’t be able to resell or loan to a friend. Ownership will be replaced by a perpetual rental model and the landlord is the movie companies. If they don’t like what you’re doing you can expect to have your content evicted from your digital locker.

    Such a digital locker scheme controlled by the entertainment cartel shifts huge power away from consumers. I think this is dangerous and I hope ultra-violet dies a quick death like the myriad of music DRM schemes before it.

    — MR

    • Ryan Lawler

      Michael, I’d love to see you suggest a better alternative. Frankly, the DECE is the only real solution to a completely fragmented user experience right now. Sure, you could buy a piece of physical media and create digital copies to be watched across devices, but who wants to do that? And what if you want to stream it somewhere?

      • The solution is to use an open standard without DRM and use a cloud location which has an open API so any device can connect to it. This is what we do at – which is a personal cloud music locker.

        Digital music has been through the DRM battle for more than a decade and open (non-DRM) formats have prevailed. Yeah! So users can still buy and own music.

        I hope video world ends up in the same place.

      • We have the DECE back 100% and just waiting to see what they want to do. Our system delivers this model with Facebook already and hope to persuade the DECE into adopting Facebook. Our concern is giving all content providers access to universal access technology such as adult entertainment (none of those companies are in the DECE).

    • Without taking a position one way or the other on UltraViolet, as a practical matter consumers generally cannot decide where their purchases play or can be moved now. In the case of most purchased video content, moving it would require circumvention of an access control technology, which is illegal under the DMCA. Even if it didn’t, I wouldn’t exactly call personal-use format shifting a settled area of the law, as Michael well knows. Those limitations may be problematic, but they’re not the fault of UltraViolet.

      As for reselling or loaning digital content, that too is a basic question of copyright law (first sale doctrine). There’s nothing an industry standards group like DECE could do to affect it one way or the other.

      • Sometimes users can decide where their purchases play and can be moved. If I buy a DVD I can physically move it anywhere I like. It never times out. It never has new rules/restrictions added to it. You’re right I can’t move it digitally, but that’s what we’re talking about. What will the digital world look like? Will users have any rights? If UV prevails the answer is NO. Their purchases will be controlled by the media companies and will be perpetual rental model.

        On the first sale doctrine, if the content is tied up with cyber locks then that effectively destroys consumer’s rights to resell their content. So when DECE devises a strategy where there’s no ability to resell and no other respect for user’s rights that’s not a positive development for consumer’s rights.

      • @Mr. Robertson – The user is given an auth key that never expires. That key can be used on any platform simply by validating it with an electronic ID. So if a user buys a movie ticket and opt to pre-purchase the digital copy in advance, they are e-mailed the key with the receipt. When the digital copy becomes available, that key can be used (with the user’s e-ID) on cable VOD, WMV, Silverlight streaming page, iOS application and Android application. If a 3d version of said movie comes out 3 years later, the user could enter their ownership key and get a discount etc.. UV can deliver what everyone been asking for in terms of legal content access.

    • As long as I hold the patent to the technology and continue to offer an alternative system to UV (which is compaitble).. this technology will not be going anywhere. Kind of dark and bitter of you Mr. Robertson, you have done well in this space in the past and respect the content owner’s right to protect their investments.

  4. Curiously missing out that Disney and Apple withheld from Ultraviolet (Apple still does to my knowledge). What of Amazon too? What of Google?
    We’re seeing digital lockers being reinforced and updated now, and they ain’t Ultraviolet.

    • I just wanted to point out that almost a year ago, Ryan Lawler from Gigaom wrote an article here saying that Zune video marketplace was destined for failure. He turned out to be completely wrong as Zune video store quickly rose to become the 2nd most popular on demand video store. In the piece, “Why the World Doesn’t Need A Zune Marketplace,” he claimed that only Apple could make a successful video ecosystem for it’s brand of devices. Well in that time since his article Zune marketplace has grown it’s market share by at least 10% while iTunes market share fell by over 10%. He also claimed that these services were doomed because UV would be launching in 2010. Obviously that never happened. Here we are a year later and UV still has not launched, and Apple and Disney are still not cooperating with the consortium.