When you buy content that lives digitally in the cloud, instead of physically with you, you are losing a large measure of control over that content. Keep in mind, you aren’t actually “purchasing” that content anymore, you’re purchasing the limited right to access it at the convenience of the content provider.
If I’ve learned one important lesson from 25 years of experience within the home entertainment industry, it’s that consumers must advocate for their rights when purchasing content, or those rights will evaporate. It’s as easy as a lawyer tweaking the terms & conditions agreement you agree to (typically without reading) when signing up with a streaming service.
I’ve seen it happen before, when Hollywood fought the ability of consumers to videotape programming. I mentioned Andre Blay in our early column here at The Bits today, who pioneered the idea of renting and selling films on VHS to consumers. It’s worth noting that some of the studios – and especially the MPAA – fought this idea tooth and nail. I’ve seen the studios try to bastardize the idea of selling movies on DVD with a pay-per-view version called Divx. I saw the record industry fight Napster – and the whole idea of releasing music digitally – like hell before finally embracing it. I see problems happening again with digital streaming. Steaming is convenient, yes. But the very way streaming is currently being implemented means that you lose some of your rights as a consumer.
Consumers must advocate for their rights! Always. You have to fight to protect your rights and the quality of your experience as a consumer of movie discs, downloads/streaming, food, air travel, whatever. The companies that sell them to you aren’t protecting your rights, they’re protecting their own. Sometimes, they overreach. Sometimes they lose touch with what it’s like to be a consumer. Sometimes, they’re more concerned with the bottom line. All of this is a normal part of the push and pull of economics. The point is, as a consumer, you must advocate for your rights. Or you will tend to lose them.
The studios in recent years have made it very difficult to for consumers to report problems with a home media release (disc or digital) and get them corrected or addressed. We hear from frustrated home entertainment consumers every single day here at The Bits, readers who have turned to us as a last resort after getting no response from content providers in addressing problems. These include defective discs, downloads that are supposed to be of one version of a film but end up being another, people who purchased the extended cut of a film who suddenly find it’s been “updated” with the theatrical cut, etc.
As we move into the all-digital space, and the physical component of home entertainment gradually wanes, the opportunity for problems to occur only grows. And consumers lose more and more control over their media. That is a legit concern and one that every digital consumer must keep in mind. By continuing to purchase physical media, you often get the best of both worlds – a physical disc of higher quality and a digital download for convenience. This is why we advocate for physical media.
But we here at The Digital Bits are by no means against digital. Hell, the very idea of digital is right in the name of our website. I am personally a regular consumer of lossless audio music downloads. But it should be noted, those do not feature excessive DRM. I can download the files, copy them, and back them up to protect my investment and my access to it. The key is this: If you choose to go all-digital, you must consider doing the same. Download all your files, copy them to a back-up drive, etc. Do what you must, to ensure that you continue to have access to all the content you’ve purchased going forward.
And always, always, advocate for your rights as a consumer. We’ve learned from experience here at The Bits that the industry always works to protect its own rights, not yours. If you don’t protect your rights, no one else will... and you will lose them over time. Enough said.
That’s all for now. Stay tuned...