Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Digital Restriction Madness

I saw the following trailer for Dr Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! over the weekend.

I think you will agree that it looks funny, and given that I really enjoyed both Ice Age films I decided to order it. So I went to Amazon to place an order to find there were two versions of the DVD available. The standard one disc version and a limited edition 2 disc version. The second DVD actually contains a digital copy for use on your computer or portable media player. Having wanted this feature legally for many years I decided to put down the extra cash and buy the 2 disc version. What a terrible mistake!

In theory using the digital copy should be really easy the website suggests three steps:
  1. Insert
  2. Transfer
  3. Enjoy
So I started by following step 1 and allowing the autorun programme to start up. I then selected to transfer the film to my computer using Windows Media Player. You can also use iTunes on both Windows and on a Mac which is a nice touch. Once you have chosen how to transfer you are asked to enter a 16 digit serial number printed inside the DVD case. I entered my serial number and clicked next only to be told that the serial number was invalid.

Hmm. I checked and tried re-entering the serial number still no luck. So of I went to the support website address given when the serial number failed. This site admits that they have a problem with some serial numbers not working at all. Fortunately they provide a form you can complete to request a new serial number. Unfortunately Dr Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! isn't one of the films you can choose from.

At this point I was getting rather annoyed. I'd supported what I saw as a media company making a step in the right direction by providing legal digital copying only to find that I couldn't use the copy because of digital rights restriction management (DRM) that keeps it locked up safe, safe from their paying customers at least.

So as the support website was no help I thought I'd try the support e-mail address instead and sent of the following e-mail:

I've just bought a copy of Horton Hears a Who! Which contains a digital copy which I'd like to copy to my Windows PC. Unfortunately when I enter the serial number it tells me that it is invalid and so I can't make the copy. I went to your website and found that because of a mistake on your part some serial numbers won't work. Unfortunately the form to request a new serial number ( doesn't list Horton Hears a Who! And so I can't get it to issue me with a new serial number.

I'd appreciate it if you could fix this at the earliest possible time so that people, like me, who have bought a copy knowing that for once the movie industry has taken a step forward and is allowing legal digital copies could actually make use of the features they have paid for.

Currently those who download illegal versions would be getting a better service than those of us who have actually paid you for the film.

Thanks in advance for your help,

Mark Greenwood
Given my annoyance by this stage I though that was quite polite and restrained. If I was annoyed when I wrote the e-mail I was mad when I read the reply:
Hi Mark,

We apologize for your issue with "Horton Hears a Who" unfortunately at this time the street release date in the US for that title is on Dec 9, 2008. The digital copy will not be available for download until that time.

We apologize for any problems that this may cause at this time

Fox Digital Support Team.
I'm sorry but what does the US release date have to do with this, I bought the DVD in the UK! I've now replied with the following e-mail but I'm guessing it is night in the US at the moment so I don't expect a reply till later this afternoon:

I'm sorry but the fact that the release date in the US is the 9th of December is immaterial. I live in the UK and have bought the region 2 version of the film. Nowhere on the box (or on where I bought it from) does it state that we won't be able to use the digital copy for almost two months.

I'm already annoyed by the digital restriction management placed on the file, and the fact that I have not really bought it only rented it given that the small print says the code will only be useful until October 2010 and that I can only use it on one computer and one portable device. I think that in the UK not allowing people access to the digital copy they have paid for until December will be illegal under the trades description act and so I suggest that you resolve this situation immediately before you start getting a lot of bad press in the UK.

Hopefully I'll hear from you again soon with a more useful response,

As you can see I'm not happy. Not just by the fact that I can't watch the digital copy at the moment but also the fact that contrary to what they may want you to believe you clearly are not buying a digital copy of the film just renting it for two years.

Anyway I have now learnt my lesson. I will no longer be paying extra for the ability to format shift films. If they treat me like an idiot then they cannot expect me to give them more money to be treated the same way again in the future.

I've left a very negative review on Amazon so hopefully no one else will be scammed in this way. Hopefully the film will still be as enjoyable as the trailer suggests but if you want to buy it then I'd suggest the standard DVD.
23 October 2008 at 09:43 , Scriptor Senex said...

Dealing with an organisation larger than three people (i.e. something big enough to have a bureaucracy) is unlikely to get you the result you want. So whatever you do, don't hold your breath.
And here's another little problem. I clicked the play symbol on the preview and got a notice to the effect that quicktime didn't have the necessary software to play it all. The slider then moved along but nothing showed. Half way through the sound came in - complete with four echoes. I can't tell exactly what the message was because it won't repeat it. All good fun...

23 October 2008 at 09:53 , Mark said...

Yeah I doubt I'll get a satisfactory response either. It's been over 24 hours since my second mail and I've yet to hear anything.

As for the movie playing I'm assuming you don't have an uptodate copy of quicktime installed and so it is missing the video codec. If you open QuickTime on youtr PC and then go to the help menu there should be an update option.

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