I may have to give up buying only digital content

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| Published: December 15, 2012

Earlier today, I was subjecting myself to the very definition of insanity. I was, despite knowing better, doing the same thing over and over again, expecting the results to be different each time. But, guess what? They weren’t different. At any time. I kept hitting that “convert” or “begin” or “Start” option, but the end result was always the same: not what I wanted. I’d end up trying a few more times than I’d like to admit, hitting a few different options here and there, but, as you might have guessed by now, I didn’t get what I was looking for.

If you’re curious, I was trying to convert .wmv to .mov, and therefore enjoy a movie I was trying to watch. Some of you are probably immediately wondering, “What? Use a program! Easy!” Yes, it is easy, and, for all intents and purposes, it should have worked. But there’s a reason it didn’t, and it’s a good one. (“Good” being a relative term.) You see, the movie I was trying to convert I had purchased from Xbox Movies, that new service that Microsoft launched not too long ago. I was trying to convert that particular movie because I wanted to watch it on my iPad mini.

Well, I can’t.

Despite the fact I bought it, and, I guess, “own” it (?), it’s still protected by “digital rights.” Meaning, it’s secured to that .wmv format, unless I go find a way to strip the DRM and start the whole process over. The thing is, I’m not even sure there is a way to strip the DRM from a movie. Or, perhaps more accurately, a way that I would be willing to do. (If you know of a way, that isn’t ridiculous, go ahead and let me know in the comments below.)

I know that DRM is something that studios, producers, and everyone else involved with something like a movie, or music, or TV shows, feels is important, but this is one of those times that I think it crosses the proverbial line. I’m one of those people who thinks that after I purchase something, it’s mine, and I can do as I see fit with it. Well within parameters of the law, obviously. But, as far as I’m concerned, it shouldn’t matter where I buy a digital movie. It should be mine to do with as I please. To watch on any device that I want to watch it on.

But that’s not the way it works, unfortunately. We live in a world where our purchases are restricted to an ecosystem, thanks to deals with studios, or people. Apple has an exhaustive library of digital content, both in television and movies, but unless you’ve got iTunes installed on your computer, or have a device running iOS, or even Apple TV, you can’t enjoy it. The same goes for buying a movie through Xbox Movies. You’ve got to watch it on one of their supported devices, or you’re out of luck.

This isn’t like an eReader app situation, where I just need to download an app to have access to the content I may have purchased on a rival company’s device. This is a bit more . . . Permanent? Or, unwavering, maybe is the better word. For those of you out there who have sworn an oath to a particular ecosystem, and don’t plan on diverging on that plan anytime soon, it really isn’t an issue. After all, you probably have iTunes on all the devices you can, are running around with Apple’s mobile devices easily accessible, and maybe even have an Apple TV unit attached to your home screen.

Either way, you’re invested in that particular ecosystem, so buying digital content within it makes sense for your particular situation. For me, though, I’m sitting here wondering if I need to stop buying digital content, and only digital content. I haven’t bought a DVD in a long time, and I’ve never purchased a Blu-Ray. But I guess I could go back to doing that (or start, as the case may be), especially since it means that I will be able to watch it when I want. As long as I can find a DVD or Blu-Ray player.

I love digital content, and I love having it in the cloud ready for me when I want it. However, with my inability to choose a single platform that I want to stay on for more than a couple months, let alone a year or longer, it may be time for me to just start looking at physical media again.

Do you buy strictly digital content? How do you leverage a household filled with multiple operating systems/platforms with that content? Or, have you stuck to one ecosystem, and don’t plan on wavering from that in the future? Let me know how you handle digital content purchases in your life!

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