I hear so much about music and movie piracy I've become a bit numbed to what's at stake and the real challenges facing copyright holders. But Ars Technica has a review of a movie download service called ZML that has me shocked and pondering the piracy question once again. This site is selling DRM-free recently released Hollywood movies such as Spider-Man 3, The Simpsons Movie, and Transformers priced between $US1.99 and $US4.99.
As Ars Technica writer Jacqui Cheng aptly compares, this service is like the Russian music download site Allofmp3.com. The recording industry has battled to shut down allofmp3.com, which it accuses of selling cut-rate music without paying royalties to artists or music labels. Allofmp3.com does not appear operational today, but other iterations of the controversial music site keep popping up elsewhere for example MP3Sparks.com.
These music sites claim to have found loopholes in the copyright systems of their native countries to legally sell music at ridiculously low prices. Many of these sites are under intense legal pressure to shut down, or already have. As with the music sites I'm 99.9999 percent sure ZML doesn't own worldwide distribution rights to the movies it's selling.
ZML is selling downloads of movies such as The Simpson Movie (which is being sold for around $US16 at U.S. retailers) for $US2.99. ZML offers movies in a number of formats at different prices. For example, a high-res "DVD" download ($US4.99), DivX ($US2.99), iPod/PDA format ($US1.99). There are some catches to this service, so you may want to read Ars Technica's review first.
The ZML movie download site makes the current writers' strike seem like the least of Hollywood's problems.