6 ways to make Ultraviolet DRM suck less

Face it, consumers loath digital rights management restrictions on content. Here are ways the latest DRM scheme can suck less

Face it, consumer loath digital rights management restrictions on content. Here are six ways the latest Hollywood DRM scheme, Ultraviolet, can suck less.

Dear Hollywood:

Word is that you're creating a DRM scheme called Ultraviolet, one that could prove beneficial for consumers by giving them unrestricted access to the content they buy. Good for you. We all know you don't have the greatest track record of squashing piracy without angering your customers (See the death of RealDVD, attacks on Kaleidescape media servers and hassles with HD movies on iTunes), but I'm a believer in second chances, or even sixth chances.

So maybe you're onto something with Ultraviolet, which will supposedly let users stream movies from a unified digital locker to a variety of devices. You get some control, and we get to access our movies from anywhere. It seems like a fair trade, in theory, but there are several things that Ultraviolet needs to win the hearts of consumers. I hope these ideas find their way to Ultraviolet whenever it debuts:

Make it Easy

Hire the best web designer or user interface guru you can find to design the streaming service. Clearly explain to movie buyers that registering an Ultraviolet account will let people stream their movies from all kinds of devices, and make the streaming process as simple as possible.

Promote the Heck Out of It

Even though the Ultraviolet service isn't a storefront like iTunes, your goal should be to make it just as recognizable. Okay, so Ultraviolet wasn't the best name -- not sure how the association with skin cancer is going to work out -- but at least it's short and punchy. The more people the know about it, and look for it on the DVDs and Blu-ray discs they buy, the more pressure other studios and hardware makers will feel to join up.

Families aren't Criminals

Ultraviolet will fail if it's tied to one PC, one game console and one portable media player per user account. My wife and I can use both our computers to watch different DVDs at the same time, so Ultraviolet should have no hardware restrictions either. Limit each film or TV stream to one device at a time if you must, but simultaneous access to Ultraviolet's locker should be allowed.

Make it Retroactive

Finding a way to add a consumer's existing Blu-ray or DVD library to the locker is essential. It may not be easy, but it's the best way to get your customers on board in a hurry.

Get Apple on Board

The bitter truth is that Apple wields so much influence through its iOS hardware that ignoring the company would be a major drawback. Getting Apple's cooperation may not be easy -- videos stored in a digital locker would be in direct competition with iTunes -- but if you do everything else right, you can ratchet up the pressure on Cupertino. Just do what Google did with Google Voice: Try to release an Ultraviolet iPhone app and raise a stink when it doesn't get through the App Store, and if all else fails, go with HTML5.

Don't Get Greedy

Even though Ultraviolet provides a service for consumers, Blu-ray discs and DVDs that use it shouldn't cost extra. Hollywood stands to benefit in a big way if this service takes off. Don't pin the investment on your customers.

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Jared Newman

PC World (US online)
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