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in Filmmaking
on Aug 13, 2007

Over at Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow reports on the Mission:Impossible-like self-destruction of videos legally purchased from the Google Video Store. He quotes this letter from Google sent to the purchaser of a Star Trek episode:

As a valued Google user, we’re contacting you with some important information about the videos you’ve purchased or rented from Google Video. In an effort to improve all Google services, we will no longer offer the ability to buy or rent videos for download from Google Video, ending the DTO/DTR (download-to-own/rent) program. This change will be effective August 15, 2007.

To fully account for the video purchases you made before July 18, 2007, we are providing you with a Google Checkout bonus for $5.00….

After August 15, 2007, you will no longer be able to view your purchased or rented videos.

Before issuing a class-action call-to-arms, Doctorow offers this analysis of the Google move and studio-DRM strategies in general:

This is a giant, flaming middle finger, sent by Google and the studios to the customers who were dumb/trusting enough to buy DRM videos. How many of these people will trust the next DRM play from Google (no doubt coming soon from YouTube) or the studios?

The terms that Google sold its video on were similar to those laid down by other downloadable video “stores,” like Amazon Unbox. These stores claim to “sell” you things, but you can never truly 0wn the things they sell — they are your theoretical property only, liable to confiscation at any time. That’s the lesson for DRM: only the big motion picture companies, search giants and other corporate overlords get to own property. We vassals are mere tenant-farmers, with a precarious claim on our little patch of dirt.

Scott Kirsner at CinemaTech has more on Google’s decision to discontinue downloads, linking to this piece by Michael Liedtke in the Washington Post.

Here’s Liedtke:

The move provides the latest indication that Google has become more willing to pull the plug on services that aren’t gaining traction, something that its management rarely did until the past year. Last November, Google abandoned a service that hired researchers to find answers to specific questions posed by users.

And Kirsner:

The three biggest problems: Google never had a wide range of content for purchase. Google invented its own DRM system, so videos wouldn’t play anywhere but Google’s site. Google didn’t let independent creators sell their content – only big media companies. And Google didn’t promote the paid content; it was extremely tough to find.

And for some dumb reason, consumers will no longer be able to play purchased videos. You’re telling me that Google, which spends about $1 billion on employee lunches every day, couldn’t keep the necessary software up and running – to do right by the people who supported this service while it existed?

I still believe that people will pay for excellent content online. Google just made too many mistakes with this initiative.

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