A word from your DVD’s sponsor

According to Ars Technica, a recent patent application by IBM details a system by which commercials could be included in DVDs … commercials you can’t skip or scan through. I know what you’re thinking. DVDs already have ads at the beginning and they often disable the scan or seek functions. The difference with IBM’s idea is these ads will interrupt the film, just as they do on television.

All is not lost however, as it’s being pitched as a cheaper way to rent movies if you’ll accept the ads. The $5 you pay now will still get you an ad-free film, but you’ll get the rental for $2 if you agree to watch the ads, for example.

I see two problems. First, the system requires you buy a new DVD player. Whether you agree to watch the ads or pay extra to avoid them, the DVD itself is the same. The player itself contacts the mother ship to find out whether you’ve paid to avoid the ads.

Second, do they really expect us to believe the ad-free rental will remain $5 while viewing the ads will drop the price? I’ll believe it when I see it. Instead, I believe it’s far more likely that the current rental fee will be applied to the presentation including the ads and they’ll charge more to avoid them.

I can see why the studios would wet their pants in excitement over this. Right now they sell DVDs to Blockbuster and their revenue is at an end. The payment for the disc is all they get. With this system, the studios would certainly want to get all the ad money directly from the advertisers. The rental companies will have to sign on however, because their systems will have to send the payment data to the servers the players contact.

And who loses? Again, we do. Will they implement this for discs we buy? If the system comes to rental discs, bet on it being included in discs we buy. They’ll promote it as the best thing since sliced bread. We’ll need to buy new players, requiring a network or telephone connection. And what will happen if there’s no connection nearby, or if their servers go down? If the movie will play at all, you can bet the player will default to forcing the ads on us. This is yet another system in which we’ll have to ask permission to use what we’ve already paid good money for.

When will we finally realize these companies need us far more than we need them? We should stop letting them control whether we can use the content we’ve already purchased. No wonder they’re growing bolder and treating us like more obviously like idiots. We’re acting like idiots.

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