Mar 11
INTERNET MOVIE RENTAL by Alex J. Socorro  |  Posted in Articles  |  on Wed, Mar 11, 2009

As opposed to television where the communication is a one way street, internet is interactive like a give-and-take affair. The viewer not only receives information but also has the capability to issue requests or commands in choosing his preferences.

This “interactive” thing of the internet is currently being cultivated by innovators, not just to put in more load/options to the computer users, but to change the present conventions. As we all know, the internet is both good and evil depending on one’s perception. And illegal copying is one of the ills.

One good thing coming out of these innovations is the Pay Service which is similar to cable tv’s pay-per-view scheme. Subscribing to avail of special services is getting popular among the internet users. It is just like a club membership with membership dues in exchange for membership benefits. And with the proli-feration of payment methods such as Paypal and credit card systems, users have the luxury of just clicking in and inputting their credit information.

With the costly theater ticket nowadays, one can get even by renting movies. Although the big screen provides greater sensory pleasures in both visuals and audio, the computer monitor is already the “in thing” when watching movies is concerned.

In the early 1980s, movie rentals blossomed in the country when movies were still stored in betamax tapes. Betamax players, even if quite expensive for the middle class, became the toast of the town. Since the method of copying was available only to those with tape copying machines, copyright infringement was not blatant because, although the machines were available in the market, home users did not bother. The main reason is the affordability of the rental costs.

When the VHS (Video Home System) tapes came about and superseded the smaller Betamax tapes, there was the confusion of switching to the new player. Unlike now where the CD can still be played in the newer DVD player, VHS tapes play only in VHS players, rendering Betamax players obsolete. Users, however, were willing to take the swing of technology since the VHS provides better picture clarity and larger video capacity. Besides, Betamax players were not very reliable in terms of durability.

Despite the presence of VHS tapes, the movie rental business remained to flourish because, except for the enterprising few, no one still bothered to do the copying. Maybe because the nature of tapes takes a lot of time to reproduce due to the required mechanical movement of rewinding or perhaps the copying machines were quite expensive. In those times, users or customers seemed to be content in the prevailing rental system.

Video City, owned by the Viva Entertainment chain, had pioneered in movie rentals. Its method of renting out with a discount – rent 4 plus 1 – became the market standard. But Video City not only rents out, it also sells original tapes. Not so old movies filled the racks of Video City before… and even now.

They may not admit but Video City is reeling from the effects of piracy. With the cheap cost of pirated DVDs (3 for 100 pesos) and the accessibility it offers (sold in the sidewalks), this is indeed trying times for legitimate vendors of DVD. Even as they have cut down prices to a discounted 150 pesos (sometimes lower) for original titles, competing with pirated copies is still a daunting task.

Ironically, amidst the proliferation of pirated copies of music and video in the internet, the so-called Pay Service, as utilized by www.netflix.com, is gaining ground. “Tell us what movies you want and we’ll deliver them to you. Get DVDs by mail and instantly watch movies (some new releases) & TV episodes (including current season) streamed from Netflix to your TV via a Netflix ready device or online on your PC or Mac,” says their ad.

With the fast delivery of ordered DVDs – takes just a day or so in the United States – some movie watchers are turning to legitimate vendors. Especially with the collectors and prude buyers, genuine copies are a must, regardless if it’s a purchase or just a rental. And if one couldn’t wait for the physical delivery, video streaming is an option to take.

Not to be left behind, www.apple.com is getting brisk sales of their products in their iTunes Store. Starting with their music library for downloading to the iPOD, Apple had diversified into video. The HD movies type, with better video quality, is getting to be a favorite. Renting movies is easy as clicking. Movies are downloaded to the customer’s computer and could be watched within 30 days. Upon expiration of the deal, the movie is automatically erased from the local hard disk.

For movie rental websites, membership fee starts from as low as $8 with a monthly due or additional charge for every rented title. In some websites like www.blockbuster.com and www.hollywoodvideo.com, previewing of movies is allowed. And if one is to consider the demeanor of the Pay Service websites, promotions and heavy discounts are expected.

And not only movies can be rented. Most video rental sites offer taped tv programs, documentaries and classics like sports bouts and stage performances. Some other sites have homemade videos, games and, sad to say, pornographic materials.

Akin to a huge library, these movie-rental websites are actually repositories of copyrighted movies, tv programs, and other multi-media recordings. And as in any digital format, their contents can be copied and reproduced digitally in the internet. But proponents counter that renting movies is a notch higher in the stairway of ethics such that people will get used to renting than buying pirated copies.

Maybe next year, if not this year, the country’s standards will shift towards the internet’s method of movie rental. And if that happens, probably, video piracy will finally meet its match.

Comments to this article can be sent to ajsocorro@yahoo.com


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