A swing and a miss: VUDU introduces "Share My Movies"

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Source: VUDU

Earlier this week video-on-demand service VUDU launched what seemed like a pretty cool feature: Share My Movies. The pitch is that you can share your digital movie collection with up to 5 friends. So that's awesome, right?

Except it turns out that not all your VUDU movies can be shared, just the UltraViolet content. I had thought that VUDU content was all UltraViolet but this FAQ entry implies that's not the case:

Q: What's the difference between VUDU and UltraViolet?

A: VUDU is a digital video on demand service. UltraViolet is a standard for digital rights assignment and management. You rent, own and watch movies with VUDU. Certain movies and TV shows also come with UltraViolet rights, which are stored with UltraViolet, rather than VUDU, ensuring you can securely build a digital collection and access them through multiple retailers.

I added the emphasis to highlight the fact that (if I'm understanding it correctly) not all VUDU content is also UltraViolet content.

Sharing UltraViolet content seems to be a basic feature of UltraViolet itself. From their FAQ we learn that UltraViolet supports 5 users in a given Library, and 3 simultaneous streams.

That's OK, it's still cool that VUDU now supports UltraViolet sharing, right? But wait, there're apparently still some issues to discuss.

CNET called our attention to a tweet from Dave Zatz of Zatz Not Funny who had tried the sharing features. Zatz posted a screenshot of a message he'd apparently encountered after someone tried to share their library with him. It says "If you continue, your VUDU account will be unlinked from your current UltraViolet Library. You can link back to your existing UltraViolet Library. However, UltraViolet rules limit unlinking/re-linking to the same Library to twice a year."

What this means is that if you already have an UltraViolet Library and a VUDU account, I can't easily share my library with you, and vice versa. This reduces the usefulness of sharing among movie buffs by quite a bit.

VUDU has a blog post up about the new system and they don't mention any limitations like this, so it may be unintended and a glitch in the system. There's anoter entry in the FAQ that makes it seem like this isn't the way the system is intended to work:

Q: I already have an UltraViolet Library. Can I join another UltraViolet library?

A: Yes. When accepting an invitation, just create a new user profile in the owner's UltraViolet Library. Please note that joining the library means linking your VUDU account to the owner's UltraViolet Library. If you purchase any movies or TV shows, the UltraViolet rights will be assigned to that linked Library.

Although this doesn't sound ideal either since it means (I think) that any VUDU content you purchase that has UltraViolet rights will get assigned to the Library of the friend who is sharing with you.

It's too confusing, right? Kudos to VUDU for making the effort, but either the system isn't working right, or it is so confusing that Dave Zatz (someone who writes about technology for a living) did something wrong, or it's fundamentally broken. (If it only works with folks who don't have an UltraViolet Library, I call that fundamentally broken.)

A step in the right direction? Sure. But if you're someone who enjoys lending out movies and TV shows to your friends, it's not yet time for you to give up your physical media.

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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