Ultraviolet Code Crackdown Starting on eBay

By: WebProNews Staff - April 24, 2012

In an attempt to get consumers to start investing their disposable income on packaged media again, Hollywood studios have embraced the Ultraviolet format, which essentially allows users to watch the movies they purchase on any device that supports the cloud-based digital locker. For instance, say you’re really getting into “Avatar”, but you’ve got a pesky doctor’s appointment scheduled right in the middle of your viewing. You could, in theory, pause the movie, trek to the doctor’s office, and resume watching the flick on your smartphone while waiting for the nurse to collect you. It’s an interesting idea, for sure, but movie-goers have not been overly thrilled with the format’s performance.

Ultraviolet is owned by five major studios — Sony, Paramount, Universal, Warner Brothers and 20th Century Fox, to be exact — all of which are struggling to keep consumers interested in collecting the movies they love. So when someone comes along and, through no fault of their own, threatens their business model, the studios are going to react accordingly. Given the industry’s shakiness at the moment, it definitely makes sense.

Such is the case of an eBay user who was accused of copyright infringement for selling his unused Ultraviolet codes online. Whenever he’d purchase a new movie — in this instance, it was “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” — the guy would stick the codes online for people to buy, usually for $6 a pop. Unfortunately, the studios aren’t too crazy about individuals separating the codes from their physical counterparts and putting them up for auction.

Here’s what the eBay user told The Consumerist:

I picked up “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” on Blu-ray this morning. It came with a digital download code good for a free Ultraviolet copy of the movie. As Ultraviolet is worthless to me, I listed the code on eBay. Within a few hours of the listing going up, eBay took it down for copyright infringement. They warned me not to list it again, or my account would be suspended.
I called their customer service number to explain that the listing was taken down in error, and the helpful lady on the phone was much more concerned with the fact that there was no birth date attached to an 11-year-old eBay account. Once we got that taken care of (she literally refused to help me until I tied my birthday to my account), she basically just kept reading and rereading the email to me over and over again.

Now, let’s forget the fact that I’ve sold Ultraviolet codes on eBay before. Let’s also forget the fact that, right this very second, there are a boat-load (metaphorically, not literally – that would be weird) of Ultraviolet code auctions live. How, exactly, are they able to claim Ultraviolet codes as copyright infringement? It’s a product. It’s barely different from me selling a physical copy of the Blu-ray that I don’t want, or the third disc in the set which is a DVD copy I’ll never use. And why are they enforcing this imaginary policy selectively?

Is this an awful lot of trouble to go through just to make, at most, $5? Yes, it is. However, I’m self employed, and today is a slow day.

According to attorney Jim Burger, this practice is considered “unbundling”. “[The] use of the UV code is governed by the UV license, [which] permit[s] the owner of the disc to access digital content in the cloud and does not allow resale of the service,” he explained to MESA. In short, unless you’re willing to sell the whole package along with those unused codes, studios aren’t going to be too thrilled with your online transactions.

Burger also added that individuals who purchase these codes from sites like eBay could be considered guilty of copyright infringement themselves. All of this may seem outrageously silly from a consumer standpoint, but the studios are obviously struggling to maintain an economic foothold in an age where people can download just about any sort of entertainment they want for free.

At present, there are roughly 20 codes available for purchase on the auction site, most of them ranging from $2 to $5, depending on the title. Since you shelled out your own hard-earned cash to bring these titles home, should you be allowed to sell the unused codes to those who only wish to purchase the digital copy? Should the studios be allowed to tell you how to resell something you already own? Let us know in the comments section.

WebProNews Staff

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  • Chris

    Is there a sony or uvvu site that allows you to buy ultraviolet codes and not the dvd? Or is the only way to get company sanctioned codes only by buying the blu-ray disc or dvd?

  • craig

    I belive that these 5 major studios should take thier heads out of their metaphorical a@# and realize what they have acctually got there hands on here. Its the wave of the future here bata gone vhs gone dvd and blueray well say goodbye too within the next five years. People are on the move these days and its a digital / cloud world coming upon us. Besides who in the wants a whole wall in their living room taken up with dvd blueray cases. Time to wake up and smell the roses people scrap the plastic and lets get a move on with the future. Why would i want the dvd when i can just get the digital copy that i will never worrie about looseing or scratching. Once these studios relizes there is possiably more money to be made in selling jusg the digital copy than the whole bundle then they will cone around. I dont know about the rest of you but i am more likly to throw down 100.00 on 10-20 digital copys then i would to buy only 4 of thd bundle packages. Point being if i can get 10 movies vs 4 you will prob get my money but if were talking 20 for 1 movie ill prob only buy the one i really like and then your only going to get 20 from me instead of 100. I mean come on its win win for them they are savingjng money by having it in digital form and not having to waste all that money on packaging.

  • Edward Elsner

    Family Video is selling the codes for $1.50 to $3.00 at
    http://www.familyvideo.com/catalog/browse_genre.php?browse_id=255

  • http://www.frequentflyerpost.com FrequentFlyerPost

    The studios may a big mistake thinking they could keep two separate products legally attached to one individual. it’s just not practical. Lets say I buy a Bluray disc that comes with an ultraviolet code, then I assign that code to my ultaviolet account. Now, I don’t want the bluray anymore. Shouldn’t I be able to sell the disc? It sounds from the lawyers that the ultraviolet digital rights and the physical disc can only be in one person’s possession. So, the lawyers will demand that the ultraviolet right is transferred to the new buyer of the disc. But, they haven’t put in place a system for transferring the right of the digital content to a new person. So, legally, I shouldn’t be even able to resell my physical disc.
    Is my example any different than what this guy was trying to do on eBay?

    Of course, if they were smart, they would make the digital right transferrable.

  • Jason

    Would it be a problem if you gave the coded away versus sold them?
    Either way it sounds like it would be considered copyright infringement.
    But then you think about the unfortunate. And you consider it as a donation. Or give them to the salvation army for distribution. Now how do the studios look trying to inforce copyright infringement?

  • nathan

    Those are all valid points, you can sell your bluray/DVD but not your UV code unless its attached to the movie? Very stupid on the studio’s part if you ask me,you bought the property so legally it is your own in every aspect Once you own the property you have the decision to resell at your own discretion it goes with any property, the studio has already gained profit from the purchasers how is it infringement when the code is only valid once on the account And that paper or sticker is pretty much trash Non reusable the only way an infringement is viable is if the ultraviolet account holder downloads the copy and uploads it to a p2p site for free access,they should really look at the logistics of things And stop being complete morons about it. If they want to stop infringement then then start googling their movies and find where they are being distributed for free over the web not someone who has spent the money to own it,so if they want to get ahead they don’t need to bite the hands that feed them as we the consumers are the ones lining their fat wallets with more cash

  • nathan

    Oh and another point…. You don’t see car dealerships get all pissy if you sell the car without its stock stereo or other items pretty much the same concept

  • Scott

    I find it interesting that WalMart, Target and Shopko all sell the Ultraviolet copies with no grudges at all. The problem I see is that I can buy the movie in disk format cheaper than I can the Vudu copy.

  • Finghard

    Creating ultraviolet codes is the best thing the movie studios have done in my opinion !
    Being able to access my movie collection on all of my formats is the way forward.
    The movie studios are just upset that the money from the eBay sell did not go in there pocket.
    The digital format at the moment is very expensive, I could walk into asda/Walmart and buy the hard copy cheaper than I could buy the digital copy from iTunes’s.
    The movie studios need to open there own ultraviolet store app on all formats and knock them out at a realistic price .(they are missing a trick here)
    The music industry has moved with the times and now has a download chart. (Admittedly iTunes did it for them)
    I have nine ultraviolet movies at the moment, 3 I bought from eBay because it was cheaper than renting from the shop or blinkbox . I now own those movies because i picked them up cheap since then.
    I have over 1000 genuine copy movies in my collection as I like to own the original but I would love to see themlike my music collection
    I have ripped my movies into many formats over the years to get them to work on my new toys but I have only had to rip my music collection once to mp3 ?

  • clgman

    Digital copies are so useless. People pay for the discs. I recently bought Ted on Blu-Ray. It came with the Standard Definition, Blu-Ray and Digital AND Ultra-Violet. Why the f*ck would I need 4 copies of the same movie. OF COURSE I’M GOING TO SELL/GIVE THEM AWAY. People are becoming less interested in buying movies on disc, and this is just a money-grabbing plea-for-help. Pathetic.

    • takersrevenge89

      I disagree, i will ONLY buy movies on discs

  • David Barrett-Leafe

    So I guess if I were to use the ultraviolet code myself and then sell the DVD/Bluray then that is also illegal ? From what they are saying the whole package must be together. The plot thickens !

  • Will

    Discs are old fashioned. I buy movies straight from iTunes and vudu.

  • http://www.RobotsAndComputers.com Derek Tombrello

    Discs may be old-fashioned, but what happens 5 or 10 years from now when UV and VuDu goes ceases service? You lose those movies you paid for – that’s what. BetaMax video tapes and 16mm film may be obsolete, but I can still play movies that I bought however many years ago so long as I keep my eqquipment in tip-top shape (I’m a technician, so that’s no problem) or find another used machine. That is impossible with “cloud” based services. Does anybody remember Divx? How many of those discs were bought and are now worthless due to that service being discontinued? Nobody ever thinks of that, though, do they? Or maybe noody cares anymore…

    • Ben Crenshaw

      Divx was just a stepping stone, just like all the other first adopters. They learned from it and I think it was a good move to create a digital library of your movies. If I go to a friends house, I take my Chromecast and paired with my Flixster account, I can access a good portion of my movies. Or when I’m to lazy to get up and physically put a disc in, I browse my Vudu account on my PS3 just like I would Netflix except with a better selection. And at this point lets be honest, if the cloud goes down we’re going to have bigger problems then our movie collections to worry about. Also I buy 99% of my blurays at the pawn shop, so $4-$5 a movie leaves plenty of spending money to pick up the digital copy if it doesn’t come with it (and unredeemed) already, which most that have them do, so it’s quite the bargain for those ones, and you’d be surprised how quickly titles make their wait to the pawn shop.

      • http://www.RobotsAndComputers.com Derek Tombrello

        “… to lazy to get up and physically put a disc in…”

        I’m sorry, and this is not aimed at you personally but “society” as a whole, but that is really sad. It shows the mentality of people today.

  • Movieguy

    I love my ultraviolet collection. I been a movie guy all my life and keeping it simple and tidy is the answer. Why in the world would I want to clutter my house with DVD’s and Blu-ray’s when I can have my collection at a moments notice thru the internet using a streaming device. On demand, in order and saved to pass on without ever being damaged. Come on people do you really want to get up and search for that special movie when it can be as easy as a push of the remote control? If you stream movies you know what I am talking about. If you don’t stream movies ,I say try it before you knock it.
    This is the future. Get on the train people!