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Ultraviolet Code Crackdown Starting on eBay

Selling unused codes akin to copyright infringement

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Ultraviolet Code Crackdown Starting on eBay
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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.

Ultraviolet Code Crackdown Starting on eBay
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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.

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