Amid all of the MacBook Air hullabaloo, you might have forgotten about the Apple announcement that Fox would begin providing “free” iTunes versions of programs via DVD. The first release was Family Guy Presents: Blue Harvest, a Star Wars parody. Being the brave product testers that we are, we tried it out. It was, well, kinda weird.
You pop in the special Digital Copy disc, and on a Mac, a window automatically pops open telling you to launch iTunes. In iTunes, you are directed to a page where—get this—you enter a code printed on a slip inside the DVD case. The “download” completes, and you have a copy of the show that’s identical in file format to anything you get from iTunes, and it’s locked to your account in the same way. Only you copied it over from a disc. This just feels wrong.
As you might expect, the disc and code are useable just once. So why the hell was there a disc at all? I imagine this whole thing would be simpler if Fox would just print the slip and let you redeem it with a bonafide over-the-net download via iTunes.The version itself looks great, about equal to the DVD, quality wise, and far better than the downsized legal version that Toast 8 lets you move to your iPod if you recorded it when it originally aired. (In case you’re wondering, the DVD is good too, with a Seth MacFarlane/George Lucas interview and a reel showing all of the Family Guy Star Wars references throughout the years.)
I am a fan of this concept. DVD sales aren’t doing so hot, and something like this could really perk them up. Think of all the TV series box sets that would be way more desirable if they came with an automatic iTunes version. Yes, I know there are ways to do it yourself, but those ways are time consuming, not to mention of legal dubiousness. (I think ripping a DVD for yourself is well within the fair-use doctrine, and that Roxio and Nero, not to mention iTunes, should be all over that, but I still worry that the legal squabbles will continually make it hard for mainstream software to embrace it. The music biz may be casting off DRM, but Hollywood is a much more organized, high-tech beast.)
Fox doesn’t appear 100% committed to this. Maybe it was just the need to keep it hush-hush before the Jobsnote, but the case bears a single little sticker saying “Digital Copy,” with no mention of iTunes anywhere. Nor was there a reference to this clearly valuable bonus feature anywhere on the case itself. Even on Amazon, there’s no mention of the fact that you can rip it to your iTunes. That’s why it was all the more surprising when I found the second disc inside: a whole disc wasted for something that they didn’t even mention on the label. That’s strange marketing, Fox. Very strange.
AU: It’s good to know that the system works, but as we reported yesterday we’ll not be seeing a free and legal copy of a Fox program on our DVDs here in Australia for a while just yet