For the longest time, if you wanted a digital copy of a movie in Canada, there were only two clandestine choices available: download it from the Internet or use software to rip it onto a computer.
While Canadians have had (debatable) free reign to download and share copyrighted movies and music online — a scenario which will drastically change with new copyright laws proposed in Bill C-61 — those without tech-savvy, or friends and relatives with a knack for hacking, had no way of copying their favourite film to their iPods — even if they owned a legal copy.
In June, Apple's iTunes finally opened up the digital video market and began to sell and rent digital copies of movies and TV shows. Major movie studios like 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. had quietly dipped their toes into the game a few months earlier, embedding DVDs of Live Free or Die Hard and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with iPod-ready digital copies.
Going digital was a once-abhorrent idea to the studios, but has seemingly now become necessary in order to gain back a piece of a market that has been lost to piracy. Now every major studio (except Paramount) is getting into the game by year's end and many upcoming tech- or cult-oriented titles will include a copy-protected digital version.
Cumbersome copy protection will no doubt limit the appeal of this digital copy trial run to laptop-carrying types willing to enter "registration keys" and change settings to get their movies uploaded onto their devices, but it is a first step, nonetheless.
So don't expect an Alfred Hitchcock box set to include iPod-ready versions, but you can expect titles like The X-Files: I Want to Believe (December), A Nightmare Before Christmas (Aug. 26) and TV DVDs like One Tree Hill (September) to include them.
About Robert J. Ballantyne
Robert J.Ballantyne is a senior editor at Popjournalism and Creative Director at Artsculture.ca. Previously, he was a journalist at the CBC on a number of news programs including the fifth estate, Marketplace and The National. He also worked as a staff writer at the Toronto Star.