Before Christmas I set out my frustrations with the way 4DVD had implemented the Digital Copy on The Inbetweeners Triple Play edition.
Many of you agreed, as well as the comments posted below the article there were many more we couldn’t publish because they referred to doing things you shouldn’t with the DVD.
Many more have shared the link to the article with friends via Twitter and Facebook and it remains a popular article.
I’ve been keeping an eye on reviews posted on Amazon (for the film) and iTunes (for the Flux Player app) and it seems many new buyers are just as cross as those of us who paid up before Christmas.
“The digital copy sucks” is a pretty common theme, as is the quality of the file which ends up on mobile devices if you’re a Mac user because, unlike PC owners, there’s no tool to transfer the full 1.4GB file to device and you have to make do with a lousy 400MB downloaded version.
I had planned to write more about this, but then 4DVD got in touch and we had an exchange of emails.
I don’t think it’s fair to quote from people’s emails without their prior permission but I am happy to sum up their position which I understand to be as follows:
A key factor in the decision not to use iTunes was a desire to ensure users of non-Windows and Mac/iOS devices could also access the Digital Copy.
I made what you could probably term ‘robust representations’ on the ratio of iOS/Mac OS devices to Android devices and the expectations of the buyer.
I also offered 4DVD a chance to pen an article for the site setting out their position in full. The offer was provisionally accepted but I’ve not yet had the article – the last word (about 2 weeks ago) was that it had been delayed due to staffing issues.
I’m still expecting it and will make sure it’s flagged up on the site once live.
I have heard from one reader who forwarded me an email from 4DVD support. Again, I don’t want to reprint emails which were sent without knowledge they’d be widely reproduced.
What I can say is the impression that email gave was that a Mac transfer app would be available soon and that customers would be contacted about this and other measures in the near future.
We’ll see how things pan out.
My view remains that 4DVD dropped the ball on this.
By implementing a system which didn’t at launch include a transfer tool for Mac users, they trampled over their own aims of providing everyone with the same service – a PC user can move the higher quality file to an iPad or Android tablet, a Mac user cannot.
I’m still not clear whether I can move my Digital Copy to a new iPhone or iPad if I upgrade in future.
The support site’s HOW TO section is entirely focussed on PC users and the FAQ is laughably defensive on the issue of iTunes compatibility:
“No. The Digital Copy file is available across a whole range of smartphones and portable devices, as well as across PC’s and Mac’s. The file is compatible with, and can be played, on all Apple portable devices via the Flux Player which is available to download free from the App Store. It cannot be imported into the iTunes library as this is available exclusively through the Apple store. Channel 4, or indeed any business, is not legally obliged to provide an iTunes-compatible file. A Digital Copy is a file that is available to consumers to play on their portable device and/or home PC. It is not necessary to enable this file solely for iTunes users. Channel 4 is not alone across all distributors in providing digital copy files outside of iTunes library.”
Who mentioned legally obliged?
But perhaps as a reputable company 4DVD might have considered themselves morally obliged to inform customers ahead of purchase that their Digital Copy solution requires a third party plugin and lacked iTunes support?
That way buyers would have been able to make a proper, informed purchase decision. At a minimum that’s what any seller should want – better a lost sale than an unhappy customer.
In the absence of any information from 4DVD, I expected a high quality Digital Copy to enjoy alongside the show’s first two seasons which I already have on my iPad and the third which I was planning to buy.
Instead I got a ropey 400MB file with inferior audio and video quality and an extra app I have to hope the maker keeps up to date.
I certainly won’t be ripping the DVD but neither will I be buying an iTunes copy (because why should I pay twice to get what many people thought was included?) or the third series on any format.
In fact I’m pretty much resolved that I’ll never buy another 4DVD Blu-ray, DVD or digital media ever again.
Other studios are indeed looking at different, more restrictive means of supplying digital copies.
The industry as a whole seems to have forgotten they were originally conceived as a tool against piracy and instead seems to being viewing them as some undeserved freebie which threaten to limit future sales.
Some sensible types will remain with iTunes as a solution and loudly shout this out on their packaging.
Others will repeat the mistake of the companies who refused to acknowledge customers didn’t want the inferior service provided by overseas call centres.
Like those companies, content distributers will suffer a consumer backlash and eventually have to u-turn. By the time they do they risk having fatally undermined their own business.
And as someone who loves to consume media, I think that’s a real pity.