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Disney Launches Digital Copy Plus—But Where’s the Plus?

Last week, the entertainment press and trade jumped on the news that Disney was “Eliminating” Digital Copy for a better model that gave customers more freedom and flexibility. Oh how amazing it must be since, after all, Disney has been the one major studio hold-out on UltraViolet. They must be conjuring something wonderful from Yensid’s cauldron, right?

Wrong. Digital Copy Plus is different from Digital Copy, but not significantly, and for the most part, not in a good way.

Disney debuted Digital Copy Plus with the Oz: The Great and Powerful release. So how is it different? Let’s add up the plusses and minuses:

You don’t need to insert a disc to redeem Digital Copy Plus. This is nice, but it’s hardly a plus, since many studios had already moved from the model of including a digital copy on the packaged media and simply allow you to download a copy from iTunes.

You can redeem your “Magic Code” [ugh] on a mobile device. Arguably, this is a plus since you can then access the video in your chosen mobile format.

Disney Launches Digital Copy Plus—But Where's the Plus?

You redeem your code at a special web site—not in iTunes. This is a minus, not a plus. Consumers are used to going to one place (or in the case of UltraViolet one of two places) to redeem codes. Disney just added yet another place. Result: confusion. Many consumers will still try to redeem the codes in iTunes.

Disney Launches Digital Copy Plus—But Where's the Plus?

You can redeem a digital copy at iTunes, Amazon, or VUDU. While this adds flexibility, it’s actually more limited than what some other studios are offering. Paramount and Universal, for example, offer both an iTunes copy and an UltraViolet copy. And choosing a Digital Copy Plus format is like an exercise in hieroglyphics (see below). So plus…minus? This one’s a wash.

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Disney Launches Digital Copy Plus—But Where's the Plus?
This handy chart helps you choose a redemption option.
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Disney Launches Digital Copy Plus—But Where's the Plus?
…and this handy chart is the cypher to decode the first chart.
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VUDU titles are not added to your UltraViolet library. Don’t be fooled by the fact that VUDU is one of the redemption options. Not all VUDU titles are created equal. Even if you only use VUDU for UltraViolet, Disney’s VUDU titles are only good in VUDU and will not show up in your UltraViolet library. This ultimately limits the portability of your VUDU titles—for example, you can’t play them offline on your iPad—and the devices on which you can play them. Even if you’re not a huge fan of UltraViolet, this is clearly a minus. If nothing else, it’s confusing since most other VUDU titles are UltraViolet-ready.

So…where’s the plus? Basically there is no plus. It’s more confusing than traditional digital copy, it’s less flexible than UltraViolet, and it’s not on par with what a lot of other studios are offering today. Disney’s new digital service might be more accurately labeled “Digital Copy Minus”—or at least something more honest like “Digital Copy Different” or “Disney Digital Copy” (harkening to Disney’s self-branded Blu-ray and DVD brands). Oh, but they can’t call it that since they’ve somehow also roped Dreamworks into this approach, too.

Disney Launches Digital Copy Plus—But Where's the Plus?

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About the author

Richard Gunther

Richard is a digital technology consultant with a life-long interest in consumer electronics. He has been immersed in smart home tech for decades now and hosts The DMZ's home automation podcast, Home: On and co-hosts Entertainment 2.0 with Josh Pollard. Richard looks at products through an experience lens, always seeking the right mix of utility and delight.